Theatre

A Tradition of Well Attended Stage-Performances

Puppet festival. Photo: Primož Lavre

The theatre is a place where language takes centre stage. This is why it has for a long time been a key factor in the cultural identity of the Slovenes.

The first theatre performances on Slovenian soil were produced from the sixteenth century onward by the students of various religious schools (mainly Jesuit schools), and the text of Škofjeloški pasijon (‘The Škofja Loka Passion’ ) is a fine example of Baroque religious theatre, even in European terms.

The real theatre tradition began in 1789, when the stage of the State Theatre (normally a venue for German plays) hosted Anton Tomaž Linhart’s   production of his comedy Županova Micka ('Micka, the Mayor's Daughter'), itself a reworking of J. Richter’s original. In 1867, as a result of nationalist movements, a Dramatic Society was founded which performed newly written Slovenian theatre pieces and was able to stage, towards the end of the century, some very demanding productions of Shakespeare.

By the end of the First World War, the only professional theatre in Ljubljana had already become a very well developed company. The second oldest professional Slovenian language theatre, which remains a successful company to this day, is in Trieste, which today is part of Italy. With the creation of the new state of Yugoslavia, these companies were joined in 1919 by the theatre in the town of Maribor.

Slovenes are Masters of the Art of Spectacles

The years following the Second World War were characterised by a veritable explosion of new professional theatre companies: Ljubljana City Theatre and Slovenian Youth Theatre, followed by theatres in Celje and, a bit later, in Nova Gorica. In the past two decades, theatres have also been founded in Ptuj, Koper and Novo mesto. There are also two opera and ballet houses and two professional puppet theatres. The Academy of Acting Arts was founded in 1945 as a faculty of the University of Ljubljana.

It is of little surprise that in the past three decades theatre has been the art form which has received the most media recognition and won the most praise internationally. Also within this framework, the prestige of modern dance (Betontanc , Matjaž Farič ) has been boosted, thanks especially to the work of internationally renowned dance troupes such as choreographer Iztok Kovač’s En Knap .