IF THERE is a cousin of the Phantom of the Opera living in the underground world of the Slovak National Theatre (SND) he will have to limit himself to just one-half of the space, at least for the next two years. The reason is that the theatre’s historical building situated in Hviezdoslavovo Square in Bratislava will be housing, in addition to the SND, the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra (SF) whose own premises will be undergoing restoration until 2011.
This “artistic cohabitation” was agreed upon by the managements of the two institutions and their supervising authority, the Ministry of Culture, at the end of April. The details, including the price of the rent, are still being negotiated and should be established by May 26.
The decision was made after it was concluded that the current premises of the Slovak Philharmonic at Palackého Street, generally known as the Reduta, were “in a state of disrepair” and require a complete renovation.
“The problems to be fixed are manifold,” Jozef Tkáčik, SF’s director for technical services, told The Slovak Spectator. “Structures are damaged due to vibrations, the walls are damp and failures in the wiring and plumbing systems have become more than common.”
The building dates back to the 20th century. Built at the place of a Baroque style granary, it is decorated with some neo-Baroque, Rococo and Art Nouveau elements. A music academy, several fashionable restaurants and one of Bratislava’s first cinemas, the latter opening in 1916, were situated there. The SF has had its home at the Reduta since the early 1950s.
Some restoration work was done on the building in 2003, shortly before it hosted a NATO summit, but Tkáčik said these were only “cosmetic changes”.
“This can’t even be called restoration,” he stated. “They replaced the carpets and did some minor work outside, but none of the real problems were fixed.”
Total costs of the upcoming renovation should amount to around €37.8 million. According to Tkáčik, the investment will considerably enhance both the working conditions of the musicians and the comfort of the audience. The Reduta will get, for example, new windows, stage and seats as well as newly-equipped rehearsal rooms, he said.
“And the most important aspect, apart from the immediate improvements, is that the restoration will help us to preserve this precious jewel for the next generations,” Tkáčik added.
Sacrifices must be made
However, the process of moving the whole Philharmonic to its new, temporary home will not be without its discomforts; that is why it was decided to start as soon as in June, so that every possible problem can be solved before the orchestra’s next season beginning in September.
“Of course, the Ministry of Culture will, and already does, help the SF and the SND to manage issues that arise,” Jozef Bednár, the culture ministry’s spokesman, told The Slovak Spectator.
“What is more, some older problems such as the non-functioning revolving stage at the SND, SF’s unsatisfactory music archives and an acoustic shell for SF’s musicians will now be solved as well.”
Still, the SND’s programme for the next season, which will be a jubilee one as the theatre celebrates its 90th year of its existence, will be significantly affected, said Silvia Hroncová, director of the SND.
“We had to reduce the number of planned premieres from five to three for each ensemble, since we will be giving performances only on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays,” she told The Slovak Spectator. “While around 180 of our pieces were performed at the historical building last year, less than half of that number will be on the programme during the time we will host the SF.”
On the other hand, it seems that at least the SF will be able to preserve the number of performances it has planned for the next two seasons, its 61st and 62nd.
“The symphonic concerts will be presented, as usual, on Thursdays and Fridays; and the chamber concerts on Tuesdays and Sundays will be played at the Dvorana concert hall of the Academy of Performing Arts at Zochova Street,” said Martina Tolstová, spokeswoman of the SF. “The programme of the Philharmonic Orchestra will thus remain more or less unchanged, as far as both its structure and extent are concerned.”
18. May 2009 at 0:00 | Dominika Uhríková