Monday, 11 September 2017

The “rediscovery” of Cinema National

The “rediscovery” of Cinema National is a strange story.
The venue opened in 1918 shortly after World War 1 in the Lange Beeldekensstraat 152 in Antwerp, Belgium.
Commissioned by a pharmacist, Florimond Holemans, and designed by Adolphe Coppernolle, the original seating plan had 650 places in the stalls and 250 on the balcony.
Soon after the opening, the National was taken over by three brothers Gijles.
They made good money as butcher before the war, and now they want to invest in the world of cinema.
The golden cinema years where just after World War 2, when the American and English movies flooded Europe.
With the growing popularity of television, the venue went bankrupt in 1968.
In the coming years the building had many functions as warehouse, allegedly even a stable, to become a furniture store, the balcony and stage hidden by a false ceiling.



The stage lay dormant until a cold winter night in December 2016.
That night, Stefan De Virgilio, coordinator the movie club next door, climbed the roof the mend a broken gutter.
When he peeked in trough his neighbors roof window, he did the discovery of a lifetime.
Under thick layers of dust he saw the balcony and the big Bordeaux curtains.
Stefan contacted the owner, went on a search for money, and together with a lot of volunteers, started removing false ceilings and walls and clean up the whole building.

Yesterday, the building was shown to the public, to close again for a one year renovation.
The plan is to make it an arthouse cinema, with movies for kids, but also life performances.
My visit made it clear, the stage is built for that to.
Although the stage is not deep, this often is seen in music hall stages.
A big proscenium compensates for the lack of space.



On the front of the Proscenium are the remains of a cover for footlights.


In the middle is a prompter’s box that can be reached from the under stage.


Over the stage is a modest fly tower, with the main curtain track still in place, although that seems of a later date.
On the top is a wooden grid, with on stage left a gallery with cleats, making it possible to install hemp sets.


There is already interest from theatre companies to play there, after the renovation and reopening in 2018.
This will be a cultural anchor point for a neighborhood, which is now culturally disadvantaged.
Hopefully it will also be a chance to tell the story again of the history of the life entertainment in a once lively neighborhood.



Monday, 17 October 2016

The theatre museum in Meiningen (DE) 

The theatre museum in Meiningen (DE) is a special place.
The big and renowned court theatre is renovated and rebuild for the modern repertoire.


In stock however are 280 original, hand-painted stage decorations, among them complete stage sets.
They were painted in the workshop of the Brueckner brothers in Coburg who also worked for Richard Wagner, but they have no place in modern theatre anymore.
The theatre museum is a barn like structure were one set is on display.



This display changes once a year.
Also, the old main curtain of the court theatre is on display.



To be honest, I was very disappoint with the presentation, and certainly with the lighting.



We must dare to ask ourselves if this is the best way to present theatre history.


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Hermitage theatre, St. Petersburg (RU) visited May 2016


This intimate neoclassical theatre, designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and once the private theatre of the imperial family, stands on the site of the original Winter Palace of Peter I

The theatre was built in the period 1783 – 1787 by order of Empress Catherine the Great, and said to be based on Palladio's Teatro Olimpico


The arena shaped audience room has some reminiscence to it, but the rest is completely different.

The stage was completely renewed and the shape is very big compared to the audience room.
The guide claims the outer walls of the stage are still in its original place, but for me, that’s hard to believe.

In the back is for instance a concrete projection booth, used to do back projection on the backdrop, probably dating from the time of the highly flammable celluloid film.


There is no sign of under stage machinery left, the upper grid is in wood, but from recent date.
The roof structure over the stage and audience room, is of a typical early 1900s steel construction, but the guide claims it dates back to the late 19th century.



Some sources say that after the Russian Revolution, the theater was closed and used as office. In 1991, the theater was used again for performances.
Some of the machinery seems to be from an earlier date to me.

The mechanism to guide the electric cables of the grand chandelier looks very well crafted.


The theatre is home to performances of several Russian ballet companies.




Although the stage technology is quite modern, the get in is still a challenge.


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Estonian National Opera (EE) visited 8th December 2015




The Jugendstil building was designed by Finnish architects Armas Lindgren and Wivi Lönn.
It was built as a national effort with the leadership of Estonia society in 1913 and was opened to the public on 24 August.
At the time, it was the largest building in Tallinn.


The opera house was heavily damaged in the Soviet air raid on Tallinn on 9 March 1944.

It was reconstructed in a classical and Stalinist style, and reopened in 1947


.
The reconstruction was done by prisoners of war.

In the flytower, several names of German prisoners are welded in, like Heino did in February 1947.




The painting of the dome is remarkable as it shows classical Sovjet heroic propaganda of brave soldiers and harvesting farmers.



The building houses the Estonian opera and ballet.
They are a producing house and play in repertoire.
Everything is done in house, so they have a wood, metal and costume workshop.
Almost every year, they renovate a part of the building.

The paintshop was just done and was equipped with a bridge to allow the painters to check their work from a distance.


Worth to take a look at is the entrance to the parking: at one side, the gates have the shape of a fiddlestick, at the other side they’re in the form of the hand of the conductor.


Next door is the Eesti Draama Theatre, dating from 1902, and also worth a visit

Friday, 4 December 2015

Ystad Theatre Visit July 2013 SE

We were warmly welcomed by the director of this beautiful theatre, who is clearly a jazz lover.
This explains the program of the venue that is focused on concerts and a jazz festival.

When the theatre opened in 1894, its new machinery for movable scenery was already considered out of date.


The era of Baroque, when this technology had been invented, was definitely over. So it remained 
unused, and its wooden drums and shafts, chariots and wheels disappeared bit by bit over the years. 


When Per Simon Edström came looking for it in 1992, he found parts of it all over the theatre. So he started to reassemble the machinery, resulting in a new looking understage.

 


The machinery to move the wings is seldom used, but the counterweight lifts are still in operation.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Teatro Comunale , Carpi (IT) visit 1th of August 2014

The Municipal Theatre in Carpi was inaugurated in 1861
It was a “Society of Box Owners” that entrusted the architect Cesare Costa with the task of erecting a new theatre on the impressive main square, the Piazza dei Martiri. Contrary to the inscription over the portico, the theatre became the property of the city already before the inauguration. It has been entirely preserved since then.


Rumors say, the half naked women on the fire curtain, were the wives of the members of the society of box owner, creating a scandal at opening night.



The hall, stage and dressing rooms are beautifully preserved.



The earthquake of 2011 did some damaged, but everything was perfectly restored.
Only in the wooden beams that hold up the dome above the audience needed some special treatment.
They are reinforced in a "flexible" way, so that will withstand future earthquakes better.



A real gem is found above this dome: a big attic, used for rehearsals and scenic painting.
Graffiti made by the artists up to the 19th century can be found here.



Here is also the hatch trough which the big chandelier can be hoisted.



The stage tower is completely white, making it a nice space to work in.


The grid is equipped the old Italian way with wheels that can removed and changed position to put flies of any length and angle that you want.
The wheels are not the original ones, bur made new for this theatre.


To do this quickly, you need to have the ropes ready at the right lengths of course.


When I was there, visit was only on appointment.
Since the director only spoke Italian, he was so kind to also invite an interpretor from the touristic office.
Next door is the remains of a castle, but we didn't visit that.