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Croatian National Theater

Croatian National Theater



Croatia - 2010 Split - Trg Gaje Bulata 1



The Croatian National Theater in Split - CNT Split (Croatian: Hrvatsko narodno kazalište u Splitu or HNK Split) originally opened in 1893. The theater is owned and operated by the City of Split and it is one of the oldest surviving theaters in Dalmatia.





The theater building was originally constructed as the Split Municipal Theater in 1893, during the tenure of mayor Gajo Bulat. The building was designed by local architects Emilio Vecchietti and Ante Bezić, while the interior decoration was done by Eugenio Scomparini, Napoleone Cozzi and Josip Varvodić. The theater had a capacity of 1,000 (at a time when Split had a population of 16,000), and it was the biggest theater in Southeast Europe at the time of its completion. The building was initially used to stage performances by traveling troupes (mostly Italian), as there was no full-time drama ensemble in the city of Split by the very end of the 19th century.


The first professional theater troupe appeared in 1920, when the building underwent its first renovation and when the theater was renamed "Dalmatian National Theater ". In 1928, during the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the theater was merged with the Sarajevo National Theater  and renamed "National Theater for Western Regions" (Narodno pozorište za zapadne oblasti). That same year the professional actors' ensemble was disbanded by the authorities. However, a group of artists led by Ivo Tijardović formed the Split Theater Society, which continued to perform operas and operettas into the 1930s.


In 1940, the theater experienced a brief period of revival, adopting its current name and for the first time housing opera, drama and ballet ensembles. The first theater intendant  was Tijardović, the drama section was led by Marko Fotez, while opera and ballet sections were headed by Oskar Jozefović and Ana Roje. However, the revival proved to be short-lived as the theater was closed again in 1941 due to Italian occupation during the World War II, when portions of southern Croatia were incorporated into the wartime Governorship of Dalmatia. Following the end of World War II, the theater was re-established on 1 July 1945, and its first season opened in September 1945 with a performance of a play by Croatian author Mirko Bogović.


The theater has been operating ever since. However, in February 1970 the building was nearly completely destroyed in a fire. During the following decade the house ensembles performed plays at other venues in Split, until the newly rebuilt theater opened its door again in May 1980.



Present day


CNT Split hosts around 300 performances every year, attended by a total audience of around 120,000. Some 20 to 40 opera, ballet and dramatic productions are staged per year, in addition to many symphony concerts performed by the in-house orchestra. The theater is billed as the "premier theater house in Dalmatia" and "one of the biggest and oldest theater houses in the Mediterranean".




Apart from its regular program, CNT Split also organizes two long-running annual festivals:


Splitsko ljeto

Split Summer Festival (Splitsko ljeto) was established in 1954, it is the second oldest festival of performing arts in the country (after the Dubrovnik Summer Festival). The festival is usually held over a 30-day period between mid-July and mid-August, and includes a great number of various events, like open-air jazz and classical concerts, art exhibitions, theater plays staged in public squares and modern dance performances. Parts of the program are usually held at historic venues, such as Diocletian's Palace.

Among the performers there were renowned conductors Kurt Adler, Mladen Bašić, Anton Guadagno, Ernst Märzendorfer, Lovro von Matačić, Boris Papandopulo, Vjekoslav Šutej, as well as famous singers like Martina Arroyo, Radmila Bakočević, Fiorenza Cedolins, Michèle Crider, Biserka Cvejić, Bonaldo Giaiotti, James McCracken, Zinka Milanov, Hasmik Papian, Enzo Sordello, Eleanor Steber, Lucilla Udovich, Ivo Vinco etc.


Marulićevi dani

Days of Marko Marulić (Marulićevi dani) was established in 1991, on the 490th anniversary of the publication of Judita, one of the most important Croatian literature works written by the 15th-century author Marko Marulić. The week-long festival held in April showcases best achievements in Croatian playwriting in the preceding year. The main award at the festival, sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, is the Marin Držić Award, given to the author of the best play written that year.

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