Kvarner newsletter / no 35

Ivan pl. Zajc Theatre in Rijeka
Theatre building as a museum

In most cases, the value of a theatre depends mostly on the quality of the plays it stages. However, there is a different view: theatres are often located in buildings of special architectural, historical, and cultural value. One such is Rijeka's Ivan pl. Zajc Theatre, situated in an impressive building, a masterpiece of architecture, which will soon be open to visitors for guided tours.

The list of renowned cultural landmarks in the town of Rijeka that are open to visitors will soon include a new attraction: visitors to this town will have the chance to learn more about the less known side of one of Rijeka's most impressive buildings – the Ivan pl. Zajc Theatre. At the moment, this institution is preparing an interesting project: guided tours of the building, aimed at offering visitors a unique opportunity to experience this renowned place in a completely new light.
This impressive building, which has hosted the theatre since the 3rd of October 1885, was built to the design by well-known architects Herman Gottlieb Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner, who at the time designed theatre buildings in many major European towns. It is therefore no wonder that Rijeka's theatre is an architectural masterpiece of that period. However, this is just a detail that visitors will have the chance to learn during guided tours of the building.
On top of the main façade are impressive figures by the renowned Venetian sculptor Augusto Benvenuti, which symbolise Drama and Music. The interior of the building hides many other items of particular value – stucco decorations, sculptures, gilding and a small mysterious hollow beneath the entrance door, in which a lead tube was hidden with documents about the construction of the building, the poster of the first theatrical performance, and coins of the period.
But there is more: in the interior of the theatre building there are further items of extraordinary artistic value. These are the ceiling paintings by Gustav Klimt, famous painter of the Austrian Secession.
According to the design by Fellner and Helmer, paintings were to be included in the six oval fields around the monumental chandelier, two smaller fields above two loges, and the large area above the scene. Very few people know that the ceiling paintings, allegories of the Operetta, Love and Dance, were painted by Franz Matsch in 1885. The War Music, Concert Music, and Religious Music were painted by Gustav Klimt, and the author of the large allegory entitled Theatre, and the two smaller paintings showing two angels each, is his younger brother Ernst Klimt.
From what we have just learned, it becomes obvious that Rijeka's Ivan pl. Zajc Theatre has much to offer in addition to its regular theatrical programme. Therefore, we invite you to take some time for an attractive guided tour of this impressive building, a real temple of drama, music and dance art, but also a masterpiece of architecture and painting.