This May marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of the world-renowned Czech scenographer Josef Svoboda (1920–2002). A native of the nearby town of Čáslav, Svoboda left his mark on the world of theatre as an innovator in the field of lighting technology and a visionary who tirelessly sought to combine art with science. His stage designs were already a phenomenon during his lifetime and remain a unique cultural legacy to this day.

Over the course of his nearly sixty-year career, Svoboda worked on some 700 theatre productions at home and abroad. Along with his team of collaborators, he was there when the Laterna Magika was founded and contributed to numerous experiments with new visual forms, such as polyekran and polyvision. Starting in the 1960s, he collaborated with a number of leading foreign venues (the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Bayreuth Festival, the Paris Opera) and outstanding international directors (Laurence Olivier, Leonard Bernstein, Friedrich Dürrenmatt).

Svoboda understood scenography as encompassing a wide range of artistic and technological elements: an artistic foundation and education, a basic understanding of working with material, a directorial way of thinking, and a detailed mastery of mathematics, physics, and optics. His work blended creative imagination and a detailed knowledge of theatre with an ability to experiment and innovatively apply the latest technologies.

This exhibition, which has been put together in collaboration with the “Josef Svoboda – Scenographer” non-profit organization, takes a chronological look at Svoboda’s work for theatre, accompanied by selections from his extensive archive of drawings, studies, and models. The exhibition’s sections look at various important aspects of Svoboda’s scenographic methods: his work with light or mirrors, the phenomenon of stairs, or his innovative and pioneering use of modern technologies. The multimedia exhibition by artists Daniel Hanzlík a Pavel Mrkus, perfectly presents Svoboda’s vision of living and magical theatre space as a strong visual and emotional experience.

The exhibition is held under the auspices of Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic Lubomír Zaorálek, Governor of the Central Bohemian Region Jaroslava Pokorná Jermanová, and councillor of the Central Bohemian Region for culture and monument preservation Karel Horčička.

The exhibition has been made possible thanks to financial support from the Czech Ministry of Culture, KKCG Development a.s., the State Fund for Culture of the Czech Republic, the Central Bohemian Region, and ČEPS.

Exhibition partners: Arts and Theatre Institute, National Theatre, Archa Theatre, Opera Plus.