Architect Emil Belluš as an anonymous founder of Slovak scenography Cover Image
  • Price 2.00 €

Architekt Emil Belluš ako anonymný zakladateľ slovenskej scénografie
Architect Emil Belluš as an anonymous founder of Slovak scenography

Author(s): Matúš Dulla
Subject(s): Cultural Essay, Political Essay, Societal Essay
Published by: Historický ústav SAV, v. v. i.
Keywords: Slovak; stage design; architect; modern; play; theatre; director

Summary/Abstract: In the life of Emil Belluš – one of the most prominent modernist architects in Slovakia – there was a bit mysterious, little-known phase. It concerned his stage setting designs of the late 1930s and early 1940s. In collaboration with a theatre director Ján Jamnický, in the new Slovak National Theatre Belluš managed to create several remarkable settings thanks to which he is considered a founder of Slovak scenography. Still, Belluš’ name appeared just once as the designer of a stage setting, followed by three instances where he was mentioned under his assumed name of B. Javor while later on it was reported that the stage designers were merely workers of the theatre artistic workshops. Some are reasoning that by this conduct Belluš “tried to avoid having his creative hands tied with contractual obligations to the theatre management”, while others thought that the reason for anonymity was the perception of theatre as being not very dignified and socially esteemed which could bring him as an architect into disrepute. Most likely, however, is that the first settings were just a marginal work to the architect within his family circle (the theatre director was his brother-in-law). A series of his scene designs start with 1935 (the premiere of Henry Bernstein’s play Hope), but the onset of his typical theatre settings begin with Begovic’s play The Man of God (Fig. 2 and 3). According to the director, this is “a play of Slavic mysticism” and the surviving drawings show a set of stairs with different height elevations, all complemented by just indicative realistic elements. “The glorious era of Jamnický as a director commenced with The Misanthrope by Molière”, writes I. Mojžišová. For “this carousel of fraud, deception and hypocrisy ...” the architect erected on the stage something that reminds of a park-like, high and square-cut hedge row with signs of landscaping at the forefront with a vase and a balustrade (Fig. 6). Actor Martin Gregor, who had to leave the theatre due to his Jewish heritage, chose The Mizanthrope to be his last performance, playing the title role of Alceste. In the next scene of Ibsen’s Rosmersholm at the beginning of the war (1940) Belluš symbolically captured dark clouds hanging over Europe in the form of “demonized, winged chandelier throwing shadows of destiny” (Fig. 5). It was followed by a memorable conjunction of stage settings, costumes (by Ľudmila Brozmanová-Podobová), and actors in the comedy by Pierre de Marivaux: The Game of Love and Chance (Fig. 7). Jamnický with Belluš exposed the stage area and layered it vertically... actors played everywhere, on the proscenium, below the stage and even in the boxes, often elevated above the stage, sometimes with their backs to the spectators and even lying down. Architect’s work was a perfect example of synergy with the air of the performances and the directorial concept. Next came Stodola’s play When the Celebrated Cries (1941) on the fight of a physician with a miraculous healer.

  • Issue Year: 44/2010
  • Issue No: 1-2
  • Page Range: 132 - 149
  • Page Count: 18
  • Language: Slovak