Lighting in Theatre

LIGHTING IN THE 21ST CENTURY THEATRE, RELIES WHOLLY ON MODERN TECHNOLOGY WHICH ALLOWS FOR COMPLETE CONTROL OF THE PRODUCTION, WHEREAS THEATRE LIGHTING IN THE 17TH CENTURY WAS ITS OWN PRODUCTION, AS IT REQUIRED MECHANICAL CONTRAPTIONS THAT NEEDED MORE THAN JUST THE TOUCH OF A BUTTON TO FUNCTION.

The Baroque theatre of Český Krumlov castle, located in a small city in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, is preserved in both its structure such as the building, auditorium, orchestra pit, stage and its props such as stage technology, machinery, decorations, costumes, props, lighting technology, fire extinguishers and so on.

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Only one royal theatre in the world is comparable to the Krumlov Baroque Theatre, that being Sweden’s Drottningholm near Stockholm from 1766. This theatre was also preserved with its original stage technology, although its decorations are from the 1780\’s and already display features of classicism. The Krumlov decorations, in contrast, emerge from the style of illusive European Baroque, the most renowned representative of such being the Italian scenographer and Viennese theatre architect Giuseppe Galli – Bibiena.

Its preservation also includes a rich archive of documents such as librettos, scripts, texts, partituras, sheet music, inventories, accounts, iconographic material, and other information on theatre life in the 17th to 19th century.

Scenery lighting was carried out by the use of candles and small tallow lamps. The auditorium of the castle theatre was lit by candles in wall brackets, while the proscenium was lit by candelabras on both sides. These candles would remain lit during the entire performance. The castle theatre orchestra pit received light by a row of candles placed on a long double-sided music stand. The performance area was lit by a kind of candle bar situated on the front edge of the stage of the castle theatre, and this bar could be lowered below stage level by a lever system underneath the stage, thus dimming or brightening the front part of the stage.

Lighting on the gallery area of the Český Krumlov Castle Theatre /copy/ Lighting of the lower area of the auditorium of the Český Krumlov Castle Theatre /copy/ Stage footlights in the Český Krumlov Castle Theatre, 1999, foto: Věroslav Škrabánek

Candle brackets lighting the auditorium and lever system underneath the stage

The wings, hung on moveable frames, were equipped with candles in metal holders placed on rotating brackets fixed onto the back side of the sliding scene frame. Each candle illuminated the scene behind it and was unseen by the viewer. If the bracket was rotated so that the candle holder blocked the light towards the scene, then the stage darkened. This principle worked quite advantageously for Baroque illusionism – by lowering the level of light towards the rear of the stage, the impression of depth perception is emphasized, thus suiting the intentions of the stage painters. If we were to light the theatre by methods commonly used today, i.e. intensive lighting from the front, the three-dimensional effect of the painted canvases would for the most part disappear.

Lathe with lighting (copy) on wings in the Český Krumlov Castle Theatre, 1999, foto: Věroslav Škrabánek
The moveable frames in the wings

Nowadays, candlelight has been replaced by electrical lighting for obvious safety reasons. A Swedish system, however, is presently in use – an electric copy of a candle, the “flame” of which burns like a candle flame and reacts dynamically to air movements. At a distance of one meter, one can hardly tell the difference between the electric candle and a real candle. These “candles” are being used for the time being only for the auditorium and portal, while in the orchestra pit real candles are used. The stage lights, being unseen, are for now low-intensity lamps, and will likely be also replaced by electric candles.

Nowadays, candlelight has been replaced by electrical lighting for obvious safety reasons. A Swedish system, however, is presently in use – an electric copy of a candle, the “flame” of which burns like a candle flame and reacts dynamically to air movements. At a distance of one meter, one can hardly tell the difference between the electric candle and a real candle. These “candles” are being used for the time being only for the auditorium and portal, while in the orchestra pit real candles are used. The stage lights, being unseen, are for now low-intensity lamps, and will likely be also replaced by electric candles.

 Comparison of candlelight and electric lighting in the Český Krumlov Castle Theatre Style of original lighting of the Český Krumlov Castle Theatre, 1999, foto: Věroslav Škrabánek
Candles

http://www.castle.ckrumlov.cz/docs/en/zamek_5nadvori_bd.xml

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