The roots of the National Theatre Brno stretch back to the 1890s. Now a grouping of three ensembles – opera, drama, ballet – it was one of the most progressive European theatres of the 20th century. It was here in 1938 that the premiere of Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet was given. It was also the venue for an impressive number of Leoš Janáček’s opera premieres: The Beginning of a Romance: (1894, conducted by Leoš Janáček), Jenůfa (1904), Katya Kabanova (1921), The Cunning Little Vixen (1924), Šárka (1925), The Makropulos Affair (1926), From the House of the Dead (1930) and Fate (1958). The theatre is also inextricably linked with the name of Bohuslav Martinů, as the National Theatre Brno gave eight world premieres and three Czech premieres of his works, including The Miracles of Mary (1935) and The Greek Passion (1962). The artistic level of the ensembles has been developed both by distinguished figures from Czech cultural life and figures of world renown: the outstanding conductor and expert on the works of Janáček František Neumann (from 1919 to 1929), the dancer and choreographer, soloist and ballet master of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Original Ballet Russe Ivo Váňa Psota (with a break from 1928 to 1952), the legendary Czech conductor Rafael Kubelík (1939–1941) and one of the most acclaimed “Janáček” conductors of the 20th century František Jílek (1948–1978, recipient of the Prix Arturo Toscanini-Paul Vergnes for his recording of Jenůfa from 1979).
The second decade of the 21st century brought significant changes in the direction and aesthetics of the National Theatre Brno, whose clear vision is to become a European ambassador for a progressive approach towards theatre – both at an artistic level and through the methods of communicating with and acquiring new audiences. Each year NTB productions attract over a quarter of a million visitors. The three permanent ensembles (opera, drama, ballet) operate on three stages: at the Mahen Theatre (the first electrically lit theatre in the world; capacity 547 seats), at the Janáček Theatre (the largest Czech opera theatre; capacity 1,055 seats) and at the Reduta Theatre (the oldest theatre building in Central Europe; the librettist for Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, Emanuel Schikaneder, worked here from 1807 to 1809; W. A. Mozart and his sister Nannerl performed here in 1767; capacity 286 seats).
Each year the NTB presents 70 different productions, 16–19 of which are premieres, and some 600 performances. It organises three international festivals: the Janáček Brno international theatre and music festival, the Theatre World Brno festival of progressive theatre and the Dance Brno festival of traditional and modern dance. In addition to theatre performances, as the region’s most important cultural institute it also offers concerts and a whole range of educational and outreach projects for children and adults. It has been a member of the Opera Europe platform since 2008.