STA, 2 January 2019 - The Slovenian National Theatre (SNG) Maribor (Slovensko narodno gledališče Maribor) will mark its centenary in 2019, with celebrations culminating on 27 September, exactly 100 years after its founder Hinko Nučič staged the first play there.
Maribor had a vibrant cultural scene even before the professional theatre was formally established in what is now Slovenia's second largest city.
But the new theatre enhanced Slovenian national identity and positioned Slovenian as the national and official language.
The building housing SNG Maribor was built in 1852, and since then Maribor has had a professional theatre, but at the time it was fully German.
"Slovenian actors were not allowed to perform there," director and author Vili Ravnjak, who has worked for SNG Maribor for many years, has told the STA.
While first productions in Slovenian were staged as early as the middle of the 19th century, they were performed at a different location.
"It was only when Maribor became a politically and culturally Slovenian city that acting naturally moved to the former German theatre", which closed shop after WWI in early 1919.
In 1941, when Slovenian lands were occupied by the Nazis, German theatre was reintroduced, while Slovenian professional theatre was revived after WWII in 1945.
Although it is hard to say when SNG Maribor had its heyday, Ravnjak highlighted the 1930s and 1990s for drama and the last decade for opera and ballet.
Plays at SNG Maribor attracted the most media attention when director Tomaž Pandur (1963-2016) put on stage his controversial extravaganzas in the 1980s and 1990s.
Ballet and opera ensembles have meanwhile made a name for themselves under artistic directors Edward Clug, a choreographer of world renown, and conductor Simon Krečič.
SNG Maribor is the largest public cultural organisation in Slovenia and the only one bringing under one roof drama, opera and ballet.
It formally consists of Drama, Opera, Ballet and the Symphony Orchestra, while also housing the Maribor Theatre Festival as a separate unit.
In 2003, it was granted the highest status - that of national theatre, which means it is fully funded by the state or the Culture Ministry as its founder.
Danilo Rošker, SNG Maribor's director for the past 15 years, believes that ever since its beginnings, the theatre has enriched the cultural scene and extended the boundaries of what is possible.
The celebrations will be launched in January when SNG Maribor's production is presented at Ljubljana's Cankarjev Dom, accompanied by talks with acclaimed artists.
But it will be particularly festive in September: an exhibition tracing the theatre's history will be put up in the streets of Maribor, a monograph and a special postal stamp will be published and a special ceremony staged.
September 27 will see the premiere of Grmače, a play by acclaimed Slovenian author Dane Zajc (1929-2005) staged by Nina Rajić Kranjac, a rising star on the Slovenian theatre scene.
The celebrations will end with an opera premiere in May 2020 to remember 1 May 1920, when SNG Maribor's predecessor staged the first opera, Hervé's Mam'zelle Nitouche.
The theatre’s English website can be found here