Croatian National Theater: HNK Split

Split Croatia National Theater - Hrvatsko narodno kazalište

Split’s Hrvatsko narodno kazalište, the national theater (abbreviated as “HNK”), is located in the city center on a square called Trg Gaje Bulata. The square’s namesake, Gajo Bulat, was a mayor of Split in the late 1900s. It was Bulat who declared the opening of this theater in Split on May 6, 1893.

2018/2019 Program and Schedule

Full program for the current season can be found here.

Schedule of performances can be found here.

Tickets and Prices

Tickets for performances vary from 40 kuna to 150 kuna. Detailed ticket costs can be found here.

When it comes to seasonal tickets, HNK in Split offers 10 different packages, ranging from 180 kuna for youth to 1.040 kuna for premier titles.

Location and Contact Information

Phone: (021) 306 908 and (021) 363 014

Full contact information in English here.

Address: Trg Gaje Bulata 1, 21000 Split

 

History of HNK in Split

Building the National Theater

At the time of the theater’s opening, Dalmatia and its capital Split were ruled by the dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy. While the politicians in Zagreb were predominantly Hungarian, in Split the struggle for political dominance was between Italian and domestic Croat politicians since the northeastern part Italy was also under the same dual monarchy.

The Italian political faction in Croatia were called the Autonomists. They were opposed to merging Dalmatia with the rest of Croatia. Local politicians (known as “populists”) fought for Dalmatia to be joined with the rest of Croatia and its identity, including the use of the Croatian language and symbols.

In 1882, the Populists won the municipal elections. To mark their mandate, they built a city theater.

In accordance with their platform, they chose not to use a foreign architectural studio for the design. Instead, they selected locals to design the theater: Ante Bezić and Emilio Vecchietti.

Ero Opera Performers

Performance Beginnings

Initially, there was no permanent art ensemble housed in the theater. Performances were offered by traveling theater groups, most often from Czechoslovakia and Italy. On some occasions, some performances were from groups based in Zagreb, Osijek, and Belgrade.

The first attempt to launch a permanent and professional drama ensemble was in 1898 with the establishment of the ensemble of the “Hrvatsko dramatično društvo Spljet“ (Croatian Dramatic Society in Split). Unfortunately, this society lasted only two years.

In 1920,  the second attempt to create a resident professional drama ensemble was founded under the official name of the “Narodno pozorište za Dalmaciju” (National Theater for Dalmatia).

That same year a group of theater enthusiasts in Split launched a troupe called Gradska Opera i Opereta, but they soon changed their name to Splitsko kazališno društvo (Split Theater Society). Until 1936, the society, whose main idea creator was Ivo Tijardović, put out a series of successful dramas, opera, and operettas.

Ivo Tijardović was the author of very popular operettas including Mala Floramye and Splitski Akvarel. To this day, they are very often produced at HNK in Split to the enjoyment of many.

Modern Era of the National Theater in Split

In 1940, the official name of the theater became what is today: Hrvatsko narodno kazalište u Splitu (Croatian National Theater in Split). Ivo Tijardović was its first attendant. The theater had its own resident opera, drama, and ballet troupes.

During World War II, Split was occupied by the Italians.

As a result, the next performance season in Split didn’t happen until the war ended in 1945. Since then, the professional theater in Split has been operating continuously until today.

The end of the second world war didn’t mark the end of the turbulent history of HNK in Split. In February of 1970, the building burned down in a fire. It took most of a decade to be rebuilt. It was finally reopened on May 19, 1980.

Split's HNK National Theater Boxes

Present day

The national theater in Split has a very important role in the cultural life of Dalmatians.

Every year, the theater organizes two opulent art festivals: Splitsko ljeto (Split summer festival) and Marulićeve dane (Days of Marulić).

Interestingly, it is thanks to a tech event called Shift conference (and not theater performances) that has drawn many young people to the old theater building.

Still, the HNK in Split remains an important landmark of the city and a very popular meeting place.

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Expat in Croatia

Sara is an American expat based in Split. After globetrotting between New York, Amsterdam and California, she moved to Croatia in 2012. Sara's blog Expat in Croatia is a guide for foreigners living and traveling in Croatia.