Croatian National Theater: HNK Split (including 2024 program)
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.
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.
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.
The national theater in Split has a very important role in the cultural life of Dalmatians.
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.
Program and Schedule
The full program for the current season can be found here.
The schedule of performances can be found here.
Tickets and Prices
Tickets for performances vary depending on the performance. Detailed ticket costs can be found here.
Information and prices on subscriptions are available here.
Location and Contact Information
Phone: +385 (0)21 306 908 and +385 (0)21 363 014
Full contact information in English here.
Address: Trg Gaje Bulata 1, 21000 Split
View other Croatian national theater guides
You may also learn about other national theaters in Croatia at the below links:
Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.