The Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc, Hrvatsko narodno kazalište or HNK Zajc for short, is a well-known Croatian theater situated in the city center of Rijeka. With its rich annual program consisting of opera, ballet, drama, and concerts, it is one of the most visited and favorite theaters in Croatia. The theater’s program is a combination of classic and contemporary, but also domestic and international.
The exterior of the building was built in a renaissance style, while the interior is decorated in baroque style. HNK Zajc has a large hall with floor seats, a mezzanine, two floors of boxes, and a balcony with a total of 677 seats.
History of the HNK Zajc in Rijeka
The first HNK Zajc theater building was built in 1765 and used for different purposes, one of which was a casino. A new theater was constructed in 1805. This architectural masterpiece was opened by notable merchant Andrija Ljudevit Adamić, so the theater was called the Adamić Theater. With plenty of Italian and German performances, the theater became a favorite cultural place for the next 80 years.
At the end of the 19th century, the Rijeka government decided to demolish the theater for security reasons. Many European theaters were destroyed by fires and Adamić Theater didn’t satisfy the safety measures demanded by the Austro-Hungarian empire.
A new modern and contemporary theater building was built and opened in 1885 that met European safety standards. It was an architectural gem featuring ceilings painted by Franz Matsch and Gustav and Ernest Klimt as well as ornaments and statues constructed by August Benvenuti. The theater also featured the first electric bulb and the first telephone in Rijeka (Fiume).
Citizens enjoyed operas and comedies performed by famous artists from Venice, Milano, and other popular theater centers. Numerous famous artists performed in the new theater including composers Giacomo Puccini and Pietro Mascagni, tenor Enrico Caruso, and opera singer Beniamino Gigli.
Many actors and actresses have performed in the national theater in Rijeka such as Ernest Rossi, Ermeteo Novelli, Ermeteo Zacconi, well-known tragic actress Sarah Bernhardt, and Irma Gramatica of Rijeka.
In 1945, the official National Theater in Rijeka was established. Prior to 1945, Croatian theater artists and the Croatian language were forbidden. In 1946, the first Croatian show was performed, called Dubravka, written by Ivan Gundulić.
The first ballet and opera Nikola Šubić Zrinski by Ivan pl. Zajc was soon performed, and the theater was later named after him in 1953. In 1991, the theater was renamed to Croatian National Theater Ivan pl. Zajc.
The Croatian National Theater Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka is one of the most visited Croatian theaters. It offers plenty of quality performances within its four artistic branches: Croatian and Italian Drama, Symphonic Opera, and ballet.
In addition to performances, you may tour the fascinating atrium, auditorium, foyer, and gallery with an English-speaking guide. Information about English tours is available here.
Program and Schedule
The theater’s program includes Croatian drama, opera, concerts, ballet, Italian drama, and chamber concerts.
A full theater program can be found here.
A full schedule can be found here.
How to Buy Tickets
Ticket prices vary depending on the seat position and the type of performance. The price list is available here.
There is an option to buy a theater card which offers a 50% discount on regular ticket prices and 30% off concerts. View more information here.
It is possible to get a group discount, an individual discount, a first-minute offer, and even free entrance on special occasions. Information on special discounts, first-minute offers, and free visits can be found here.
Online tickets can be bought here. Regular tickets can be bought at the sales office.
Address: Blagajna HNK Ivana pl. Zajca, Verdijeva 5a, 51000 Rijeka
You can find full contact information for the theater department here.
Learn about other National Theaters in Croatia
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.