Latvian National Theater

Sources note that November 18, 1918 was a cool and cloudy day. Over 1,200 people had gathered at the Riga City Second Theater (now Latvian National Theater) for a very important premiere. The stage lights on this night were being directed at 37 men and one lady – 38 Latvians who were taking the stage for a very clear objective: declaring the new independent Republic of Latvia.

Just as Latvia has over the centuries, this Eclecticism-style building has witnessed different historical periods, actor troupes and even titles during the pre-war, German and Soviet occupation periods, as well as after the restoration of independence. It is said that the actual “birthday” of the Latvian National Theater was November 30, 1919, when it was unveiled with a performance of Rūdolfs Blaumanis’ (1862-1908) classic play Ugunī (In the Fire). In later years, the Latvian poet and playwright Rainis (1865-1929) worked as the director of the theater, and even the world famous Russian actor and playwright Mikhail Chekhov (1891-1955) also worked at the theater. Also today, the theater is seen as the center of Latvian drama and theater, and each year new productions by Latvian authors are being performed. This theater is also one of the few theaters in the country which ensures English subtitles. The theater’s magnificently restored ceiling and gilded decorations can be observed in the lobby and also photographs of the actors who have performed at the theater.

Historical Facts

Construction of the building began in 1899. The project’s tender announced by the Riga Municipal Board was won by the founder and head of the Riga Architectural Association Augusts Reinbergs (1860-1908), beating out applications from Russian imperial architects. A Latvian also won the construction tender for the building – Krišjānis Ķergalvis (1856-1936), owner of one of the largest construction companies at the time, who had constructed over 60 buildings. The building itself was unveiled in 1902.