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Achievements of the age

Clockwork stage

One of the most important features and achievements of Baroque theater is its unmistakable, infinitely sophisticated and refined clockwork stage. The first step towards it was made in 1545, when perspectival and painted laminae - that were tightened on wooden frames and lined up behind each other - were placed on both sides of the stage. The scene was closed by painted backdrop in canvas.  The first clockwork stage was made in 1628: it was made up of painted and tightened canvases on wooden frames that were called coulisses. They were placed on both sides of the stage behind each other and the distance gradually decreased between them. This kind of layout excellently served the purpose to impress the audience. It fulfilled Baroque aspirations of creating illusions and it became wedded to Baroque operas. The first perspective and alterable stage sets were born that meant a great progress in history of theaters. With the help of stage machinery, making any amount of scenery changes became possible very quickly even the whole stage set could be altered. The playing field of the stage was bordered by coulisses situated behind each other, which together formed the perspective scenery.  The extent of the illusion and the depth of the playing field were determined by how many groups of coulisses had been placed behind each other. The change of scenery was determined by the number of parallel scenes in the groups of coulisses. While two pieces of the coulisse group were on the stage, the other elements of the group, parallel to those two, were obscured and hidden from the public eye.

The technical background and control of the movement of the scenes was performed in the lower levels. The wooden frames of scenes were connected to a machine, which rolled on wooden wheels under the stage. The wheels of the wooden frame of the scene could be connected to the machinery above the plane of the stage. Scenes could be swapped during performances in order to accomplish limitless amount of scenery changes. As in the case of other elements of stage, moving the scenes was done by machinery made of pulleys, wheels and axles, gears and rope systems. This allowed changing the complete stage set within a few seconds.

Lifting and lowering machines in the world of theatres

Actors and actresses could not only enter from the wings, but with the help of flying machines that were moved up and down by ropes around axles. According to Mátyás Horányi, the new opera hosue in Eszterháza was also equipped with flying machines and trap-doors. It must have been astonishing when the actors descended from above or when they appeared unexpectedly on the stage. Devices enabling this were controlled from the wings, with using pulley-wheels in the rigging loft.



Stage lighting

Main problem of baroque theatres was lighting. It could cause a big problem to lighten the stage on a proper way at the time when only candles, oil lamps, spirit lamps with leaden inlet were used. Swaying lights were dominating the form of expression, personation, and impression of the total performance and the absence of modern footlights we are familiar with. At the side of the wings candles with light projectors were placed above each other. Control of brilliance was done by moving the candle-wicks or by turning the light projectors. Increasing brightness of lights could be done with the use of reflecting surfaces.

Sloped stages

The rear side of the stage was called “upper end”. Why? At that time, so at the era of Haydn as well, the stage was sloping, it was not horizontal as it used to be now: the stage had a pitch-angle of about 3-8 % starting from the proscenium till the backdrops. Meaning with this: the one who was moving from the proscenium backwards, was moving upwards indeed. The aims of sloped construction were two things: once the audience had a better view of the stage, secondly the illusion of the perspective view was increased with that. Because the total painted scenery, the sliced painting had this purpose: the theme – landscape, woodland, street view, halls – were painted and later on organized in perspective view at the stage. The side wings – directing to the backside of the stage – were placed even closer to each other, the floor was rising and the upper scenery (representing the sky or the ceiling and also hiding the machinery above the stage from the eyes of the audience) as the continuation of the perspective view, was placed lower and lower approaching the backdrops. The funnel-shaped stage had the task to make the illusion of the endless perspective view increasing the depths of the stage with that.

Stage machinery

Miracles were made on the stages in the old times too, a lot of things could be moved in or to be removed simultaneously. The left wings rolled out to the left from our fields of vision, and the new wings rolled in. Right wings rolled out to the right in the same time and new wings rolled in. Backdrops were rolled up and rolled down in the meantime, revealing the next scene, during that time upper scenery was pulled up and the new ones were let down. With other words: the space was widened in three directions - left, right and upwards and it was “compressed” again with the new scenery rolling in just at the next moment. Huge machinery was needed for making this possible. They filled out the total space below the stages and the main part of the upper space of the stage as well. A special mechanism above allowed for the clouds to sink down or to move up or for people to fly. Other machinery were: rolling cars below the stages for hanging up the side wings (this was allowed by slots cut in the stage flooring); km-s of ropes connecting pairs of rolling cars and with a central drum or shaft putting all of the cars in motion simultaneously; further ropes and drums above the stage moving backdrops and upper scenery, and so on.

Water tower

In the time of Nicholas Esterhazy a water tower was also needed, which supplied the buildings, the park, or even the fountains with the sufficient water. They created a water tower, whit a large storage tank for 11,200 liters of water, placed on the top of the tower. The water was pumped up by a horse-drawn gear.







The nine-hole tulip vase

Tulips were introduced in the Netherlands at the end of the 16th century, the bulbs became a very expensive, fashionable flower.The cultivation of tulips soon became a huge business in that region.

European botanists have recorded about 1,000 varieties of it. The most valuable tulip bulbs were very precious. Tulips only spread in Hungary around the middle of the 18th century. At that time in Hungary, for a beautiful, unique tulip bulb that has an extraordinary shape or colour, you could even buy a house or land. These luxury and expensive flowers were often put in special and expensive vases. Those vases were the most striking products of the Blue Delft-ware industry in the 17th century.The Esterhazy family also wanted such special flowers in their palaces. The family could boast of unique tulips, these flowers were placed in a vase with multiple holes. This was invented to put a single tulip into each hole so they could get a large bouquet of tulips.


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