House of Arts Fatra (Grand Bio Universum)

House of Arts Fatra Dolný val No. 47

The building originally known as the Grand Bio Univerzum was built as a cinema and theatre in the years 1919 – 1921 by Ján Rufínus Stejskal, a Moravian living in Žilina. It replaced two 17th-century buildings. The art nouveau building based on designs by inž. Székely took a relatively long time to build because of several changes of plan. For example, the town demanded that the building be moved backwards to keep the planned line of the street. Construction work was carried out by the Žilina company of Ludvík Kantúrek.

The building had a stage and a large hall with two galleries. The audience capacity was 482 on the ground floor, 199 on the first floor and 146 on the second floor. After the building received authorisation for use in December 1921, the first Slovak feature film “Jánošík” received its premiere there on 3 January 1922.

The literature sometimes reports two dates for screening of the film. It was shown in Prague on 25 November 1921 and ran in three cinemas for two full weeks. The Slovak premiere took place on 3 January 1922. The film was directed by J. Siakeľ based on a script by J. Žák - Marušiak. T. Pištek starred as the eponymous hero. The film has been reconstructed by Ivan Rumanovský in digital form. The premiere was attended by the then Lutheran pastor of Žilina, Fedor Ruppeldt.

Between 1983 and 1988, the Fatra Cinema was reconstructed to serve the needs of the Slovak Sinfonietta, a state-supported chamber orchestra based in Žilina. The orchestra was founded in 1974 as a successor to the Žilina Symphony Orchestra (1949 – 1974). Unfortunately, during renovation work the building’s historic name “BIO UNIVERSUM” was insensitively removed from the upper facade. An adjoining building was added to provide for the needs of the Slovak Sinfonietta. The establishment of the orchestra was promoted by the esteemed Slovak composer Ján Cikker (1911 – 1989), whose bust stands in the lobby on the ground floor.

The first gala concert took place on 4 January 1989. the 34-member chamber orchestra has built a formidable reputation both in Slovakia and abroad. Most of its members are graduates of music academies and conservatories. Its most outstanding luminaries include the first principal conductor, Maestro Eduard Fischer (1930 – 1993), and his successors Jan Valta, Leoš Svárovský and Oliver Dohnányi. The orchestra also cooperates with the Japanese conductor Tsugio Maeda, a leading figure in performing arts on the world stage, as their honorary principal conductor.

The Slovak Sinfonietta has won many international awards and currently ranks in the world elite, as connoisseurs of classical music have been able to hear for themselves at the orchestra’s 2,700 concerts in nearly all the countries of Europe, Tunisia, Turkey, Armenia, Japan, the USA and Canada. The orchestra also became the first Slovak orchestra to play in South America when they performed in Brazil. The Slovak Sinfonietta very often hosts top artists from all over the world, providing unforgettable experiences for music fans not just from our town. The Fatra House of Arts also hosts other social and cultural events.

In 1997 the Zbor Žilincov organisation placed two commemorative plaques on the front of the building in honour of the premiere of the film “Jánošík” and the establishment of the Slovak Sinfonietta. The House of Arts is inscribed in the Central List of Heritage Monuments under no. 13729/0.

Source: Mgr. Jozef Moravčík, Mgr. Peter Štanský

It can be visited
■ during cultural events.
during a guided tour of TIO Žilina.

Position of the monument on the map: B4
Number of the monument on the map: 6

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