The Mataitis Theatre on the Pathways of National History and Culture
The exhibition “The Mataitis Theatre on the Pathways of National History and Culture” is open from 8 June to 19 November 2017 at The National Museum of Lithuania, New Arsenal.
In the dawn of Lithuanian national revival, the Lithuanian Folklore Theatre spread the ideas of national identity, traditions and continuation of Lithuania’s statehood, which encouraged people to turn to their folk art, culture and history. Established on 13 April
1968 as the Lithuanian Ethnographic Ensemble of the State Youth Theatre, it was renamed as the Folk Music Theatre Company of the Open Air Museum of Lithuania in 1974, and in 1987, it became the Lithuanian Folklore Theatre. The founder of the theatre, its programme and production director, the author of compositions and folklore researcher was Povilas Mataitis, and Dalia Mataitienė was the costume and set designer. That is why the theatre was most often simply called the Mataitis Theatre. For revealing the depths of
Lithuanian folklore to Lithuania and the world, and for fostering folk traditions and the harmony of contemporary set design, the theatre’s founder, director Povilas Mataitis, and designer Dalia Mataitienė were awarded the National Prize for Culture and Arts in 2010.
The repertoire and set design of the Mataitis Theatre were based on folklore, ethnography, mythology, as well as historical and ethnographic sources. In the performances, the audience could hear authentic instrumental music, Lithuanian folk tunes, traditional
sutartinė songs, see folk dances and listen to stories about heroic struggles of Lithuanians for freedom. Not only the language, but also the set design and costumes greatly contributed to the artistic suggestion of the performances.
Dalia Mataitienė was the first professional artist to bring the traditional 17th–20th century costume to the theatre stage at the time when stylized national costumes made at art production factories after artists’ designs prevailed. Referring to authentic examples of folk clothes found in museums, historical and ethnographic sources, memoirs of contemporaries that she had written down herself, and photographs, she created stage
costumes that reflected patterns, colour combinations and decoration details from different periods and various ethnographic regions.
During the years of the theatre’s existence, Mataitienė created a great many costumes for folklore productions. In 1993, the National Museum of Lithuania received a collection of 68 costumes, which are fascinating by the accumulated rich material in which historical memory and the search for national ideas has been preserved.
30 costumes from three theatre productions are presented in this exhibition. The first costume designs were created by Mataitienė for a two-part concert programme of folklore from various locations of Lithuania from the end of nineteenth to early twentieth century, which was prepared in 1971. A similar variety of costumes were created for the theatre production “Lithuanian Notes” in 1982, which was based on the collection Notes of Lithuanian Songs and Hymns compiled by the folklore collector Adolfas Sabaliauskas in 1916.
In 1989, the fate of the Prussian nation was reflected in a requiem mass in memory of heroes “Let Us Sing About the Fall of Prussia” – actors reading excerpts from the chronicle by Peter of Dusburg and singing funerary hymns written in Lithuania Minor wore unique costumes of the 17th century residents of Lithuania Minor, created according to written and iconographic sources.
The exhibition is supplemented by sketches of costume designs, photographs of theatre productions and posters from the collections of the Theatre, Music and Film Museum.