The Cultural and Congress Centre Cankarjev Dom presents, produces, co-produces, organises and provides cultural and artistic events, congresses, state commemorations, exhibitions, festivals and other events. The CD Congress Centre Ljubljana therefore has a central role as the key Slovenian convention centre with the highest number of international congresses, as well as a mobile group of professional congress organisers in other Slovene meetings venues.

With its versatile cultural, artistic and scientific events of internationally resounding character it contributes to the openness of Ljubljana as the capital city. It also helps paint the picture of Ljubljana as an utterly compelling destination, whose history, tourism and culture have earned the enchanting city the title of one of the most significant European cultural and congress centres. With its rich history and excellent architecture set over 4,000 m² of exhibition space the CD Congress Centre Ljubljana offers 22 diverse halls suitable for both smaller and bigger events, congresses, conferences, seminars, trade fairs and much else besides.

The beauty of the War and Peace transformation set in Gallus Hall

At 2,000m² Gallus Hall is the biggest of Cankarjev dom’s halls and this year it has become the setting for a magnificent transformation with the active engagement of actors performing a famous Tolstoy work in a unique and modern way, making for a truly magnificent production of the famous Leo Tolstoy novel War and Peace. A co-production of the Slovenian National Theatre, SNG Drama Ljubljana, the Ljubljana City Theatre and Cankarjev dom, this is a truly special way of presenting this world-famous piece of literature and certainly posed a challenge in finding an appropriate stage to enable such a multi-level theatrical show. Director Silviu Purcărete has devised the show as something of a theatrical exercise, where players switch between roles and scenes. The traveling scenic elements in the first part of the stage make way in the second part of the play for the withdrawn ‘magnificence’ of the war and some expressive artistic gestures of the director. Such complexity was only possible to be conceived and realized through the technical sophistication of the Gallus Hall stage.

War and Peace production in numbers

  • 25 players on stage
  • 6 stage masters and technicians
  • 3 master- and light-technicians
  • 1 video designer and assistant
  • 2 sound engineers
  • 1 head of performance
  • 3 people taking care of the props
  • 4 wardrobe masters for more than 75 costumes
  • 3 hair and make-up stylists
  • 96 suppliers providing the materials needed for the manufacture of set design, costumes and masks, as well as the purchase of props
  • special effects in the show – theatrical and atmospheric fog, around 150kg (or 7 cubic feet) of theatre snow.
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Karmen Klučar, Technical Director of Cankarjev dom, Cultural and Congress Centre Ljubljana

“I think that the desire to use as many segments of stage technology as possible and their seamless operation is the biggest challenge of the show, of course in terms of technical and operative performance. For me, working with the set designer Dragos Buhagiar has been one of the high points of my professional life. It is with certainty that I can say that this is the show of the decade. The performing images are stunning and will require a certain time and level of reflection to fully comprehend them in all of their magnificence”.

Behind the scenes look

We got an opportunity to discover the amazing Gallus Hall with a guided tour from technical director Karmen Klučar, an amazing woman (which we also interviewed before), who is making sure that everything goes technically perfect each and every time the show is on. She showed us even the hidden spots that visitors cannot see. Like a small child in a candy store, totally amazed and speechless seeing the amazing infrastructure and magnificence of the Gallus Hall and Cankarjev dom Cultural and Congress Centre Ljubljana. It was built from 1978 to 1980 and can still today serve to meet the modern demands of congress and cultural centre. It is just fascinating how smart and functional was the whole building designed to allow todays adaptation, just perfectly and technologically elaborated – everything in one place.

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Multilevel stages and versatility of Gallus Hall present itself:

The entire War and Peace show takes place on 3 stages – the basis being 3 different segments that arbitrarily change (up, down and at an inclination). In short, one stage descends with the help of hydraulic, movable pillars/bridges that enable the transition from the first to the third stage segment, while the other is lowered below the basic level of the stage (even 10 metres lower). A rotating platform within the base, with a 16-metre diameter, is used for the beginning (the first part of the show) together with another component used for lowering the stage, under which a movable platform for the exit of the actors is used. The cyclorama, or 3-wall constraint surrounding the stage, determines the space of the show and serves as a projection surface. Sound complex enough?

Then…, during a 30-minute interval, the first stage is lowered and removed with a rotating stage, bringing the basic stage, with an additional wagon together with two bridges between 35 cables, balls, puppets, fences and stairs. In the second part of the show the great ball also has to be hung, connecting it to the 5-kW lamp for its lighting and appliance fog. Set directly above the second stage and one of the two biggest visual elements used in War and Peace, the great ball, with its 5m diameter, shocks with its scale. Other major props are the 4m high puppets of Napoleon, Kutuz, Tzar Aleksander and others.

At the beginning of the second part, the actors are stationed in the second stage next to a blade that is lowered by 6m and is protected by a fence. At a certain point in the show the blade rises up to the level of a landing below stage, where some players leave the stage and then return to another stage level upstairs.

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Just a step from the main stage you can also see some long ropes hanging at the side, fly bars that are intended for stage workers moving the scenery – for each show, workers move approximately 2 tonnes. To the rear of the stage are some big elements and numerous props, five large tables on wheels that linked together form a 12m table (for the gala lunch at the Rostovs’), costumes, cabinets, minor stylistic tables, chairs, beds and more than 200 props, all used in the show.

The opportunity to look at each level of the stages – from the top stage, visible to the audience, to below stage, the “down under” stage that is an unseen area to the audience… it is just unimaginable! When you see the enormous hydraulic movable pillars, you realize the great complexity of this show and the superb quality of Gallus Hall in being able to host it. Its technically developed infrastructure, equipment and staff are the clearest reasons why it was only possible for this special co-production to happen at the great Gallus Hall.

Should you still need convincing that War and Peace is amazing, you simply must see the show – but bear in mind that you will not see the full detail and magnificence that is behind this show, as you will see only the final “product”, the show itself, so you will have to imagine the kind of technical excellence that is behind the magic. As the best-known quote of the famous book “The Little Prince” puts it: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye”.

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