Curtain call! Prague's grand opera renovation nears completion

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PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech State Opera hoisted an ornate curtain on Thursday as a three-year project to restore the 19th-century opera building to its original glory neared completion ahead of a planned reopening next month.

The 1.3 billion crown ($56.85 million) renovation aimed to get the main hall as close to how it looked when it opened in Prague in 1888 while adding some modern twists, such as touchscreen displays on all of the around 1,000 seats. The last major renovation took place in the 1970s.

State Opera spokeswoman Eva Sochorova said one of the highlights of the reconstruction was the lifting of the curtain, which was modeled after the original created by Eduard Veith and depicts a poet in armor as he travels, finding inspiration in human virtues and vice.

Designer Martin Cerny spent more than 1,000 hours working on the new curtain, which is 18 meters (60 feet) wide and 11 meters (36 feet) tall and weighs 100 kg (220 pounds).

The only photo of the original was in black-and-white after the original curtain disappeared in 1945.

The Opera building, just off Prague’s central Wenceslas Square, is due to re-open on Jan. 5 with a concert marking key moments in its history.

Reporting by Jason Hovet and David Cerny; Editing by Frances Kerry