1 September marks 130 years since the power plant of the Riga City German Theatre (now the Latvian National Opera and Ballet), the largest power plant in Latvia at that time, started its operation, which contributed to the development of the electricity supply of the city of Riga.
The foundation stone of the Riga City German Theatre building (now the Latvian National Opera and Ballet) was laid in 1860. The theatre was equipped with gas lighting provided by 735 lamps. The new building was opened in 1863 with Friedrich Schiller’s Wallenstein’s Camp and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fidelio productions, and it became one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
On 14 June 1882, the theatre building was burnt out due to damage of the gas supply system. The restoration of the building began in 1885according to the design by architect Reinhold Schmaeling.
The management of the theatre decided against restoring the gas equipment, giving preference to electric lighting. As a result, a direct current power plant was built for the needs of the theatre on the edge of the city canalwith funds provided by the municipality. Installation of the Ganz&Ko equipment with a capacity of 42.5 kW ensured the lighting of the theatre with 1,783 incandescent light bulbs and 6 arc lamps, which were complemented with additional bulbs in subsequent years. The renovated theatre building was unveiled on 1 September 1887. Initially, the power plant generated electricity for the needs of the theatre. In the following years, as the power plant’s capacity increased, the theatre’s power plant provided electricity supply for the neighbouring houses. In 1891, the theatre’s power plant supplied electricity for more than 1,000 customers, including institutions, associations and apartments.
The power plant of the Riga City German Theatre was the largest in Latvia. Its successful operation contributed to the rapid development of the private initiative in Riga’s electricity supply, which gave a boost to the development of the city’s unified electricity supply – the commissioning of the central power station in Andrejsala in 1905.
The Riga City German Theatre at the beginning of the 20th century; a postcard from the collection of the National Library of Latvia. The postcard depicts the power plant chimney to the left of the theatre building, which has been preserved to this day.