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Drottningholm Palace Theatre

Carl Frederik Adelcrantz

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(detail)1673 | Opening

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History

The original purely Baroque décor of the theatre eventually succumbed to the French influence of the Rococo. The theatre was not used for a long period of time and thus has remained almost completely preserved. The stage machinery of the theatre is still functional and includes waves, storms and a flying machine most commonly used for the effect of deus ex machina. Almost all of the furnishings are original. This is a Baroque theatre with marked Neo-Classical elements.

 

Drottningholm Theatre and Museum is a part of a royal palace on an island near Stockholm, built in 1766. Until 1771 it was used by a French company resident in Stockholm, and in the summer by courtiers for amateur productions, becom­ing, with the palace, State property in 1777. It had its most brilliant period during the reign of Gustaf III (1772-92), when a Frenchman, Louis-Jean Desprez, designed scenery and costumes for it. In the nineteenth century it fell into disuse, but its employment as a lumber-room saved it from demolition or moderniza­tion, and in 1921 it was restored under Dr. Agne Beijer, the only alteration being the substitution of electric light for the former wax candles. The stage is about 57 feet deep and 27 feet wide at the footlights. The eighteenth-century stage machinery on the Carriage-and-Frame system (q.v.) is still in working order, and there are more than thirty sets of usable scenery of the same period. The theatre is now used for occasional summer seasons of early opera. The museum exhibits, which include a rich deposit of seven­teenth- and eighteenth-century French stage designs, are housed in the former royal apartments.

 

In: Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. The concise Oxford companion to the theatre. 1st ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.   ISBN 0-19-281102-9. p. 144

 

The first is part of the Summer Palace of Drottningholm, five miles outside Stockholm, and was built on the initiative of Queen Lovisa Ulrika, the wife of King Adolf Fredrik and the sister of Frederick the Great [PI. 79]. Her architect was a Swede, Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz, but she drew upon French talent (Adrien Masreliez) for the painted decoration and Italian (Donate Stopani) for the machinery. The auditorium, while far simpler than the other examples described in this chapter, is more ingeniously planned for the convenience of the monarch. The whole front half of the room, which swells laterally in plan to form a curved space wider than the stage, becomes in effect the royal box. Here the royal family had an intimate view of the stage, but were separated from the rest of the audience, who occupied a single ramp of seats at the back. There are no galleries, but if complete privacy was required the king could retreat into one of two corner boxes which were completely screened by lattice grilles.
Drottningholm remains miraculously untouched, the only major alter­ation being a new foyer added in 1791 by the French architect Louis Jean Desprez. After neglect in the nineteenth century, it was re-opened in 1922, using the original furniture, the original movable stage (worked by a giant windlass), the original hoists and pulleys above the wings, and the original scenery, of which over thirty complete sets survive, by such artists as Carlo Bibiena, Johann Pasch and L. J. Desprez. Zeal for authenticity now goes to such lengths that the members of the orchestra, usherettes, and programme-sellers wear eighteenth-century costume and powdered wigs. The former dressing-rooms house a notable museum of theatrical history.

 

In: Tidworth, Simon : Theatres: An Illustrated History. London 1973 p. 94

 

Visits: guided tours daily 11:00 to 16:30 (May – August), 12:00 to 15:30 (September), Friday to Sunday 12:00 to 15.30 (April & October)

guided tours daily 11:00 to 16:30 (May – August), 12:00 to 15:30 (September), Friday to Sunday 12:00 to 15.30 (April & October)

Tel.: +46 (0)8 759 04 06, e-mail: dst@dtm.se, www.dtm.se

 

 

Authors: Hartnoll Phyllis, Simon Tidworth

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