The Cuvilliés Theatre in Munich was built by Royalty for Royalty:
The Cuvilliés Theatre in the Munich Residenz complex is one of the most beautiful Rococo theatres in the city. The Cuvilliés was commissioned by Elector Maximilian Joseph III when fire destroyed an earlier theatre room in the Residenz. Built from 1751-55, it was named after its architect, François Cuvilliés the Elder. This new opera house was originally reserved exclusively for members of royal court.
Many lavish opera productions were staged here, including the first performance of Mozart’s Idomeneo in 1781. Napoleon was one of the notable visitors, when he attended a performance of Don Giovanni in 1806.
Destroyed during the war
The Cuvilliés Theatre that we see today is not the original theatre. The Residenz suffered severe damages by Allied bombings during the Second World War. Luckily the elaborate wooden carvings and other fittings of the Theatre had been removed to safety in 1943. They are all that survived from the original Cuvilliés.
The Cuvilliés Theatre Mark II
In 1956 the salvaged wood carvings and fittings of the original Cuvilliés Theatre were presented to the Bavarian Administration responsible for State-owned palaces, gardens and lakes. The Administration restored them and reassembled them in a new building near the Apothecary Court in the Residenz.
Nothing remained of the ceiling painting by Johann Baptist Zimmermann that originally graced the theatre. Notwithstanding that, the restored theatre, with its elaborate carved decorations, figures, floral ornaments and patterns, is not only a major and fine example of Bavarian Rococo, but one with few equals in Europe.
The Cuvilliés Theatre is made up of four floors, each one holding 14 loges. It’s hard not to be impressed by the richness of the red and gold decorations.
The Elector’s loge is the one over the entrance. It occupies two levels and is supported by two atlases.
The audience were seated according to their rank in society. The higher nobles occupied the elaborately decorated loges to the right and left of the Elector. The court officials and gentry occupied the upper levels whereas the other city aristocrats were seated in the simply furnished ground floor. I sat in the ground floor and thought that the view was great.
The Cuvilliés Theatre is certainly worth a visit. We’re glad that we took time to check it out during our Munich Residenz visit. These days you don’t have to be a member of the royal court to enjoy a concert here. This is certainly the place to enjoy a concert or opera when in Munich.
Cuvilliés Theatre (Altes Residenztheater)
Innenstadt, 80333 Munich