Schwetzingen Palace, Northern circle building

Rural theatrical entertainmentThe Northern Crescent

Alessandro Galli da Bibiena created the Northern Crescent to the west of the palace between 1748 and 1750. Its elegantly curved façade conceals the impressive palace theater, a masterpiece by Nicolas de Pigage.

Schwetzingen Palace, palace theater

Europe's oldest galleried theatre is in Schwetzingen.

A jewel: the palace theater

Nicolas de Pigage (1723-1796) created his first masterpiece in Schwetzingen between 1752 and 1753 with the palace theater. The first design was dominated by the flowery Rococo style. After 1770, conservative shades of grey added some colour in the neoclassical style. The auditorium has been maintained in its original state and, with its 1937 seating, is an authentic picture of an intimate 18th century palace theatre. Adjoining halls with their high French doors, still serve as a foyer and lobby.

Schwetzingen Palace, palace theater stage detail

Trumpeters played behind gilded lattice.

A multi-sensory experience

The audience originally sat on simple narrow wooden benches. Only the Elector and his guests were seated in comfortable chairs in the front row. Fanfare players, concealed behind gilded lattice work to the side of the orchestra pit, announced the ruler's arrival. Stalls are inclined slightly towards the stage, creating excellent acoustics for the audience. The erstwhile stage machinery enabled amazing scene changes to be completed in seconds.

Europe's oldest preserved galleried theatre

As the oldest preserved galleried theatre, Schwetzingen occupies a special position among 18th century theatre buildings. The auditorium comprises a horseshoe-shaped wooden construction with two projecting tiers. Only in the stalls were there court boxes with grilles for theatre visitors who did not wish to be recognized. Interesting detail: the 35-meter long stage can be extended by opening the door so that the palace garden becomes part of the stage set.

Schwetzingen Palace, auditorium in the Rococo theatre

The court was keen to have music here, too.

Music extols the resurrection of rural simplicity

If the Elector visited Schwetzingen in the summer, he was followed by his famous orchestra, the Mannheim Court Band. In contrast to the strict repertoire of opera at Mannheim Residential Palace, Schwetzingen's program was of works that reflected the rural attitude to life. The garden was extolled as the resurrection of rural simplicity. Following in this tradition, SWR radio station continues the Schwetzingen Festival (Schwetzinger Festspiele) today. The festival has been held here since 1952 and is the largest classical radio festival in the world.

Experience world première in the historical Palace Theatre! The Schwetzingen Festival, a music-lover's delight, takes place every year between the end of April and mid-June.

The Palace Theatre is part of the European Route of Historic Theatres. Across Europe, there are approximately 3,000 historic theatres. From this nearly undiscovered cultural treasure the 120 most beautiful, best preserved and most interesting theatre buildings are connected to a cultural route.

Other highlights in Schwetzingen Palace