One of the largest Baroque palaces in Germany

Ludwigsburg Residential Palace

View of the palace theater, Ludwigsburg Residential Palace. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Sven Grenzemann
THEATER FOR THE DUKE

FRENCH ARTISTS AT COURT

Württemberg's court theater was one of the best in Europe until the end of the 18th century. Duke Carl Eugen hosted theater, opera and ballet troupes. Many of the artists came from France. With the founding of the "Karlsschule Stuttgart" in 1770, there was now an institution for the cost-effective training of new orchestral and ballet talent.

Apollo in an original set design for the palace theater. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Dieter Jäger

A lavish set design in the palace theater.

THE MEMORIES OF GIACOMO CASANOVA

"The duke's love of grandeur was apparent in his complex: beautiful buildings, fabulous stables, splendid hunting, and all nature of whims cost him a lot of money; however, he spent tremendous sums on high salaries and even higher sums on his theater and his mistresses. [...] Noverre was his choreographer and ballet director, and he sometimes used up to one hundred background actors. A skilled stage technician and the best stage painters worked neck and neck with each other and at great expense to create a believable performance for the audience. All the female dancers were attractive and prided themselves for having brought their lord joy at least once.

Choreographer Jean-Georges Noverre. Image: Wikipedia, public

Noverre worked at a ballet master in Ludwigsburg.

THE CHOREOGRAPHER

In 1760, Duke Carl Eugen acquired the prominent dancer and choreographer Jean-Georges Noverre (1727–1810) as his ballet master. He came to Württemberg together with his actress wife for a sum of 5,000 guilders a year, many times over what a high-level court official earned. It was due to Noverre that Württemberg's court theater had such an excellent reputation. He created the narrative ballet, which is still used today in Neoclassical ballet. While in Württemberg, he published his famous "Lettres sur la Danse" (Letters on Dancing and Ballets), which formed the theoretical basis for ballet as an independent art form.

Gaetano Vestris, portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, 1781. Image: Wikipedia, public

Vestris paraded as a widely recognized artist.

THE GOD OF DANCE

Gaetano Apolline Baldassarre Vestris (1729–1808) was an Italian dancer who had trained at the Académie Royale in Paris. He soon achieved international renown and worked as a dance master for the French king at the Paris Opera. Starting in 1763, Duke Carl Eugen began inviting Vestris to Württemberg for the festival season. The high sums paid for the "Parisian god of dance" were of no consequence to Carl Eugen; he valued French culture so much that the cost for this acclaimed star was irrelevant.

Architect Philippe de la Guêpière, before 1768. Image: Wikipedia, public

La Guêpière designed the interior of the theater.

THE ARCHITECT

Philippe de La Guêpière (1715–1773) was a French architect. After his education at the Paris Académie d'architecture, Duke Carl Eugen von Württemberg appointed him as court architect. There, he designed and oversaw the expansion of the Ludwigsburg palace theater and the conversion of the opera in the new summer pavilion. He left the Württemberg court in 1768, after Carl Eugen had to retrench, and returned to Paris.

Portrait of Jean-Nicholas Servandoni. Image: Wikipedia, public

Servandoni was a sought-after set designer.

THE THEATER ARCHITECT

Carl Eugen also turned to Paris when it came to stage design for Noverre's ballet performances and composer Niccolò Jommelli's operas. The duke employed the famous Jean-Nicolas Servandoni (1695–1766), a French theater architect, scene painter, fireworks artist and trompe l'oeil specialist, who had previously worked with the Paris Opera. For over a year, Servandoni worked on a series of decorations for Jommelli's grand opera performance called "Demofoonte" at the Württemberg court.