View of the interior of the palace theater at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace

The world of Baroque stagecraftThe palace theater

In 1758, Duke Carl Eugen had stages and an auditorium installed in the theater building. Today, it is one of the oldest surviving palace theaters in Europe with original stage machinery. Ludwigsburg is also home to a one-of-a-kind treasure trove of stage scenery from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Theater curtain with painting by Luca Colomba in the palace theater at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace

Theater curtain with motif by Luca Colomba.

Curtains up!

On May 23, 1758, the Ludwigsburg palace theater curtains went up for the first time. Duke Eberhard Ludwig actually had the theater building constructed between 1729 and 1733. The stage equipment and interior were added by Duke Carl Eugen. The box and balcony gallery theater was designed by French Architect Philippe de la Guêpière. Starting in 1811, King Friedrich I had it updated in the Classical style by Friedrich von Thouret. The stage has remained unchanged.

Palace theater understage at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace with temporary storage, weighted wheel to stabilize the machinery and backdrop wheel to change canvas-covered flats

Stage equipment from 1758.

Mysterious machine

18th-century audiences were amazed by scene changes that took only seconds and were possible with open curtains. This miracle of technology was made possible by clever machinery. With the help of just one central axis, a main shaft under the stage, a single person could move an entire stage set. This ingenious stage equipment was designed by engineer Johann Christian Keim.

In the world of illusions

The wealth of preserved stage scenery is one of a kind. Approximately 140 original backdrops and decorative pieces from the late 18th and early 19th centuries have been preserved in the Ludwigsburg palace theater. They can be combined into a total of sixteen complete sets. These priceless examples of scenic painting were restored at great expense between 1987 and 1995. Since 1998, a replica of one of the sets has graced the Ludwigsburg stage; the delicate originals can no longer be used.

Vineyard stage set for the palace theater, 1763, at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace

A stage set from 1763 depicting a landscape and vineyard.

Detail of the proscenium arch in the palace theater at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace

The proscenium arch.

Test historic stage equipment in the theater museum

Spectacle and illusion were a part of the Baroque stage, such as the simulation of sounds of wind, rain and thunder. Visitors can try out what that would have sounded like using reconstructions of the original sound machines in the theater museum. A model of the Ludwigsburg stage machinery reveals how ingeniously sophisticated its technical construction was. The exhibition also displays curious items found in the palace theater during its restoration, for example, oil lamps used for stage lighting.

Looking for more information on the palace theater? Visit the theater museum, where entrance is free! In the summer, visitors can experience the palace theater performance during the Ludwigsburg Palace Festival.

The palace theater is part of the Europastraße Historische Theater (European Route of Historic Theaters). There are approximately 3,000 historic theaters in all of Europe. Of these largely still hidden treasures, 120 of the most beautiful, most interesting and most well-preserved examples have been combined on an exciting cultural route.

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