The Salzburg State Theatre then and now

The Salzburg State Theatre is the leading and most influential institution for the performing arts in the City and State of Salzburg with a full season. The theatre is home to opera, theatre, dance and the theatre for young audiences »Junges Land«, four vivacious and distinguished companies together under one roof. The theatre is playing 400 performances each season which stretches from September to June. 

The main theatre building is located next to the Mirabell Gardens and seats an audience of 707. A total of 25 new productions are presented at the State Theatre each season. Alongside modern and contemporary productions, classic productions in all sectors are staged. 340 persons from 35 different countries work at the State Theatre.

How it all began

In 1775, Prince Archbishop Colloredo built the »Prince Archbishop Court Theatre» on the site of the former ballroom of 1625. The official opening of the building was celebrated with Christian Heinrich Schmid’s »Die Gunst des Fürsten» which, beholden to enlightenment, was soon followed by Schiller’s dramas. Emmanuel Schikaneder was engaged as director of the Court Theatre for several years and during this time got to know the Mozart Family who enjoyed regular invitations to his box. His music was performed in this building for the first time in 1776. With the staging of »Die Entführung aus dem Serail» in 1784, regular performances of Mozart’s repertoire began.

The building as it is today was built between 1892 and 93 and was designed by the architect duo Fellner & Helmer. The Viennese architects were considered two of the most successful constructors of modern theatre buildings of the time, which was partly due to their invention, the iron curtain (a fireproof curtain between the stage and the auditorium). Both artists and audiences agreed that the architects had made an excellent job of designing the neo-baroque theatre with seating on three levels; stalls, boxes and balcony which met the requirements of opera, theatre and ballet. The building was festively opened on October 1st 1893 with the overture from Mozart’s »La clemenza di Tito«. In this year, Max Reinhardt had been engaged as an actor in the company. With the experience gained at the Salzburg State Theatre, he moved on to Berlin and in 1920 founded the Salzburg Festival together with Hugo von Hoffmansthal and Richard Strauss. Due to the war, the Theatre was closed in 1944 and in 1945 used as a radio studio by the Americans. After the war, it was opened to the public again.

With the introduction of the Studio theatre in the former Mirabell Casino building in October 1971, the theatre acquired a new stage which since then has been used for contemporary and classic pieces in various formats.

Since 2010 there has been a close cooperation between the Salzburger State Theatre and the Salzburger Marionette Theatre. Besides acclaimed joint productions »Der Kleine Prinz» and »Der Ring des Nibelungen«, the theatre company also performs new productions in the Marionette Theatre’s space, now known as »Bühne 24«. 

Additionally, Salzburg’s Festival Theatres serve as performance locations for State Theatre productions throughout the year while the State Theatre building is used for Salzburg Festival productions during the festival season in the summer months. Another close partnership affiliates the Salzburger Landestheater with Salzburg’s Mozarteum Orchestra which takes on the role of opera orchestra for Landestheater productions making a major contribution to the charismatic appeal of opera in Salzburg.

Artistic director Lutz Hochstraate who headed the theatre from 1986 to 2004 managed to develop an excellent artistic reputation for opera, theatre and dance and also added the program for young audiences. From 2004 to 2009, Peter Dolder was responsible for the fortunes of the Salzburger State Theatre defining his own visions with a focus on Austrian author Thomas Bernhard and the introduction of the theatre’s magnificent ball.   

Since the 2009/2010 season, Carl Philip von Maldeghem has been artistic director of the theatre. Together with his team, he managed to significantly increase the number of new productions and the number of visitors per year. The vibrant theatre with a strong and distinctive profile for all four companies presents a top-class programme which has been acknowledged as inspiring in the City and State of Salzburg, but also well beyond their borders.