Schönbrunn Palace Theatre

Maria Theresia wanted a palace theatre to be built and commissioned and the architect Nicolaus Pacassi to build a theatre in the west-wing of the palace courtyard.

The Palace Theatre was then duly completed in the years 1743/47 and was first used by the Imperial family to celebrate the Feast of Saint Francis and the Emperor’s ‘Name Day’ on the 4th October 1747.

The Imperial family was very fond of the ‘new’ theatre and many members of the family and the nobility took part in the theatrical performances. The theatre was not used on a regular basis but was reserved for state and family functions and the access was very restricted.
Maria Theresia took part in such performances as a young Archduchess and watched over her children as they danced, played and showed their artistic talents to the nobility.

The premiere of several operas by Christoph Willibald Gluck took place in this theatre and Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart directed their works here.

During the first years the Imperial family was seated in the front row of the stalls and in 1766/67 the architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg was commissioned to adapt the theatre and many alterations and improvements were made. One such requirement is the so-called ‘Kaiserloge’ (Imperial Box) which was built to enable the Imperial family and guests to get a better view of the stage and better acoustics.

Maria Theresia very rarely attended performances after the death of her husband and the theatre was not often used.

Napoleon used Schönbrunn as his headquarters and attended performances in the Palace Theatre. He had the theatre refurbished and renovated and it was reopened in 1809 with Jean Racine’s "Phaedra".

The guests of the ‘Congress of Vienna’ in 1814/15 were entertained in Schönbrunn and of course Schönbrunn’s Palace Theatre.

The theatre was used during the summer months during the reign of Emperor Ferdinand I.

The theatre received electric lighting in 1898.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the theatre and it was used as a depot for the storage of furniture

In 1919, the ensemble of the ‘Burgtheater’ in Vienna used the small theatre during the summer season (Kammerspiele) but the financial situation led to its closure in 1924.

In 1929, the University of Music and Performing Arts enabled the theatre to be used by the Max Reinhardt Seminar to create a School of Drama and performances still take place in Vienna’s ‘oldest’ theatre.

The building was extremely damaged by rising damp and a great deal of renovation work was needed in 1979/80 to restore the whole theatre.

In the summer of the year 2010 extensive renovations took place inside the theatre.


The Foyer of the Palace Theatre


The Schönbrunn Palace Theatre




Many alterations and improvements were made in 1766/67.
The ‘Kaiserloge’ (Imperial Box) was built to enable the Imperial family
and guests to get a better view of the stage and better acoustics.