The Drottningholm Palace Theatre also known as Drottningholm Slottsteater is an opera house located at Drottningholm Palace in Stockholm, Sweden. Built-in 1766 for Queen Lovisa Ulrika by architect Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz and is one of the best-preserved theatres from this time in the world.
Today, Drottningholm is identified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, are a worldwide tourist spot and a home of an annual summer festival for classical opera, with its original stage machinery.
Because Drottningholm Palace theatre exists before us today as an entirely reconstituted theater from the eighteenth century, the structure offers an exceptional resource for performers, spectators, and theatre historians. Luckily, as to how it exists today in all its charming tangibility, we can witness and learn the performance qualities, methods, and aims of earlier plays and operas and experience the actual building and its artifacts.
LONG STORY SHORT
It all started when Queen Lovisa Ulrika, wife of Adolf Frederik (King of Swedish Throne) became involved in political intrigues over the monarch’s constitutional lack of power. She considered Swedish culture to be unsatisfactory in comparison to French culture which she admired the most. To develop the court’s cultural status, the queen approached the architect in charge of the royal buildings, Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz, to design a new theatre. She invited a french troupe to perform there and ensured all the events at the court were celebrated with theatrical entertainment. The Drottningholm Palace mainly served as a summer residence for the royal family, and its theatre constituted an important and popular gathering place for court life.
After Adolf Frederik in 1771, the theatre was taken over by his son King Gustav III.
Gustav III brought up in French culture and tradition adored the performances and helped plan them. He found himself very much indulged in the decor and costumes. He even played part in some performances and trained the performers.
The Drottningholm Palace theatre functioned well until Gustav III’s death. Theatre activities declined gradually. There were only two performances given in 1854 and 1858. Everything was left to dust and cobwebs and darkness.
In 1921, Agne Beijer, an assistant at the royal library, went to the disused Drottningholm Palace theatre in search of a painting. Passing through dark, narrow passages, he found himself on stage surrounded by the still intact theatre machinery. His major goal was to restore the theatre and show how the sets could be changed in full view of the audience with muscle power, the typical baroque stage mechanics. He had the electricity installed. He replaced the candle lights with flickering yellow lights in the existing chandeliers, which dated back to 1766.
In 1991, the Royal Domain of Drottningholm (including the theatre) was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and its preservation is now carefully controlled. Slottsteater’s public opening seasons are confined to cutting down the impact on the decades-old building. Only eight to ten performances of the three operas are given every summer.
The style of the exterior facade of Drottningholm Palace is restrained classicism consists of 3 arched doors in the middle section and two high windows on either side. The only decorative element is the central pediment. But the interiors consist of a series of charming rococo reception rooms with hand-painted wall-paper. The structure looks like its built of marble and stone masonry and stucco reliefs are painted wood and paper-mâché. Adele Krantz had found cheap solutions for creating rich illusions.
With the flickering yellow lights, that resembled the earlier wax lights, visitors might find it quite dark. The contrast between the sunny outdoor light and the gloomy candles in the auditorium helped to hide the fake details – then as well as today. The stage is about 57 feet deep and 27 feet wide. Depending upon the performance, one gets to witness a park alley with trees, bushes, and statues, a town street with houses, heaven, or hell, and many more each of these skillfully painted wings that create an illusionistic perspective mark the importance of the baroque stage.
Drottningholm Palace Theatre has a relatively egalitarian seating arrangement with 454 seats and spans the same depth as the stage, creating a perfectly symmetrical effect. The royal box for the king and the queen is surprisingly located in the first rows of the orchestra. The theatre doesn’t contain balconies, instead, there are six boxes in the central part of the auditorium, three on each side used as “trumpet boxes” for musicians.
The most important dynamic potential of the baroque stage of Drottningholm Palace is the massive machinery that was constructed to make the invisible visible. The aim of depicting an artistically elevated life expression was achieved.
THE PAST MADE PRESENT.
In the world of cyber realities, one needs to experience theatricality, where the paradigm of “performance” is widely invoked. There is the idea that in this opera one comes ‘face to face with another era and another culture’ in which one sees oneself ‘reflected’.The Wisdom that Drottningholm holds for us is that the old can be made new and what’s considered old must be set free from its historical constraints and must be enabled to live once more. Cultural Heritage just does not end at monuments and collection of objects, it connects us to a plethora of cultures, traditions, and most importantly the living expressions inherited from our ancestors.
Reference: The Theatre of Drottningholm – Then and Now by Willmar Sauter & David Wiles