The Schlosstheater Schönbrunn, also known as the Musik Theater Schönbrunn counts as one of the most atmospheric baroque theater premises of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. This wonderful imperial court theatre was built in 1745 by court architect, Niklaus Pacassi, as one of the first theaters in Europe and opened its’ doors in 1747. In the 17th century theatre performances were held in the park until Empress Maria Theresa had the palace theatre constructed in the right wing of the castle. Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg rebuilt and enlarged it after 20 years.
Even as a young Archduchess Maria Theresa appeared in opera and theatre performances. The imperial children danced, played, posed tableaux vivants and demonstrated their artistic talents in numerous performances in front of the noble courtiers. Thus, the castle theatre served the Hapsburgs as a home theatre. Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, conducted their works in the Schönbrunn Palace Theatre and the works and operas of Christoph Willibald Gluck were premiered. The Palace Theatre was then renovated whilst Napoleon Bonaparte had his headquarters there. In 1809 it was reopened with Jean Racine's "Phaedra".
Numerous singers of the Kärntnertortheatre performed before imperial family members as early as at the Viennese congress meetings. However the new heyday of the Castle Theatre came under the rule of Ferdinand the first. In 1898 the theatre shone thanks to the introduction of electric lighting. The Palace Theatre, which served only as a furniture depot before the war, but was re-used in 1919 by the Burgtheater during the summer months, but once again had to cease in 1924 due to financial reasons. In 1929, the castle theatre was provided to the Max Reinhardt Seminar as an exercise stage. The flawed structural changes of 1924 were eliminated through repairs in 1979-80 theatre’s former splendour was restored.
Now, after an affiliation of more than 78 years, with the University of Music and Performing Arts, the Palace Theater served to numerous student performances of both opera and drama classes. In addition, presentations and conferences are held there. Even to this day the palace theatre works in collaboration with the Institute for Voice and Musical Theatre of the University of Music and Performing Arts, providing audiences with an array of dramatic productions.
The latest technical innovations were implemented no more than 30 years ago, as the stage equipment was modernized in of 2007. The biggest changes took place in the orchestra pit. The manually driven lift system which was used to increase and decrease the depth of the pit was removed. In its place were four lifting platforms were installed. The lifting platforms serve as a great relief of the manual workload. The old upper stage machinery was replaced by appropriate, state of the art technology. The first step was the conversion of the rigging loft. Renovations and upgrades were also implemented in the safety department.
The Schönbrunn Palace Theater has a capacity of 392 persons when the orchestra pit is covered, and 342 people when open. There are 19 standing places, 2 wheelchair spaces with 2 seats for accompanying personnel. The proscenium arch has a width of 9.5 meters and is variable in height of 4 to 5.5 meters. The stage measures at its widest point about 13 meters and has a depth of 11.5 meters.
Use of the Castle Theatre Schönbrunn is divided between the Department of Voice and Musical Theatre, as well as the Max Reinhardt Seminar.