Sunday, September 26, 2010
Drottningholm Court Theatre, 1764-1766, Stockholm
Today I visited one of the most incredible spaces I have ever had the honor to momentarily inhabit: the Drottningholm Court Theatre, a former royal summer theatre at the Drottningholm Royal Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Stockholm, Sweden.
The Drottningholm Court Theatre was described memorably by our tour guide as "an intact baroque theater unique for never having been restored." This intactness includes not just paint, chandeliers, stage, and viewing boxes but also extends--astoundingly!--to the stage machinery and special effects, which are not only original but also still used in productions! The sets and "side flats" are not original, but are utterly convincing and painstaking reproductions in canvas and wood from originals found under a meter of dust when the theatre was rediscovered in 1921. The theatre also has--and continues to use!--machinery for lowering a person from the ceiling, as in the case of a goddess descending on a cloud, as well and a trap door to be used in such cases as "drowning heroines or sudden appearances."
During the summer, the Drottningholm Court Theatre stages 18th Century operas and ballets using these replica sets and the original stage machinery to create a completely immersive 18th Century theatre experience; unfortunately for me, the productions had already ended for the season before I arrived, so I had to content myself with volunteering to operate the "gale machine" (a wooden wheel whirled around inside a tight canvas strip producing with its friction a sound remarkably like howling winds) while my volunteer-partner worked the thunder machine--a box of rocks tossed this way and that by the pull of a rope.
The video above helps give a sense of the charm and wonder of these wonderful antique sets and machineries in motion where my words fail; both the video and a visit to this really fantastic--in ever sense of the word--theatre are highly recommended! I am already fantasizing about a return trip just to see The Magic Flute in this environment.
To find out more about the Drottningholm Court Theatre, click here.
Thanks so much to friend, friend-of-the-blog, and author of the wonderful book Death, Modernity, and the Body: Sweden 1870-1940 Eva Åhrén for telling me about this incredible place, and for all her other wonderful Sweden tips as well.