Drottningholm’s Slottsteater


by Antonia Berci
March 20, 2023
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Historical Background

Built-in 1766 for Queen Lovisa Ulrika, Drottningholm’s Slottsteater, or the Court Theatre of Drottningholm, is the only 18th-century venue in the world that still uses the original stage machinery and is one of the best preserved theatres from this time in the world. From an international perspective, the theater is a unique building, hiding a playful interior.  The salon has painted marbling, papier mâché consoles and plaster columns. To this day, the stage’s wooden ingenious machinery is still operated by hand. Drums, blocks, ropes, and counterweights make the great machinery work. Around thirty sets have been preserved – a theatrical world for an 18th-century repertoire.

The rise, fall and reborn.

Drottningholm Palace Theatre’s first period of glory began in 1777 when King Gustav III took over the palace. The big opera premières were often performed here, where a French theatre group and Sweden’s Royal Dramatic Theatre performed. With the help of actors such as Monvel, composers such as Naumann and Kraus, the ballet master Gallodier and the architect Desprez, he created a Swedish theater and operatic art at Drottningholm. Gluck’s latest operas, French opéra comique and pantomime ballets were also performed here until Gustav III’s death in 1792. After that, the theatre was gradually wound down and the building came to be used as a warehouse. It was restored to its original condition under the direction of the literary historian Agne Beijers in 1922. When it was rediscovered, in the early part of the 20th century, a complete 18th-century theatre was discovered—in its original form.  After changing the ropes in the machinery, installing electric lights, and gentle cleaning, the theater was reopened. 

Transference to the opera.

The first major production of a full opera was A. E. M. Gretry’s Martin und Gripon, an opera comique composed under the title Les Deux avares in 1770. Fifteen performances, sung in Swedish, were given during the summer of 1946. In 1948, Gustaf Hilleström took up the post as an artistic director. Since the first tryout of a complete Mozart opera, Bastien unde Bastienne, in May 1947, had proved to be so successful – with fifteen subscription and six public performances – it was obvious that Hilleström would direct all his energies into the production of eighteenth-century operas. Hilleström opened his first season (1948) with two new opera productions, an opera-comique by A. E. M. Grétry, Den talande tavlan (Le Tableau parlant) and an opera buffa by Domenico Cimarosa, Il matrimonio segreto. They became fixtures in the Drottningholm repertoire. Next to these names stand three more composers: Georg Friedrich Händel, Christoph Willibald Gluck, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Some of the most known operas that were performed at Drottningholm are Orpheus and Euridice, Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte, La Clemenza di Tito. Thanks to a visit from the British Queen Elizabeth II in 1956, the Drottningholm Theatre had become better known internationally. The staging of this musically difficult and rarely performed Händel opera in Drottningholm attracted music critics from the Swedish and international press.

Drottningholms Slottsteater playfulness

Drottningholm’s Palace Theater is a national institution with assignments and grants from the government. The theater is part of the Drottningholm World Heritage Site, Sweden’s first cultural object on the list that is considered to be of inalienable value to humanity. Every summer, a number of operas, plays and dance performances are staged, together with concerts, tours and events. In its scene designs, you’ll find a world lost in time and adapted to the centuries-old repertoire. The fascinating guided tour takes you into other rooms in the building, where highlights include hand-painted 18th-century wallpaper and an Italianate room (salon de déjeuner) with fake three-dimensional wall effects and a ceiling that looks like the sky. Performances are held at Drottningholms Slottsteater in summer using 18th-century machinery, including ropes, pulleys, wagons and wind machines. Scenes can be changed in less than seven seconds! Illusion was the order of the day, and accordingly, the theatre makes use of fake marble, fake curtains and papier-mâché viewing boxes. Even the stage was designed to create illusions regarding the size. The theatre building is located at Drottningholm Palace, and guided tours are available all year round.


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Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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