National Theatre in Munich is a historic opera house, home of the Bavarian State Opera, Bavarian State Orchestra and the Bavarian State Ballet.
In 1806, the Elector Max I Joseph became King of Bavaria, and Karl von Fischer was his leading architect. The King was so impressed by a visit to the Theatre de l’Odeon in Paris that he ordered a test to be carried out to see whether the “Paris Model“ could work in Munich. Construction began on October 26th, 1811, but was interrupted in 1813 because of financing problems. In 1817 a fire occurred in the unfinished building. Finally, on October 12th 1818, the theatre was opened with a performance of “Die Weihe“ by Ferdinand Franzi but was soon destroyed by another fire on January 14th 1823. The theatre was burnt down to its foundations. Coincidentally, the Paris Odeon itself burnt down in 1818.
Under the direction of Leo von Klenze, the theatre was reconstructed in just two years. The second theatre incorporated Neo-Greek features. In 1925 it was modified to create an enlarged stage area with updated equipment.
During the Second World War, the theatre was destroyed. On the night of October 3rd 1943, explosives and firebombs struck the theatre. In 1951, the rebuilding had already exceeded the budget, so the Landtag (State Parliament) opposed its rebuilding. Moreover, the city planners wanted to remove the ruins to make more room for transport services in the city centre.
So, a citizen’s group (called “Friends of the National Theatre “) collected additional funds and won over public support for the theatre’s reconstruction.
The third and present theatre recreates Karl von Fischer’s original neo-classical design on a slightly larger, 2000-seat scale.
The new stage covers 2,500 square meters and is thus the world’s third largest, after the Opera Bastille in Paris and the Grand Theatre in Warsaw.
During its early years, the National Theatre saw the premiers of many operas, including German composers. These included Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (1865), Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg (1968), Das Rheingold (1869) and Die Walkure (1870).
During the 19th century, Richard Strauss became the main conductor of the theatre. His Friedenstag (1938) and Capriccio premiered in Munich in the pre-War period.
The Cuvilles Theatre (The Residence Theatre)
What is now called the Cuvillies Theatre, after its architect, consists of the auditorium of a theatre that Elector Maximilian Joseph III built as his “new opera house“.
The Residence Theatre was built from 1751 to 1753 by Francois de Cuvillies in a rococo style.
Due to limited space, the National Theatre Munich was built next to the Residence Theatre. The interior decoration was removed under King Ludwig I when the building became a depot for the National Theatre.
After World War II, the theatre was meticulously rebuilt and re-opened in 1958 with a Le Nozze di Figaro performance by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. After 1958, the Residence Theatre is known as Cuvilles Theatre.
The theatre was inaugurated on October 12th 1973, with Catone in Utica by Giovanni Battista Ferrandini.
Many operas were staged there by the Bavarian State Opera, including the premiers of Mozart’s Idomeneo in 1781 and Carl Maria von Weber’s Abu Hassan in 1811.