Mozart, Salieri, and Metastasio are just of the few distinguished names in the history of music who debuted world premieres on the stage of the Cuvilliés Theatre at Munich’s Residenz. The one-time court theater has provided a home for entertainment for more than 250 years and it continues to do so to this very day. Whether your interests lie in the lavish interior, the history within the walls or just the arts in general, you can visit the Cuvilliés Theatre and experience it all in person.
History of the Munich Residenz
In case you’re not familiar, here’s a quick history lesson on the Munich Residenz. Opened to the public in 1920, the Munich Residenz served as the royal palace for the Wittelsbachs, the family that reigned in Bavaria for nearly 800 years. The earliest parts of the building date to 1385. Like much of Munich and Germany in general, large portions of the building were casualties during World War II. It was, however, rebuilt following the war. The intent was to return it as close as possible to what it once was. It has been open to the public since 1920.
Read More: Munich Residenz Travel Guide
History of the Cuvilliés Theatre
Cuvilliés Theatre was the court theater of the Residenz. The lavish rococo style building opened in 1753 with a performance of Ferrandini’s Catone in Utica. Elector Maximilian III Joseph commissioned the building of the theater. The location, detached from the palace, was intentional as the prior theater was damaged by a fire. Construction, under the leadership of François de Cuvilliés, took two years. The theater was relocated to today’s current location, within the walls of the Residenz, during reconstruction after World War II. It was originally built not far away on Max-Josef-Platz on the site currently occupied by the Residenz Theater.
Johann Baptist Straub oversaw the theater’s wood carvings. Straub’s work can be see across Bavaria from altarpieces in Andechs to nearby Schloss Nymphenburg.
By 1795, the public could attend performances in the theater. The theater’s stage saw many premieres in its heyday, including one-time Munich resident Mozart and his rumored (although unlikely) rival Antonio Salieri.
In the early 1800s under King Ludwig I, the theater was renovated to become a depot for the National Theater. By 1857, King Maximilian II had the Residence Theater restored and reopened. Following World War II, the building was recreated and rebuilt. While the theater was bombed during the war, pieces like the decorated boxes had been removed and suffered only limited damage. It reopened in 1958. The theater was renovated and modernized in the mid-2000s.
Visiting Cuvilliés Theatre
From the moment you walk into the Cuvilliés Theatre it is striking how relatively small it really is. And that is part of what makes it so remarkable. There is undoubtedly not a bad seat in the house. And every single inch of the theater has fantastic decoration. On the walls hangs a wonderful deep red wallpaper that contrasts with the bright gold gilting that covers the boxes, the moulding, the ceiling…pretty much everything. Hints of the theater’s royal past are integrated into the decorations. Quite frankly, you would think that the lavish ornamentation would distract an audience during a performance but I think it would just make the setting all that more powerful.
Visitors are able to enter the ground floor of the theater and even take a seat. (Be sure to look up!) If you are feeling particularly curious, at the ticket booth they are able to provide a sheet with information about the theater. Visits to the theater don’t take too long but you can stay as long as you like.
The Cuvilliés Theatre Today
With all of the history and artistic value of the Cuvilliés Theatre you might be surprised to know that it is still a working theater. Countless operas and concerts use the stage at the Cuvilliés-Theater each year. The Munich Opera Festival, in particular, utilizes the theater for its annual schedule. From the website of the State Opera company, you can see the current schedule of performances at the Cuvilliés-Theater and even buy a ticket. It’s really special to be able to experience the theater the way it was intended to be used.
Cuvilliés Theatre Tickets & Tips
Each of the three museums within the Residenz complex require a separate ticket. You can buy an individual ticket for a specific museum or a joint ticket for two or more of the museums.
If you plan to visit several of the palaces and buildings under the care of the Bavarian Palace Department, you can potentially save money buy purchasing a palace pass.
It’s also important to note that there are strict rules on the sizes of bags that you may take into the Residenz, Schatzkammer and the Cuvilliés Theatre. Guards do enforce these rules. Bags must be no larger than 13.8 x 11.8 x 4.8 in (35 x 30 x 12 cm). There is a coat check where you can leave bulky items free of charge.
Munich Residenz is in downtown Munich on Odeonsplatz, just a stone’s throw from Marienplatz. The most convenient way to get to the Residenz Munich is via public transit. The closest stops are Marienplatz by S-Bahn; Marienplatz or Odeonsplatz by U-Bahn; Odeonsplatz by bus; and Nationaltheater by tram.
The Residenz museum does not have its own parking lot. There is a limited amount of street parking available as well as a parking garage beneath the Nationaltheater.
All opinions, as well as all photos, are my own.