History of the Cuvilliés-Theater

In the 18th Century, Munich received its second opera house with the Cuvilliés-Theater, originally called the “Residenztheater”. The Elector of Bavaria, Max III Joseph, gave the commission to the Court Architect Francois Cuvilliés the Elder and, just three years later, on the 12th of October 1753, the splendid German Roccoco theater was opened with Ferrandini’s opera seria Catone in Utica. With its rotating stage and adjustable stalls, which could be set horizontally on festive occasions, the “New Opera House” was a significant technical accomplishment.

Originally, the “New Opera House at the Royal Residence” was only for courtly use; however, when the opera house at Salavtorplatz was forced to close, the Elector of Bavaria decided in 1797 to establish the Cuvilliés-Theater as a Royal and National Theatre, making German opera and theatre accessible to the people. 

In 1823, the Cuvilliés-Theater was renovated as a result of damages caused by the fire which burnt down the Nationaltheater in 1817. King Ludwig I decided to shut down the theatre completely in 1831, and from 1834 onwards it was used as a warehouse for the Nationaltheater’s stage sets. As a result of Director Franz von Dingelstedt’s insistence, the theatre was finally reopened in 1857. 

More recently, the theatre shut again at the beginning of 1944. In order to keep it safe from bomb attacks during the Second World War, the entire interior was removed and housed in two different locations outside the city. On the 18th March, the external walls of the bare building were destroyed during an air raid. After the war, the new Residenztheater was built on its foundations. The former Cuvilliés-Theater, which had never possessed a facade, was reconstructed in 1957/58 on the Apotheke Floor of the Residenztheater in its original Roccoco style, based on designs taken from the archives of Ecole Bavaroise de l´Architecture.