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The 3 most beautiful court theaters in Europe, to be absolutely known
The splendid court theaters that we present here are located in Italy, France and Germany. All three date back to the eighteenth century, the oldest is the Theater of the Margraves of Bayreuth inaugurated in 1748, followed by the Court Theater of the Royal Palace of Caserta completed in 1768 and inaugurated the following year, and finally the Theater of Queen Marie Antoinette in Versailles , from 1780. Both the Bayreuth and Caserta theaters were inaugurated on the occasion of a wedding. The three theaters have another peculiarity in common: color. In fact, in the decorations and tapestries they preserve the original blue-azure. Blue, a color associated with kings and aristocracy, was a color frequently used not only in court theaters, but also in large royal and noble theaters. The most famous example is the San Carlo Theater in Naples, originally upholstered with blue silks and velvets, only later replaced by red which is today the color of the theaters par excellence.

The Theater de la Reine in Versailles

Theatre de la Reine

The 'Teatro della Regina' also called Petit théâtre  or Théâtre de Trianon it was built at the behest of Marie Antoinette (Vienna 1755 - Paris 1793), the last queen of France of the Ancien régime, in the complex of the Petit Trianon of Versailles. 

A great lover of theater and entertainment, Marie Antoinette wanted to equip herself with a permanent theatrical building, to replace the ephemeral ones previously set up in the Grand Trianon Gallery or in the Orangery. He commissioned its construction to his trusted architect Richard Mique (Nancy 1728 - Paris 1794), who from 1775 held the position of premier architecte du Roi. The works, begun in 1778, were completed in the spring of 1780, and the inauguration took place on 1 June.

As opposed to Grand théâtre, as was called theOpéra royal, the court theater of Versailles, inaugurated ten years earlier and used on official occasions, the Theater de la Reine or Petit théâtre, it was part of the Queen's private spaces. Located at a certain distance from the Castle and far from the intrigues of the court, it had a dual function: on the one hand it housed the shows commissioned to the artists who were members of the Royal Academy of Music l (Académie royale de musique, founded in 1669), on the other hand it served the so-called théâtre de société, a particular form of amateur theater in use in eighteenth-century France, in which members of the aristocracy performed for their private entertainment.

The small building, hidden in the trees of the Jardin Français, has a very simple exterior, which is distinguished only by the ancient entrance portal, decorated with two Ionic columns surmounted by a tympanum. In contrast, the interior shines with splendid decorations in which the colors of gold and blue dominate. The sculptures in plaster and golden papier-mâché, the fake marbles, the silk tapestries and the blue velvets, the oeils-de-boeuf surrounded by garlands of flowers, form a highly refined ensemble, completed by the vault depicting Apollo surrounded by the Graces and the Muses . The painting, the work of Louis Jean François Lagrenée (Paris 1725 - 1805), was delivered by the painter only a few days before the inauguration of the theater, and was replaced by a copy in the 19th century.

The small room can accommodate about two hundred and fifty spectators. The stage in proportion is quite large: it is about double the size of the hall, and has eight rows of wings, two levels of understage and trellis, while the orchestral pit offers space for about twenty musicians. The complex stage machines, avant-garde for the time, were made by Pierre Boullet (1740-1804), machinist of the King and the Opéra.

In the years between 1780 and 1785, the Queen had works by Gluck, Grétry, Sacchini and Paisiello represented. But the small theater is also an intimate and private place for Marie Antoinette, where she can play the fashionable authors herself with a company formed by a small group of aristocrats from her closest entourage. In this way she kept alive her passion for the theater and the declamation cultivated since childhood.

Abandoned by the queen after 1785, the Petit théâtre went through the revolutionary period without great damage. Used occasionally throughout the nineteenth century (by the Empress Maria Luisa, wife of Napoleon, by Queen Maria Amalia, wife of Louis Philippe, and by the empress Eugenia, wife of Napoleon III and last sovereign of France) and again at the beginning of last century, the theater was restored between 1925 and 1936 and again in 2001.

The restoration also involved the stage machines, now fully functional.

Due to its small size and its distance from the Castle, the Theater de la Reine today it is no longer used for the representation of shows. In this way it was possible to avoid tampering due to adjustments to current safety standards, preserving the theater in its authenticity.

The Trianon Theater is the only intact and still functioning 18th century French theater, and is accessible to the public with a guided tour.

The Margraves Opera House (Markgräfliches Opernhaus) in Bayreuth

Teatro dell'opera dei Margravi

The so-called Margraves Theater is located in Bayreuth, the capital city of Upper Franconia, in northern Bavaria. Bayreuth is today universally known for being the site of the Wagnerian Festival, which has been held since 1876 and is based in the Festspielhaus, the theater built by Wagner himself starting from 1872.

Not to be confused with the Wagnerian building, the Teatro dei Margravi (Markgräfliches Opernhaus) it dates back to the previous century, and is one of the most beautiful court theaters in existence.

It was erected at the behest of Margravia Wilhelmina of Prussia (Wilhelmine von Brandenburg-Bayreuth, Potsdam 1709 - Bayreuth 1758), daughter of the King of Prussia Frederick William, the 'Soldier King', and older sister of Frederick II.

Wilhelmina married Frederick Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth in 1731, belonging to a side branch of the Hohenzollern family. The couple ascended the throne of the small state in 1735, aspiring to emulate Versailles, and with the intention of transforming Bayreuth into a beacon of culture and the arts. Several buildings were thus built or renovated, such as the Reggia Nuova (Neues Schloss), the park of Sanspareil, the Castle of the Hermitage, giving life to a particular style, a specific variant of Central European Rococo, known as Bayreuth Rococo.

The Margraves founded the University of Erlangen, and surrounded themselves with leading artists and intellectuals. Wilhelmina was also able to avail herself of the great fame of her brother Frederick the Great, who ascended the throne of Prussia in 1740, who put her in contact with the best minds of the time.

Passionate and competent in terms of music and arts, Guglielmina was gifted with great artistic talent: not only did she play both the harpsichord and the lute perfectly, but she was herself a librettist and composer. She was one of the very few women who wrote works, of which only she has survived The Argenor of 1740. At the desire of her husband, she officially held the office of Superintendent of Court Music for approx. twenty years, from 1737 to 1758, signing companies of top-level Italian singers and artists. He also devoted himself to the study of sciences, had a correspondence on a philosophical topic with Voltaire, and in 1751 he became a member of the Roman Academy of Arcadia.

The court theater - mainly intended for the representation of Italian opera seria - was built on the occasion of the marriage of Margravia's only daughter, Elisabetta Federica Sofia of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, with Duke Charles II Eugene of Württemberg. The young Elizabeth was famous for her attractiveness, so much so that Giacomo Casanova described her as one of the most beautiful girls in all of Germany.

The wedding was celebrated with great magnificence and pomp in September 1748, the occasion on which the new theater was inaugurated. Two Italian operas and several theatrical performances were staged, and sumptuous banquets were offered.

The works for the construction of the theater were started as early as 1744, by the greatest architects and theatrical scenographers of the time, Giuseppe and Carlo Galli Bibbiena. With its sumptuous carved and painted decorations, it is an absolute masterpiece of Baroque theatrical architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012.

Giuseppe Galli Bibiena (Parma 1696 - 1757) belonging to the third generation of the great family of architects, set designers and theatrical painters active throughout Europe, he worked for the courts of Vienna, Munich, Dresden, Prague, as well as for the Bayreuth theater , of which he oversaw the project. His son Carlo (Vienna 1728 - Bologna 1787) instead took over the direction of the works on site, and later created numerous sets, festive decorations and ephemeral decorations.

The Opernhaus it is a splendid example of perfectly preserved Italian theater. Built in wood, it is a self-supporting structure inserted inside the stone building, which forms a sort of envelope. The wooden construction was completed in a very short time, using in part architectural and sculptural elements made and painted outside the site.

In front of the large proscenium, framed by columns, is the large royal box decorated with allegorical figures and other elements that glorify the ruling house. The boxes and the elevations present a very rich decorative apparatus of great quality, completed by the illusionistic effects of Baroque painting which creates an effect of overwhelming spatiality.

The facade and the atrium of the building were completed only two years after the solemn inauguration by the court architect Joseph Saint-Pierre (c. 1709 - 1754).

The theater went through the following centuries unscathed, also due to the dissolution of the Margraviate of Bayreuth, which after the death of the last Margrave, Federico Cristiano, was sold to Prussia in 1791, then passed to France (1807) and finally to Bavaria ( 1810). Bayreuth, losing its role as capital, progressively declined to a modest provincial town, and no maintenance work or alterations were carried out on the buildings which had now fallen into disuse.

In 2013, important restorations were started, and after six years of work and an investment of 30 million euros, the Teatro dei Margravi was reopened to the public in 2018. Inserted in the museum itinerary, in the summer months it is home to a season of concerts and shows .

The Royal Court Theater in Caserta

Il Real Teatro di Corte a Caserta

The Court Theater was built at the behest of King Charles III of Bourbon (1716 - 1788) on the model of the San Carlo Theater in Naples. It is located on the western side of the Royal Palace of Caserta, and like the whole immense complex, which has an area of about 47,000 square meters, is the work of Luigi Vanvitelli (Naples 1700 - Caserta 1773).

The theater was not foreseen in the original design of the building, and in fact it is not present in the preparatory drawings. The construction was started only in 1756, three years after the beginning of the works for the Royal Palace. It is the only room entirely built under the direct supervision of Luigi Vanvitelli, even if the works took much longer than expected, given that the architect was simultaneously engaged in the construction of the Palace, the Carolino aqueduct and other works in Naples and Benevento.

The theater, a true architectural jewel, was finally completed in 1768. It was solemnly inaugurated on January 22, 1769 with a court ball given on the occasion of the marriage of Ferdinand and Carolina (Ferdinando IV, Naples 1751 - 1825, king from 1759, and Maria Carolina of Austria, Vienna 1752 - 1814). The magnificently decorated rooms, in the presence of all the Neapolitan aristocracy, welcomed foreign princes, sovereigns and ambassadors for the sumptuous celebrations.

The building has three entrances: the central one reserved for the king and the court, which led directly into the royal box, and two side entrances that led to the boxes through two semicircular staircases, from which the guests and the public entered.

The theater has a horseshoe shape, to ensure the best acoustics and visibility, and has 42 boxes on five orders, decorated with cherubs, festoons, masks and trophies. Along the second tier of boxes runs a golden balustrade that surrounds the entire room, giving unity to the space. The royal box occupies three tiers of boxes in height, and is surmounted by a crown supported by the allegory of fame. The segmented vault is supported by pillars in red breccia on which twelve alabaster half-columns rest. The frescoes that decorate the vault are the work of the Neapolitan painter Crescenzio La Gamba, and depict in the center Apollo trampling the python, and in the segments the nine muses alternating with medallions with the four elements.

The stage, which still preserves the original boards intact, has a portal that can be opened at the back of the stage, directly overlooking the gardens of the Palace. This allowed to create a spectacular scenic effect, as in the case of the representation of the Dido by Metastasio in 1770, when the fire of Carthage was simulated with a perfectly realistic effect.

A large backdrop depicting the famous statue of the Farnese Hercules in the background of a magnificent garden is still preserved from the Vanvitellian era. The canvas, attributed to Antonio Joli, has been restored thanks to the contribution of Tom Cruise during the shooting of the film Mission Impossible III, partly shot in the Royal Palace of Caserta in 2013.

The theater is generally accessible with a guided tour.

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