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National Theatre, Munich, Germany - Famous Opera House
145    Dibyendu Banerjee    07/03/2024

Located in Max-Joseph-Platz, a large square in central Munich, The National Theatre of Munich, locally known as Nationaltheater München, is considered one of the largest freestanding theatre buildings in Europe, as well as one of the most famous opera houses in the world and the home of the Bavarian State Opera, the Bavarian State Orchestra and Bavarian State Ballet. The majestic building of the opera house, resembling a Greek temple with a wide staircase, a portico with eight tall Corinthian columns and a triangular pediment duplex decorated with statues and paintings, is a splendid piece of European classicism. While the main facade of the building opens to the Max-Joseph-Platz and the south facade overlooks the Maximilianstrasse, one of the city's four royal avenues, its north side is adjacent to the Residenz Theatre or the Residence Theatre.

national theatre munich germany

The story of the National Theatre of Munich began in 1802, when Max-Joseph-Platz was created on the site of a Franciscan monastery to make room for the construction of the National Theatre, since the old Cuvilliés-Theater, completed in 1755 and equipped with just 560 seats, proved to be too small for the quickly increasing Munich population. After that, in 1810, King Maxmilian I Joseph of Bavaria commissioned architect Karl von Fischer to plan a new royal and national theatre and the construction began when the foundation stone was laid on 26 October 1811. But soon the work was suspended for financial problems, tough winter of 1813 and the Russian campaign. In addition to that, a fire in 1817 destroyed a section of the unfinished building.

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Finally, the new theatre was opened on 26 October 1811, but it was gutted by a devastating fire during a performance on 14 January 1823, one of the coldest winter months of the 19th century, which could not be doused because the water supply was frozen.

national theatre munich germany

Although the destruction of the magnificent edifice was a big blow for the King and the entire city, finally the city of Munich took over the entire cost of rebuilding, amounting to 800,000 Guilders and under the direction of Leo von Klenze, the theatre was reconstructed within just two years, including a few Neo-Grec features, a Neoclassical Revival style of the mid-to-late 19th century.

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The restored building of the opera house was opened on the 2nd of January 1825, modified to create an enlarged stage area with updated equipments.

national theatre munich germany

Unfortunately, the restored building of the theatre was also destroyed during the Second World War, when explosives and fire bombs struck the building in the night of the 3rd of October 1943. However, this time, the Landtag, The State Parliament, opposed the rebuilding of The National Theatre for financial problems and in addition to that, the city planners wanted to remove the ruins completely and clear the site to make more room for a better transport service in the city. But the people of Munich fought back, as they wanted their National Theatre back. Their determined attitude soon gave birth to a citizen’s group called Friends of the National Theater in 1952, which won public support for the reconstruction of the theatre and started to collect funds for the purpose. Finally, it was decided to reconstruct the building, based on the original neo-classical design of Karl von Fischer and the project began in 1958.

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After five years of work and cost around 62 Million Mark, the building was opened on 21 November 1963 with an invitation-only performance.

national theatre munich germany

The current building of the National Theatre of Munich, with the statue of King Maxmilian I Joseph on the forecourt, almost resembles the original building, as it preserved some of the old elements designed by Karl von Fischer. While the foyer rooms of the first tier and the auditorium were rebuilt, the glamorous interior is harmoniously designed, combining red, golden and ivory. The corridors of the theatre are decorated with numerous paintings of the famous singer and conductors, while the auditorium, decorated by Jean Baptiste Motive in the late Empire style, contains 2100 seats of which around 900 in the stalls. The magnificent royal box, the centre of the interior Rondel, which once served the Bavarian Kings and their guests and today reserved for the Bavarian Minister President and the State Chancellery, is decorated with two large caryatids, sculpted female figures serving as an architectural support. The newly built auditorium has excellent acoustics through the consistent use of wood as a building material and the new stage, covering 26,910 sq feet (2500 sq m), ranks as the world’s third largest, after Opéra Bastille in Paris and The Grand Theatre in Warsaw. Interestingly, the National Theatre of Munich is one of the first theatres in Europe to be completely electrified at the end of the 19th century.

national theatre munich germany

Today, in addition to its regular concerts, the National Theatre of Munich also hosts an opera festival every June and July, featuring stars from the international opera scene. The theatre houses a portrait gallery, which is part of the opera history of Munich, proudly displaying the portraits of artists associated with the Bavarian State Opera, some of whom date back to the 18th century.

national theatre munich germany
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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