The Versailles of the North

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1827

Clearly inspired by the style of Versailles, the official year-round home, Drottningholm Palace, of Sweden’s present-day King Carl Gustav XVI and Queen Silvia is widely held to be one of the most delightful European palaces.

Drottningholm Coirt Theatre

On its own tree-covered island (Drottningholm means “queen’s island) in Lake Mälaren, the many-windowed rococo palace is open to the public even when the royal family is in residence. Built in 1622 for Sweden’s Queen Eleonora, the interior still dazzles with its collection of opulent 17th- to 19th century art and furniture, gilt ceilings, and magnificent chandeliers. Fountains and formal gardens further encourage comparisons to the real Versailles.

Drottningholm Theatre

Visit the unforgettable Drottingholm Court Theatre, the world’s most perfectly preserved 18th-century theatre, where performances are still given using original sets and stage machinery. Originally lit by 400 candles, today it is illuminated by as many flickering flame-shaped electric bulbs.

The wooden theatre was built in 1766 at the request of Queen Lovisa Ulrika. The theatre is constructed of simple materials and the auditorium is playfully decorated using paint, stucco, and papier mâché. The wooden stage machinery is operated by hand. It includes wind, thunder and cloud machines, as well as traps ans moving waves. About 30 stage sets have been preserved, all decorated with themes from 18th century repertoire.The 18th-century operas and ballets performed today by some of Europe’s premier talents (and by an orchestra playing original period instruments) transport audiences back in time.

The first golden age of the theatre was initiated by King Gustaf III in 1777. Together with actors like Monvel, the composers Naumann and Kraus, the ballet master Gallodier and the architect Desprez Gustaf used Drotningholm to inject new life into Swedish theatre and opera. Up to his death in 1792, when the theatre was closed, the repertoire included Gluck’s latst works, péras comiques, French clkassical daramas and pantomime ballets.

When the literary historian Agne Beijer walked through the door in 1921 he discovered a sleeping beauty, untouched since the end of the 18th century. After replacing the ropes, thorough cleaning and the installation of electricity, the magnificent theatre was reopened. Now the machinery could once again perform changements à vie, i. e. open scene changes in front of the audience.

Today the yearly summer Opera Festival offers new productions of 17th and 18th century operas and attracts audiences from all over the world. Since 1979 the Drottningholm Theatre Orchestra has performed in period instruments, and the repertoire includes works by Haydn, Handel, Gluck and Mozart, as well as Rameau and Monteverdi.

In 1991 the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO designated the theatre, together with Drottningholm Palace, the Chinese Pavillion and the surrounding park, as being of cultural heritage significance.

You’ll find the Palace and Theatre seven miles (11 km) west of Stockholm. Frequent one hour steamboat service (with guided tour along the way) leaves from Stadshusbron in Stockholm. www.dtm.se

Written by the Daily Scanidnavian team