The Theater in Würzburg ca. 1804 [*]
The pious prince elector Franz Ludwig von Erthal banned all theater performances from both his residence and his residence town as being morally detrimental. — Under his successor, Georg Karl Ignaz von Fechenbach, several private theaters emerged, e.g., in the Ebenhöch house next to the Julius Hospital, in which selected plays were performed.
Under the Bavarian administration, in 1803 the theater director Quandt received permission for his company to perform plays and operas in the former royal Prussian Domain Administration (today  the Englert Estate Administration in Randersacker);  and as small and unattractive as the theater was that they set up in a wine-press building, all the more strongly did Würzburg residents throng to it even during the most disagreeable autumnal weather, clearly demonstrating how ardently they longed for a public theater of the sort that eventually becomes a genuine necessity in every cultivated state.
Lack of public support made it impossible for Quandt, earlier the theater director in Bamberg, to keep this enterprise going there much longer. The theater was on the brink of failure, the troupe similarly about to disband and disperse. In this unfortunate situation, Count Julius von Soden resolved to take over the theater — this was in the year 1802. — He built a new theater edifice and opened it on 4 October 1802. Count von Soden applied for confirmation of the authorized theater privilege that Quandt had assumed for the Upper Main Circle and its expansion to include Würzburg, which he was granted for a period of thirty years. But there was no theater edifice. While Quandt continued to give performances in nearby Randersacker, the urgency to acquire a stage became increasingly palpable, and Count von Soden now quickly moved to actualize his plans for building such an edifice. Before even the estimates were ready, the building formerly used by the Convent of St. Anne was put up for public auction. Count von Soden purchased it on 4 July 1803 at public auction by offering the highest price. . . .
This handsome building was built in 1750 by the architect M. J. Neumann for the wholesome and harmless cohabitation of daughters of the nobility, for whom Anna Maria, Countess of Dernbach, née Baroness Voit von Rieneck, founded the convent of St. Anne in 1690. . . .
After the acquisition of the prince electorate by Electoral Bavaria in 1802, the convent was dissolved on 4 June 1803 and its funds unified with those of the same name in Munich, not without appropriate consideration of the daughters of the Franconian nobility and public servants.
The favorable location of this building and its considerable spaciousness as well as its garden seem to have been the deciding factors prompting Count von Soden to choose it for his envisioned goals.  The privilege of the theater itself included concessions for refreshments and indeed everything a locale devoted to entertainment and gaiety might need. — The public’s wish to acquire its own theater was finally fulfilled. [Renovations.]
In September 1803,  the highest authorization for the purchase was granted. Construction for renovations could not begin until October, at the beginning of winter, that is, during the most unfavorable time of the year; it was begun according to the plans of the royal construction superintendent J. A. Gärtner, with not inconsiderable alterations only later. — The most dedicated efforts and extra funding made it possible for the project to be completed in eight or nine months, namely, at the end of 1804, except for part of the set props and necessary decorations. — The theater acquired a simple, elliptical form, with two rows of loges, six loges in the proscenium, two over the orchestra, and eight behind the parterre, which, however, came only later, and a gallery, which was later divided and the semicircle then cast as an amphitheater. . . . The audience section could hold eight hundred spectators.
Count von Soden announced to his theater troupe in Bamberg by way of circular on 15 June 1804 that the troupe would be moving to Würzburg on 28 July of that same year. Members of the troupe needed to begin declaring thenceforth whether they intended to remain with the company or not, especially those not bound by lengthy contracts. Only a few secondary members did not agree to remain. — On 28 July 1804, the company left Bamberg during the early morning hours and arrived in Würzburg toward evening.
An 3 August 1804, the theater was opened with a prologue and Friedrich Ludwig Schröder’s comedy Still Waters Run Deep.  The public’s expectations, as grand as they were, were quickly surpassed by this performance. The building was completely full, the performance seamless even down to the smallest role, and the applause extraordinary. Count von Soden quickly elevated his young artistic undertaking both artistically and technically to a level that could justifiably match that of any court or national theater. Both the opera and dramatic company quickly included excellent and distinguished members. The most respected and savvy foreigners, acquainted with the very best theaters in Europe, quickly accorded this young theater their approval. — Count von Soden received an annual support stipend of 8,000 florins from the state.
After the theater had developed to the level of such perfection in every aspect under the guidance of Count von Soden, he sold it on 28 February 1805  along with its building and all its accouterments and a rich inventory of decorations, costumes, library, etc. to his son-in-law, Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst von Münchhausen, for the price of 60,000 fl. rhn.
Repertoire during August 1804
3 August 1804, Friday: the new theater opened with a performance of Stille Wasser Sind Tief, comedy in 4 acts by Friedrich Ludwig Schröder. Madame Köhler delivered a prologue before the beginning of the piece.
5 August 1804: Das Vermächtnis, play in 5 acts by Iffland.
6 August 1804: Die Schachmaschine oder Geniestreich über Geniestreich, comedy in 3 acts by Beck.
8 August 1804: The Abduction from the Seraglio, opera in 3 acts by Mozart.
12 August 1804: Die Strelitzen, historical drama in 5 acts by Joseph Marius von Babo.
13 August 1804: Die beiden Klingsberg, comedy in 5 acts by August von Kotzebue.
15 August 1804: Das rothe Käppchen, comic opera in 3 acts by Dittersdorf.
17 August 1804: Der Spieler, play in 5 acts by Iffland.
20 August 1804: Der Wildfang, comedy in 3 acts by Kotzebue.
22 August 1804: The Abduction from the Seraglio, opera by Mozart. *Herr Gern performed the role of Osmin as his second guest performance.
24 August 1804: Doktor und Apotheker, comic opera in 3 acts by Dittersdorf. *Herr Gern performed the role of Stössel as his third guest performance.
26 August 1804: Eduard in Schottland, historical drama in 5 acts by Kotzebue, after the manuscript supplied by the author. Following the performance, Herr Gern also performed the aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, “Within these sacred halls.”
27 August 1804 Der Wassertäger, opera by Cherubini. *Herr Gern performed the role of the water bearer as his final guest role.
29 August 1804: Gleiches mit Gleichem, comedy in 5 acts by Wilhelm Vogel [1772–1843].
[*] J. G. Wenzel Dennerlein, Geschichte des Würzburger Theaters von seiner Entstehung im Jahre 1803–4 bis zum 31. Mai 1853 (Würzburg 1853), vii–xii, 2. Illustrations: (1) frontispiece to ibid. depicting the Würzburg theater edifice in the former Convent of St. Anne in Würzburg; (2) front of the theater (looking down the street, from left to right in the illustration above) ca. 1905; anonymous photograph from A. Droessler, Würzburg: Bilder aus alter und neuer Zeit (Würzburg, 1958).
Carl Gottfried Scharold offers a brief introduction to and description of the Würzburg theater in his 1805 guide to Würzburg for visitors and residents, Würzburg und die umliegende Gegend, für Fremde und Einheimische kurz beschrieben (Würzburg 1805), 273–75:
Theater. For over twenty years, the altar of Thalia and Melpomene lay in ruins, and despite the public’s desire for its renovation, such did not come about until those grand events [the Bishopric of Würzburg, located in Franconia, had as a result of the Peace of Lunéville become part of Bavaria] that bestowed a new form on Europe itself and whose effects extended even to the local theater here, for without those events we would probably still not have such a theater.
As early as the civil assumption of power of our town by the Electoral Palatinate, people began talking about a theater edifice that might be built in the royal gardens. Although this idea was soon abandoned, Count Julius von Soden, a grand friend and connoisseur of the arts, purchased the spacious building constituting the former Convent of St. Anne. Equipped with the privilege of being the sole theater entrepreneur in the Electoral Palatinate-Franconian principalities, he commenced construction of the theater according to the plan of the present the royal construction superintendent Gärtner in Munich.
The interior exhibits a simple elliptical form, two series of arches, and a gallery. The first balcony has 8 loges, each seating 4 persons, and a large reserve loge for 10 to 12 persons in the middle, opposite the stage. The second balcony has the same number of loges along with 3 on each side of the proscenium. The loges are separated only by screens about 3 feet high. The parterre is 39 feet, 8 Zoll [approx. “inches”] long, and 38 ½ feet. This parterre can hold almost 300 persons. The stage is 45 feet, 4 Zoll deep, and with 6 coulisses. The opening of the proscenium is 28 feet. The orchestra space is 7 feet wide and 37 ½ long.
Altogether the entirety holds almost 700 persons. The light-blue and silver color scheme in the loges is simple and noble, and the decorations are truly charming. A clock with a transparent dial over the proscenium displays the hours, and a tasteful candelabrum illuminates the amphitheater. The overall view of the interior is both welcoming and beautiful.
The theater was opened on 3 August 1804, and since then Würzburg can thank its entrepreneur for many a cheerful and satisfying evening. Only recently [28 February 1805] did he sell the entire enterprise to his son-in-law, Herr von Münchhausen, who has demonstrated considerable love and care for the understaking.
Performances are given on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The price is 1 fl. 12 kr. in the reserved loges of the first balcony, 1 fl. in those of the second balcony, 48 kr. in the parterre, and 18 kr. in the gallery.
Dennerlein’s narrative now picks up just before Caroline and Schelling’s arrival in Würzburg in November 1803. Back.
 The edifice was located along the earlier town wall along a street that in 1832 was called Rennweg and in 1845, appropriately, Theaterstrasse (F. Harrach and Leonhard Zertahelly, Plan Der Kreis-Hauptstadt Würzburg [München 1845], Münchener Digitalisierungzentrum):
Here in 1805, i.e.., when Schelling and Caroline were in Würzburg, in relation to their apartment in the triangular university and seminary complex at the bottom of the map (frontispiece to Carl Gottfried Scharold, Würzburg und die umliegende Gegend, für Fremde und Einheimische kurz beschrieben [Würzburg 1805]):
 I.e., just as Caroline and Schelling were ready to settle in Würzburg. Back.
 Stille Wasser sind Tief, in Schröder’s Beyträge zur deutschen Schaubühne (Berlin 1786), vol. 2, adaptation of Francis Beaumont’s comedy Rule a Wife and Have a Wife (1640). Back.
 Caroline and Schelling were still in Würzburg. Back.
Translation © 2017 Doug Stott