Karl Knipper Theatre

Knipper Theatre, Kniper Theatre or Knieper Theatre (Russian: Театр Карла Книпера) was the venue of a German theatrical troupe led by Karl Kniper which performed in Saint Petersburg beginning in 1775,[1] and ending in 1797.


The theatre building was converted from a manège (riding school), located on the Tsaritsa Meadow (Russian: Царицын луг – Tsaritsyn lug, now Ploshchad Zhertv Revolutsii – The Place of the Victims of Revolution) near the present-day Tripartite Bridge. From 1770 to 1777 it was occupied by English comedians, until they were replaced with Karl Knipper's German troupe.

In 1779 Knipper signed a contract with the Foundling Home that established the Volny Rossiysky Teatre (Вольный Российский ТеатрThe Free Russian Theatre). As part of this contract the Board of Trustees of the St Petersburg chapter of the Foundling Home ("Петербургский воспитательный дом" or "educational home") sent Knipper 50 of its pupils to instruct and eventually incorporate into spectacles. The composer Vasily Pashkevich was the pupils' music instructor. From 1782 to 1783 the director of the theatre was the well-known Russian actor Ivan Dmitrievsky, who performed at his benefice the famous comedy Nedorosl (Russian: НедоросльThe Minor) by Denis Fonvizin (1782). Choreographer Gasparo Angiolini and ballet dancer Francesco Rosetti were briefly dance instructors.

On 12 July 1783 the Imperial Theaters acquired the building and later Knipper's German troupe as well, but the Free Russian Theatre was dissolved. The building was renamed the Gorodskoy Derevyanny Theatre (Russian: Городской деревянный театрThe Wooden Town Theatre ) or Maly Theatre (Russian: Малый театрLittle Theatre). This existed until 1797, when it was dismantled at the demand of Paul I of Russia, because it was obstructing troop maneuvering during parades.


The repertoire of Knipper's German Theatre included:

  • Guglielmi Robert und Kalliste
  • Wolf Die Dorfdeputierten
  • Schweitzer Das Elysium
  • Holli Der Bassa von Tunis
  • Stegman Der Deserteur
  • Hiller Der Jagd
  • Bender Der Walder
  • Hiller Die Jubelhochzeit
  • Hefe Die Apotheke
  • Hiller Die Liebe auf dem Lande
  • Hiller Der Dorfbarbier
  • Hiller Lottchen am Hofe
  • Wolf Das Grosse Los
  • Gretri Lucile
  • Stegman Das Redende Gemälde
  • Piccini Die Nacht

The repertoire of the Free Russian Theatre included the following operas:


  1. ^ E.S. Khodorkovskaia, "Knippera K. Truppa," Muzykal'nyi Peterburg: Entsiklopedicheskii Slovar, vol. II (St. Petersburg, Kompozitor: 2000), 59-63.

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