Where Mozart Performed as a Child

The Grosse Universitätsaula (Large University Auditorium) lies directly opposite the large Festspielhaus and is situated on the premises of the old University, where the University Library is also housed. The auditorium has a long history. During the Baroque era it served as a theatre, while today it has become a multifunctional space.

Interior View of the Large University Auditorium in Salzburg
The Large University Auditorium © Karl Forster

A Baroque Theatre

The University of Salzburg was founded as a Benedictine university in 1622 by the then Archbishop Paris Lodron. Work on the “Aula Major” - the large auditorium - was begun on the university premises in 1631, based on a model by the cathedral architect Santino Solari. It took 24 years to complete. It was inaugurated by Paris Lodron in 1654, and in 1660 a permanent theatre was erected in it. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart performed here in 1761, at the age of five, in the role of a dancing pageboy in the school play Sigismundus Hungariae Rex (with music by Johann Ernst Eberlin to a text by Fr Marian Wimmer). His own first work for the stage was also given its world première here on 13 May 1767: Apollo et Hyacinthus, K 38, with Mozart himself at the harpsichord. In 1782, the auditorium ceased being used as a theatre.

Renovations and Alterations

The auditorium was renovated and altered several times, most recently from 2003 to 2005, when the audience space and the stage area were switched round by 180 degrees. Tiered seating was added, and a new stairwell was built to provide access from the interior of the University buildings to the exterior. The entrance to the auditorium is now situated in the Furtwängler Garden on Max-Reinhardt-Platz. The auditorium was reopened on 27 January 2005, Mozart’s 249th birthday, with a performance of his early Apollo et Hyacinthus.

A Multifunctional Event Space

Seating plan Large University Auditorium
Seating plan Large University Auditorium

The large university auditorium offers between 496 and 616 seats, depending on the size of stage being utilised. It is here that the University of Salzburg holds its degree ceremonies for doctorates and masters. The hall is also rented out for various events such as concerts and lectures. For several years now, the Salzburg Easter Festival has here held Children Concerts, a Chamber Opera production and Introductory Lectures.