Mechanical Theatre Always diligently at work

The  crowning  glory  of  the  water-driven  works  of  wonder  is  the Mechanical Theatre, which to this imposing size and accurately detailed construction could hardly be suspected in this hidden part of the park. Built  only  between  1748  and  1752  under  Archbishop  Andreas  Jakob Graf  Dietrichstein  (1747-1753),  the  Mechanical  Theatre  is  the  most recent element in the mechanical water treasures at Hellbrunn. It was constructed  to  replace  a  water-driven  forge  with  many  figures,  which came to a stop in 1741. The miner Lorenz Rosenegger von Dürrnberg offered  to  redesign  the  grotto  on  12  July  1748.  Only  renewal  of  the forge was originally considered, but the first plan grew to become the large automatic theatre that was completed on 28 October 1752 and is preserved to this day.

A tower-like palace is depicted in which court life of the 18th century is shown by means of water-driven marionettes. This palace is surrounded by a three-storey building in a semicircle, partly giving a view into its interior. Industrious activity rules in and around this building: a total of 142 mobile and 21 immobile little figurines demonstrate all manner of professions and trades of the period. One will never tire of observing other little dolls in their typical activities. Whether it is the building work-party, the daily workers who bring building materials to the foreman, who drinks, or the butchers slaughtering an ox, or the barber who shaves a man beneath his guild sign.

Busy  activity  takes  place  on  the  street:  a  dancing  bear  performs, guards march past the Residence, a farmer pushes an old woman in a wheelbarrow  over  the  road.  Figures  from  the  Commedia  dell’arte  are also to be seen, and if one so wishes, one can discern the social status of the figures involved. The most noble move less and more slowly that the workers. One can repeatedly discover new details and find amusement at the droll scene.

Great  horologic  care  and  skill  in  water  technology  enliven  with apparent ease this amusing genre scene. That the entire technology with waterwheels, copper wiring and cogwheels is hidden behind the theatre is betrayed only by the deafening noise when the works are set in motion. Certainly  to  subdue  the  noise,  Rosenegger  was  also  commissioned  to construct  an  “organ  works”  after  the  pattern  of  the  “Salzburg  Steer” on the Hohensalzburg Fortress, which was to be exclusively driven by water.

In June 1753 the organ, which at that time had 35 pipes, was first tuned by the court music director Johann Ernst Eberlin and the organ builder Rochus Egedacher.

Originally one could choose between three pieces of music, all of which were from Eberlin’s  pen, today the three rows of pins on the mighty wooden roller can play the following pieces: a choral by J. E. Eberlin, the “Là ci darem la mano” duet by W. A. Mozart and the “Ohne Rast, angepackt” tradesman’s song by D. F. Auber.

Homo ludens IX, Automatic Games

International articles by the Institute of Games Research and Games pedagogy at the Salzburg Mozarteum University, published by Bernd Katzbichler, Munich-Salzburg, 9th annual edition 1999. Article: A Pleasure for the Archbishop. The trick fountains machinery at the Summer Palace at Hellbrunn, Katharina Müller-Uri.