The Hermitage Theater is located at the corner of Palace Embankment and the Winter Ditch. It was designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and completed in 1787. The architect built its auditorium in the form of an amphitheater; there are no boxes, circles, or stalls, and the seats for the audience descend to the stage in wide tiers.
Reminiscent of the theater in Pompeii
The overall appearance and plan of the auditorium is reminiscent of the theater in Pompeii. Its walls are finished with artificial pink and yellow marble, and embellished with Corinthian columns. In the niches between the columns stand statues of Apollo and nine muses, and the recesses above the niches are adorned with medallions and bas-reliefs of Moliere, Racine, Voltaire, and other outstanding men of letters and art.
Private theater of Catherine the Great
When it was first built it answered the name of Hermitage Theater perfectly, because in fact it was the private theater of Catherine the Great and her descendants, and as a rule there were no more than ten or twelve people in the audience. Occasions where members of the diplomatic corps were invited to attend a performance were very rare, and even then the select audience was only a little larger.
One enters the theater of the Hermitage by the chamber which contains gems. It was built by the architect Quarenghi on the site of an ancient palace; but the interior has been renewed. It is built in a semi-circular shape of the ancient theaters and can hold 500 people. The Empress Catherine was there watching comedies usually composed by her court and sometimes by Her Majesty herself. Those who played were either amateurs or professional actors, Russians or French.St Petersburg Guide, Jean Bastin, 1874
Today this is the lecture hall of the State Hermitage.