Each language region of Switzerland has a strong and vibrant dramatic arts’ tradition. The regional theatre communities actively foster close ties with neighbouring countries that share the same language.

Scene from the play "Les Misérables" on the Lake Thun Stage
“Les Misérables” based on the novel by Victor Hugo performed on the stage on Lake Thun. © thunerseespiele

Switzerland has several large theatres that are acclaimed both at home and further afield. Their renown is due in no small part to the work of dramatists Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Max Frisch. The influence of these two literary giants on Swiss contemporary theatre is still discernible today.

The most important theatres in German-speaking Switzerland are the Schauspielhaus Zürich, Zurich Opera House, Theater Basel, Stadttheater Bern, Luzerner Theater, Theater St. Gallen and Theater Winterthur. French-speaking Switzerland is home to the Grand Théâtre and La Comédie (both in Geneva), the Théâtre de Carouge and the Théatre Vidy (Lausanne), while the clown Dimitri runs his own theatre and drama school in Verscio (canton of Ticino). There is also an array of summer theatre festivals, including the Theaterspektakel in Zurich, Belluard Bollwerk International in Fribourg and La Bâtie in Geneva.

Werner Düggelin, Stephan Müller, Christoph Marthaler, Matthias Hartmann, Samuel Schwarz and Milo Rau are some of the most influential theatre directors working in German-speaking Switzerland. Elsewhere, Omar Porras and Robert Bouvier are two of the leading lights in French-speaking Switzerland, as is Daniele Finzi Pasca in Ticino.

Popular theatre

Every year, the towns of Altdorf and Interlaken stage certain 19th century works, such as the “Tellspiele” (William Tell plays). Einsiedeln hosts performances of the “Great World Theatre” by Spanish dramatist Calderón de la Barca every five years. Vevey stages its showpiece, the Fête des vignerons, every 20 years (the next is scheduled in 2019), while the Théâtre du Jorat in Mézières (canton of Vaud) has been performing its popular theatre repertoire since 1908.

Additional information