The private theater of Sultan Abdülhamid II was designed by Raimondo D'Aronco, and built by Sarkis Balyan in 1889. The imperial theater, the only royal theater that remains intact, was completed before the visiting German Emperor Wilhelm II and his wife arrived in October 1889.
This theater maintains the honor of showing the first moving pictures in the Ottoman Land. The show was introduced to the Sultan by a French performing artist, Bertrand, in 1896. The local people of Istanbul were introduced to the moving pictures by a German, Sigmund Weinberg, the following year in a local beerhouse in Pera, Istanbul.
Situated next to the Harem in the second court, the imperial theater of the palace was the main entertainment venue for Sultan Abdülhamid II and the residents of his Harem.
He established the theater group that mainly performed European plays Abdülhamid liked. Prominent local and European artists were invited to the palace to perform their first shows. Opera was his favorite art form.
In his second visit to Istanbul in 1893 to perform a play in Petit Champs Theater in Pera, Italian Arturo Stravolo (1867-1956) received an invitation for the position from Abdülhamid, who liked his performance. Stravolo was then appointed as the Art Director of the Theater. According to his granddaughter Natale Carlotti, who donated his historical documents to the Yıldız Palace Foundation, Stravolo staged mostly Italian plays, such as I Due Ciabattini, L'arrivo Dello Sposo, Napoli di Carnevale, I Tre Gobbi, Il Travatore and La Traviata. He translated the plays of Richard Strauss into Italian and performed them for the Sultan. He also composed operettas based on the plays Abdülhamid liked. Stravolo stayed in his job until the disenthronement of Abdülhamid in 1909. Stravolo is the first person who owned and drove a car in Istanbul. He was buried in Feriköy, Istanbul, as he desired.
Famous Turkish comedian Abdülrezzak Abdi Efendi (1835-1914), introduced to Abdülhamid in 1895 by a French ambassador, compiled a small Turkish theater group here and worked until he was fired because of his joke to the Sultan in 1908. Abdi Efendi was employed in the palace as a Second Lieutenant (mülazım-ı sani).
Abdülhamid did not like the plays ending sadly. Therefore, art directors always changed the sad endings for him.
The private boxes of the Sultan and his family and visitors are located on the opposite side of the stage. The rectangular gallery of the theater, housing 150 audience members, consists of rows of seats on the floor and elevated boxes supported by columns along the walls. The orchestra played well below the stage. The walls and the domed-ceiling are decorated by hand painted gold-color motifs.
The theater is now serving as a museum. The original costumes and other objects are also exhibited in the theater.
It is located in the 2nd Court.
VatanGazetesi, 28.07.2012, http://haber.gazetevatan.com/kusaklarca-saklanan-arsiv/468674/7/yasam