Each of the four major languages in Switzerland--German, French, Italian, and Romanisch (a pure language)--has its own form of theatre, loosely banded together by the Swiss Theatre Union, formed in 1920, with headquarters in Zurich.
Each year, the Swiss Society of Human Sciences publishes a yearbook in three of the languages--Szene Schweiz, Scène Suisse, and Scena Svizzerzia-- which lists all activities in theatres throughout Switzerland. Switzerland has twenty municipally owned theatres, seven of which have their own companies. In addition, a number of commercially sponsored plays tour each year, and plays from either Germany or France are apt to make it over the line.
The main companies in the country are located either in the French- or the German-speaking areas. Both areas have rather traditionally oriented companies with the usual director/stager operation, copied from ancient German models. Aside from this it is difficult to generalize about the Swiss theatre.
The French theatre is largely centered in Geneva, which has a surprising number of fine companies and perhaps the major opera in all Switzerland. Geneva's taste in theatre tends to be rather conservative, although there is a rather high regard for experimental metteurs-en-scène. There are also several good French-speaking companies outside Geneva.
The problem in the German-speaking theatres is in determining whether Basel or Zurich is best. These two companies have traditionally jockeyed for position. During World War II, Zurich was the predominant theatre of all German-speaking countries. Since then there has been more of a seesaw. Zurich has the advantage of a longer tradition, a physical theatre with many associations (which has just been renovated), and a direktor (manager) who has to think only of plays. (In Basel the direktor also runs the opera.) Basel has the advantage of a new theatre, which is one of the best equipped in Europe, and a much more cosmopolitan population with wider tastes. Both have a good deal of civic support.
Most municipally run theatres in Switzerland are governed by boards of di-