Stage design

Benjamin Britten: The Turn of the Screw (2023) | © Wolf Silveri

The fields of activity of future stage designers range from the design and implementation of sets in theaters, film and television productions to management positions in artistic and technical departments in theater and film. The conception and design of exhibitions and trade fairs and the furnishing of festivals and events are just as much a part of the extensive course of study as are the many opportunities for freelance work.


Occupational fields

The fields of activity of future stage designers range from the design and implementation of sets in theaters, film and television productions to management positions in artistic and technical departments in theater and film. Furthermore, the extensive training at the Mozarteum Salzburg offers the possibility of conceptualizing and designing exhibitions and trade fairs and the furnishing of festivals and events.

At any time the Stage designers also have the opportunity to apply their knowledge in all artistic fields as freelance artists.

General study information

The aim of the eight-semester stage design degree programme at the Mozarteum University is to train an independently reflected artistic position. The main subject Stage Design comprises the fields of stage design, costume design, film architecture and exhibition architecture.

Since stage design today moves freely between performing and visual arts, the fields of architecture, literature, fashion, music, design and photography, the stage design student should deal with the various sub-fields of art, technology and new media in an interdisciplinary way in order to be able to move and articulate competently and artistically freely. 

Students learn:

  • to use teamwork with direction (drama and musical theatre) for communication and cooperation skills that are indispensable in the profession and also to enable a qualitative increase in performance and artistic results
  • the ability to work independently on new areas of knowledge and to gather facts and basic knowledge on individual questions by means of research
  • to be better able to deal with theatre and film through experience with their own acting and camera work

Link to the semester plan

After intensive training in the first two years, which imparts the basic knowledge of art, cultural and theatre history, drawing and technical skills, the last two years are devoted to optional specialisation in the fields of stage, costume, film/television or exhibition planning, with a particular focus on technical areas of knowledge. At the same time, own practical work, practical time at various theatres and international exchange programmes are encouraged during this period of study. The structure of the curriculum allows students to complete parts of their studies at internationally recognised foreign universities. In particular, students learn:

  • use teamwork with direction (drama & musical theatre) for communication and cooperation skills that are essential in the profession, and also to enable a qualitative increase in performance and artistic outcomes
  • the ability to work independently on new areas of knowledge and to gather facts and basic knowledge on individual questions by means of research
  • to be better able to deal with theatre and film through experience with their own acting and camera work.

Graduates in stage design should:

  • be able to express themselves individually artistically in all branches of the entire arts, be able to independently develop ideas and realisation in the subject of stage and costume design, film and exhibition architecture
  • be able to present designs for theatre, film and exhibition in an appropriate form
  • have learned how to deal with traditional forms of presentation (diagram, model, technical drawing) as well as new media in technical and aesthetic terms
  • acquire a broad basic knowledge in the fields of art, cultural, literary and theatre history and stylistics
  • be able to express themselves convincingly with personal handwriting in drawing and learn to use drawing as a thought process
  • be able to create the entire work process of a production or project from concept to realisation within a given framework - in terms of budget, working and construction time and production costs, technical possibilities, etc.
  • gain experience in all teaching areas during their studies - by means of internships
  • have the opportunity to study stage, costume, film/television and/or exhibition design more intensively in practical, performance and technical terms during the last two years of their studies

The basic prerequisite for the program is the ability and curiosity to deal analytically and creatively with content-related and formal approaches to theater texts as well as various dramaturgies. Small class sizes of up to eight students per year allow for intensively supervised study.

The close cooperation with the departments of acting, directing and musical theater at the university enables students to test their own stage designs in practice during their studies. Our teachers and lecturers from the fields of stage design, directing, visual arts, film and photography guarantee practice-oriented teaching through their own artistic activities.

The respective semester assignments are set on an interdisciplinary basis and are also supervised in this way. The dialogue between students and teachers is basically conducted in a spirit of partnership.

The object of the entrance examination  is to establish the student's talent and intensive interest in theater, opera, art, fashion, literature, and in particular for the central artistic subject of stage and costume design. Furthermore, the proof of basic knowledge in artistic painting and drawing techniques is required as well as the comprehension of spaces with drawing means. For this purpose, online registration is required in advance.

For applicants whose first language is not German, proof of German language skills must be provided.

The initial registration takes place online in the registration portal for applicants.

The entrance examination

The entrance examination consists of:

  • A preliminary discussion with the examination committee and joint review of the portfolio 
  • Drawing according to given motifs (object, space, architecture, etc.) 
  • Drafts in relation to a given theme with the help of sketches, drawings and a small model 
  • a final discussion with the examination committee and announcement of the result of the examination.

Two dates are offered for the entrance examination:

Date 1: Monday, 24.06.2024 to Wednesday, 26.06.2024.
Mappen-Abgabetermin: 28.05.2024

Date 2: Monday, 02.09.2024 to Wednesday, 04.09.2024
Mappen-Abgabetermin: 06.08.2024

Participation is only possible on one date per year. It is not possible to attend the second date if the first date is not passed.
For both dates, the semester starts in the winter semester, in October 2024

On the basis of the artistic portfolios submitted, the Examination Committee makes a preliminary selection of the candidates to be invited. Notification of the invitation to the entrance examination will be sent at short notice by e-mail.
Attendance is compulsory for all 3 days (date 1 or date 2, depending on registration). The examination begins at 10.00 a.m. (or 9.00 a.m. if necessary) and ends at approx. 6.00 p.m. each day.

Drawing and painting utensils (paper/pencils/colours etc.) as well as materials for model making (scissors/cutter/cutting ruler/glue/cardboard etc.) must be brought to the entrance examination. The submitted portfolio will be returned at the final interview, the work produced during the examination will remain at the department for archiving.

Information on the individual partial examinations

Part 1: Portfolio

A compilation of the candidate's own artistic works (drawings, sketches, drafts, models and photos on the topics of spatial perception, architectural representation and free artistic topics) must be submitted to the examination board in the form of a portfolio. No restrictive guidelines are set with regard to technique, format and number of works; reproductions (photo, film) are only permitted for sculptural or performative works. Works that have been created in the context of various school lessons with given tasks should make up a subordinate part of the portfolio. An advisory discussion of the portfolio in advance is possible at any time by personal appointment via the secretary's office and is highly recommended. Furthermore, at the end of the summer semester there is the opportunity to get to know the study programme and the department within the framework of the studio tour. Information can be obtained from the secretary's office.

The application form and the portfolio can be handed in at the secretary's office of the department or at the porter's office of the Mozarteum University on the respective dates for handing in the portfolio. The portfolio must be sent directly to the department by post (postmark). 

Part 2: Admission Examination & Interview

An artistic written examination over 3 days serves as proof of artistic-creative talent and the ability to express oneself through drawing. The topic is determined by the examination senate. The examination work includes free drawing from nature, drafts and sketches for the tasks set by the examination senate, model construction. A discussion about the portfolio at the beginning of the examination and a final discussion about the work produced during the examination serves to get to know each other.
Mastery of the German language is required according to §37(1) and Annex 1 Z 2a UniStG at the beginning of the degree programme. Proof is provided by means of an examination interview within the framework of the admission examination.

  • Is it possible to study costume only?
    No, the study programme Stage and Costume Design focuses on stage, space, film, exhibition architecture as well as costume. A modular structure of the degree programme is not offered.
  • How long does the degree programme take?
    The curriculum provides for a minimum duration of 8 semesters, although a longer period of study of 9 to 11 semesters is often accepted due to recommended practical work at theatres or in the film business. In return, if the student has completed previous studies close to the art and can prove that he/she has successfully completed all courses, he/she could also apply for a reduction in the length of study.
  • How many study places are available? How many applicants are trying to gain a place?
    5-8 new students are admitted each year. Approximately 20 to 40 applicants take the entrance examination each year.
  • Do I need a Matura or Abitur to study?
    No, the examination board can grant admission to studies without Matura or Abitur in the context of successful completion of the examination.
  • Is proof of an internship related to the subject required?
    No, it is not.
  • Is German a prerequisite for admission?
    Within the framework of the admission examination, the commission must confirm that the knowledge of the German language is sufficient for studying or that an additional language examination could be successfully taken within one semester. However, the language of instruction is exclusively German.
  • Can I combine my studies with a professional activity?
    Experience has shown that in the first four semesters a full-time professional commitment is difficult to combine with seminar and studio work, as attendance at seminars is sometimes compulsory.
  • What academic degree does the stage design programme end with?
    The degree course in stage design ends with a two-stage diploma thesis (artistic-written work and diploma presentation); upon successful completion, the student is awarded the academic degree Magister/Magistra artium (Mag. art.).
  • In which form does the registration for the entrance examination take place?
    Online via the registration portal for applicants.
  • How many admission examination dates are offered?
    For the start of the winter semester, two possible admission examination dates are offered, one at the end of June and one at the end of September. It is not possible to start the programme in the summer semester, therefore no dates are offered for this.
  • What should the portfolio contain?
    The portfolio should contain a compilation of the student's own work (drawings, sketches, drafts, photos, models, etc.), whereby the form and scope can be chosen individually. Basically, the portfolio should represent the previous independent artistic work, reflect the view of the environment, one's own world view and biography, and testify to the will to make theatre and art. Works that have been created in the context of various school lessons with given tasks should at best make up a subordinate part of the portfolio. Proof of all painting and drawing techniques as well as the implementation of ideas in all conceivable two- and three-dimensional representation techniques is not mandatory, but the gift of being able to express oneself with a pencil and communicate through sketches is.
  • What shape/size/scope must the folder have?
    There are no restrictions in terms of shape or format. The submission of three-dimensional objects is possible. Reproductions should only be used for works that cannot be transported.
  • Is it possible to show the work in advance in a personal meeting?
    Yes, appointments can be made through the secretariat. A non-binding portfolio discussion can, under certain circumstances, lead to clarify misunderstandings regarding the form and scope of the portfolio. At the same time, it also gives you the opportunity to visit the studios on site and, if necessary, to make contact with students of stage design.
  • How long does the portfolio remain at the university?
    The portfolio remains in the department from the time it is handed in until the end of the entrance examination, so it cannot be collected early for a parallel procedure.
  • Are there tuition fees or possibilities for scholarships?
    - see Service & Support
  • Is it possible to visit the department during the study period?
    Of course, but a short registration at the secretariat is requested. At the end of the summer semester there is also the opportunity to see students' work and meet teachers as part of the studio tour. Link to the event calendar
  • Who is invited to the examination, or is the selection of examination candidates already made on the basis of the portfolio?
    Due to the possibility of submitting the portfolio up to three weeks before the exam, an invitation to the exam is issued in writing at very short notice. In principle, an initial selection is made.
  • Will the portfolio be returned by post at the end of the procedure?
    No, the portfolio can be taken away during the three-day examination or collected from the secretary's office at a later date: Mon-Fri 8.00-12.00 in the secretariat Paris Lodron Str. 9, 2nd floor. Please ask for an appointment at the secretary's office: +43 676 88122 461 oder
  • How does the examination (written exam) proceed, can I prepare?
    The written exam means working intensively and in a structured way for three days in the department or studio, whereby the tasks should be partly sketched, in the form of drawings or by means of models. Working material (paper, paint, model building material etc.) should already be brought along.


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Gerhard Mayer | © Christian Schneider
Gerhard Mayer

Vertragslehrer for technical support, stage design & technical drawing

Deputy Department Head
Curriculum Committee

Senior Artist


Photography teacher




History of collecting and exhibition architecture

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