In 1783 the architect Giacomo Quarenghi was commissioned by the Empress Catherine II to build the Hermitage Theatre; the construction was completed in 1787. Well-balanced harmonic structure of the building makes it an outstanding example of the late 18th century Russian Neoclassicism. Rustic windows of the ground floor are decorated with key-stones with lion's masks, one of Quarenghi's favourite decorative element. The colonnade of the second level of the facade is flanked with the risalits with the statues of ancient Greek playwrights and poets placed in the exedras.
The auditorium is Interpreted as an amphi-theatre with six rows of benches. Its walls are decorated with artificial marble and columns which capitals are ornamented with theatrical masks. Medallions with the profiles of famous playwrights are set above the sculptures of Apollo and the muses in the exedras. The stage is separated from the hall with a balustrade, behind which there are several rows of benches and two side boxes.
Since 18th century theatrical performances have become traditional and were a part of many celebrations. Nowadays performances are given in the theatre and the exhibitions are held in its foyer.