Performing arts

By the number of theatre-goers, Estonia is one of the leading countries in Europe. In 2016 almost 1.2 million visits were made to the theatre. This number is especially noteworthy considering that there are only 1.3 million inhabitants in Estonia.

The majority of performing arts institutions in Estonia are year-round institutional theatres that have their own buildings and permanent staff. The state supports theatres regardless of their form of ownership with the aim of keeping the annual theatre visits at the level of approximately 800,000. The state pays activity support to 22 theatres.
The largest performing arts institutions in Estonia are the Estonian National Opera and SA Teater Vanemuine.

Theatre in Estonia

In Estonia, theatre performances are locally well accessible. All inhabitants have a chance to enjoy performing arts at a distance of about 50 km from their home. This is made possible by the distribution of theatre houses all over the country as well as by the state programme "Theatre to Rural Areas".
Statistics on theatre is collected by the Estonian Theatre AgencyA regular overview of Estonian theatre performances is provided by the theatre festival Draama

Rahvusooper Estonia "Tannhäuser" - parim lavastus 2013




  • There are more than 1,700 people employed as permanent staff in the theatres.
  • In 2016 almost 1.2 million visits were made to the theatre.
  • There are about 450 premieres in total in Estonian theatres per year. 



The activities of theatrical institutions are primarily governed by the Performing Arts Institutions Act and National Opera Act. 

The Performing Arts Institutions Act defines the performing arts institution and provides for the organisation, financing and reporting of its activities. A performing arts institution is an institution,
  • which organises regularly public presentations of the creative work of authors and performers;
  • which is in employment relations with persons engaged in creative activities;
  • which has an artistic director and an artistic council;
  • which informs the public of performances or concerts. 
This Act regulates the activity of performing arts institutions, which operate as a foundation founded by the state or with the participation of the state  or as a local government agency. The Act regulates the activities of the performing arts institutions operating as legal persons in private law only insofar as it is specified in the Act.
The National Opera Act defines the Estonian National Opera as a legal person in public law.

Main partners


Estonian Theatre Union
unites the associations, unions, societies and so on of professional theatre artists. It acts at the same time both as an umbrella organisation and as a trade union.

Estonian Union of Performing Arts Institutions (EETEAL)
unites Estonian theatre directors and generates policies and initiatives that are common to all the institutions, for instance the design and implementation of a financing scheme, ordering of the labour market by collective  agreements, communication with other cultural organisations, and legislative initiatives.

Estonian Union of Small and Project Theatres
represents and protects small theatres and facilitates theatre projects.

Estonian Dance Council
enhances joint activities by Estonian dance institutions and organisations, protects the interests of its members and the whole field, promotes and appreciates Estonian dance art in all its manifestations.

Estonian Theatre Agency
handles copyrights in the field of theatre, promotes Estonian  playwriting, gathers and forwards theatre-related information, introduces Estonian theatre abroad, collects and publishes Estonian theatre statistics. It also holds playwriting contests.


Katre Väli
Adviser (Theatre)

Phone +372 628 22212


Last updated: 12 January 2018