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Theater an der Wien

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Theater an der Wien
LocationVienna, Austria
Coordinates48°11′58.5″N 16°21′50″E / 48.199583°N 16.36389°E / 48.199583; 16.36389
OwnerVereinigte Bühnen Wien
TypeOpera house
Opened13 June 1801 (1801-06-13)

The Theater an der Wien is a historic theatre in Vienna located on the Left Wienzeile in the Mariahilf district. Completed in 1801, the theatre has hosted the premieres of many celebrated works of theatre, opera, and symphonic music. Since 2006, it has served primarily as an opera house, hosting its own company.

Although "Wien" is German for "Vienna", the "Wien" in the name of the theatre is actually the name of the Wien River, which once flowed by the theatre site; "an der Wien" means "on the banks of the Wien". In modern times, the river has been covered over in this location and the covered riverbed now houses the Naschmarkt, an open-air market.

The theatre is operated in cooperation with Vereinigte Bühnen Wien (VBW) which also operates the Raimund Theater and the Ronacher.

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Early history

Theater an der Wien, 1815

The theatre was the brainchild of the Viennese theatrical impresario Emanuel Schikaneder, who is best known as Mozart's librettist and collaborator on the opera The Magic Flute (1791). Schikaneder's troupe had already been successfully performing for several years in Vienna in the smaller Theater auf der Wieden and this is where The Magic Flute had premiered. As the troupe's performances often emphasized spectacle and scenery, the librettist felt ready to move to a larger and better equipped venue.[1]

He had already been granted an imperial licence to build a new theatre in 1786, but it was only in 1798 that he felt ready to act on this authorization. The building was designed by the architect Franz Jäger in Empire style (it has since been remodeled). Construction was completed in 1801. The theatre has been described as "the most lavishly equipped and one of the largest theatres of its age".[2]

Stained glass window by Carl Geyling's Erben, made around 1900 for the theatre

The theatre opened on 13 June 1801 with a prologue written by Schikaneder followed by a performance of the opera Alexander by Franz Teyber. The new theatre proved to be a sensation. Adolf Bäurle, a local critic, wrote "if Schikaneder and [his partner] Zitterbarth had had the idea ... to charge admission simply for looking at the glories of their Theater an der Wien, Schikaneder would certainly have been able to take in vast sums of money without giving one single performance." The Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung called it the "most comfortable and satisfactory in the whole of Germany" (which meant at the time, "all German-speaking lands").[3]

In 1807 the theatre was acquired by a group of court nobles that included Count Ferdinand Palffy von Erdöd, who bought it outright in 1813. During the period of his proprietorship, which lasted until 1826, he offered opera and ballet and, to appeal to a wider Viennese audience, popular pantomime and variety acts, losing money in elaborate spectacles until finally he was forced to sell the theatre at auction in 1826.

Only a part of the original building is preserved: the Papagenotor (Papageno Gate) is a memorial to Schikaneder, who is depicted playing the role of Papageno in The Magic Flute, a role he wrote for himself to perform. He is accompanied by the Three Boys, characters in the same opera.

From 1889 to 1905, Alexandrine von Schönerer was managing director after the lease ended in 1884 between her and the librettist Camillo Walzel.[4]

In the late 19th to early 20th centuries, the theatre experienced a golden age during the flourishing of Viennese operetta, as referenced in the list below.

Later history

From 1945 to 1955, it was one of the temporary homes of the Vienna State Opera, whose own building had been destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II. However, in 1955, the theatre was closed for safety reasons. It languished unused for several years, and by the early 1960s, the threat had emerged that it would be converted to a parking garage. (This was the same era of "urban renewal" that in America nearly destroyed Carnegie Hall).

By 1962 the theatre had a new and successful role as a venue for contemporary musical theatre. Many English-language musicals had their German premieres there. In 1992, the musical Elisabeth (about Franz Joseph I of Austria's wife, Elisabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sisi), premiered there and ran for six consecutive years until 1998; Elisabeth went on to become the most successful German-language musical to date, returning to the Theater an der Wien for a revival production from 2003 to 2005. The musical Cats directed and choreographed by Gillian Lynne played successfully for seven years.

The Theater an der Wien during the period it emphasized Broadway musicals. The Broadway-style marquee was removed in 2005.

Despite its focus on operettas and musicals, the theatre still served as a venue for occasional opera productions, especially during the Vienna Festival seasons, and sometimes co-produced with the Vienna State Opera. Notable productions of the non-standard repertory include:

Between 1996 and 2002, Riccardo Muti conducted new productions of the three Da Ponte operas of Mozart, based on an original production by Giorgio Strehler.


In 2006, the 250th anniversary year of Mozart's birth, the Theater an der Wien presented a series of major Mozart operas, thus initiating its conversion to a full-time venue for opera and other forms of classical music under the direction of Roland Geyer [de]. Major musical productions since are now presented at either the Raimund Theater or the Ronacher. The first opera to be given was Mozart's Idomeneo with Neil Shicoff in the title role and Peter Schneider conducting the new production by Willy Decker. Other members of the cast were Angelika Kirchschlager, Genia Kühmeier, and Barbara Frittoli.

Geyer is quoted as saying that he wishes to "present cutting edge directors and interesting productions",[5] and his three main areas of focus are on Baroque opera, contemporary opera, and Mozart.

In recent years, the theatre's seasons have included the following works outside the standard repertoire:

Entrance wing facing Naschmarkt, redesigned in 2006
Theater an der Wien interior, 2009


Papageno Gate in Millöckergasse

The Theater an der Wien has seen the premieres of many works by celebrated composers and playwrights. It was a particularly favorite venue for Ludwig van Beethoven, who actually lived in rooms inside the theatre, at Schikaneder's invitation, during part of the period he was composing his opera Fidelio.

List of premieres

The Beethoven memorial displayed on the exterior wall of the theatre. The text reads, "Ludwig van Beethoven lived in the Theater an der Wien in 1803 and 1804. Parts of his opera, the Third Symphony, and the Kreutzer Sonata were written here. Fidelio and other works received their first performance in this house."

Works by Beethoven


  1. ^ Braunbehrens, Volkmar (1990). Mozart in Vienna. New York: Grove Weidenfeld. p. [page needed]. ISBN 978-0-8021-1009-1.
  2. ^ Peter Branscombe; David J. Buch (2001). "Schikaneder, Emanuel (Johann Joseph [Baptist])". Grove Music Online (8th ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/omo/9781561592630.013.90000381653. ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0. (subscription required)
  3. ^ Honolka, Kurt; Pauly, Reinhard G. [in German] (1990). Papageno: Emanuel Schikaneder, Man of the Theater in Mozart's Time. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-931340-21-7.
  4. ^ Troger, Dominik (2006). "200 Jahre Theater an der Wien" (in German). Theater an der Wien.
  5. ^ Anne Midgette, "In Mozart's Backyard, A Fraught Rebirth of an Opera House", The New York Times, 26 November 2006
  6. ^ The Theatre's programme announcement[dead link]
  7. ^ Matthew Gurewitsch, "Classical Music: Vienna's New Opera House Since 1801", The New York Times, 29 May 2009

External links

This page was last edited on 2 January 2024, at 05:20
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