What do composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giacomo Puccini, and Andrew Lloyd Webber all have in common? The first German-language performances of their greatest stage successes took place here, at the Theater an der Wien.
The theater on the Wien River was opened in 1801. Its founding is closely tied to the biography of its first director, Emanuel Schikaneder. With the aid of financier Bartholomäus Zitterbarth, Schikaneder built what was at the time Vienna’s most modern theater. Audiences quickly fell in love with the theater and began thronging there in large numbers.
During its initial decades, the theater’s history is a succession of forced closures and re-openings. It develops into one of the most important stages for the likes of Strauss, Lehár, and Kalmán during the Viennese operetta era.
Following the Second World War, it served as the stage for the Vienna State Opera, after which the building, which had fallen into disrepair, long stood unused. After a thorough restoration, it was periodically adopted as the venue for the Vienna Festival, before it became the successful home of German-language musicals for decades.
When the musical boom subsided in the 1990s, the city of Vienna decided to relaunch regular opera performances at the theater, and further renovations were carried out and completed during Mozart’s anniversary year in 2006. Since then the Theater an der Wien has once again found its place among the world’s leading opera houses.
Inauguration of the Theater an der Wien with the opera Alexander on June 13, 1801 (music: Franz Teyber, text: Emanuel Schikaneder).
First public performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Third Symphony under the direction of the composer (April 7, 1805), followed by the premiere of Leonore on November 20.
December 22, 1808: first performance of Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies as well as his Fourth Piano Concerto.
1945-1955: temporary location of the Vienna State Opera after it was bombed during the war.
1955 finally closed by the building authorities.
Used as a musical stage (artistic direction: Rolf Kutschera, 1965-1983), with performances including „Man of La Mancha”, „Hello Dolly!”, „Fiddler on the Roof" and „Jesus Christ Superstar”.
Era of blockbuster musicals (artistic direction: Peter Weck, 1983-1992), including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats (first German-language performance). 2.3 million enthusiastic fans flock to the 2040 performances in total.
Rudolf Klausnitzer commissioned the musical version of Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers for the Theater an der Wien in 1997.
Recent inauguration as an opera house in 2006. Roland Geyer, who had previously directed the Klangbogen and Osterklang festivals, is named its first artistic director.
Did you know?
Impresario Schikaneder provided umbrellas to the theater’s guests in the event of bad weather; the costs contributed to the theater’s financial ruin.
The decorations and productions were very elaborate and expensive; living animals like horses, lions, and tigers helped capture the audience’s attention - and increased Schikaneder’s debt.
While working on Fidelio, Beethoven lodged at the Theater an der Wien, in the back wing of the building (Laimgrubergasse 26).
Everything is possible: due to its large debts, the theater was twice announced as a lottery prize! (1819 and 1830)
Stars of the era like Ferdinand Raimund, Johann Nestroy, Franz von Suppé, and Jacques Offenbach appeared at the theater.
The “Hölle” cabaret stage was opened in the basement of the theater in 1906; in the 1920s, this “oriental bar” was the nightly meeting place for Vienna’s artist scene.
A double cash flow: while the 300th performance of The Merry Widow is taking place in the theater “up above,” in the Hölle (hell) down below, Lehar’s one-act Fashionable Mitislaw is being premiered to resounding success (1907); the press, however, finds the text “more than frivolous.”
No parking stickers necessary: before the theater was torn down and converted into a car park, the city of Vienna purchased the building and renovated it for 5.7 million euros (1960-1962).