Theater an der Wien

Theater an der Wien

The Theater an der Wien "(The Theatre on the Wien River)" is a theatre in Vienna. Opened in 1801, it has a fabled history, and continues to be an important venue to this day.


The theater was the brainchild of the Viennese theatrical impresario Emanuel Schikaneder, who is best known to history 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 (800-seat) Theater auf der Wieden, where "The Magic Flute" had premiered. Schikaneder, whose performances often emphasized spectacle and scenery, felt ready to move to a larger and better equipped venue. [Braunbehrens 1990]

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 theater has been described as "the most lavishly equipped and one of the largest theatres of its age." ["Emanuel Schikaneder" in "Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians"] .

The theatre opened on 13 June 1801 with a prologue written by Schikaneder followed by a performance of the opera "Alexander" by Alexander Teyber.

Only a part of the original building is preserved: the "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 shown with his three children, playing the Three Boys in the same opera.

Premieres at the theatre

As a prominent theatre in an artistically vital city, the Theater an der Wien has been the location for the premieres of many works of theatre and music that endure to this day, among them:

*1805 (November 20) Ludwig van Beethoven's opera "Fidelio". Beethoven actually lived in rooms inside the theater, at Schikaneder's invitation, during part of the period of composition.
*Other Beethoven premieres:
**1803 (April 5) Second Symphony
**1805 (April 7) Third Symphony
**1806 (December 23) Violin Concerto
**1808 (December 22) Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, Choral Fantasy, and the Piano Concerto No. 4. (For the full program see "Symphony No. 5")
*1817 "Die Ahnfrau" by Franz Grillparzer
*1823 "Rosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern" ("Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus"), a play by Wilhelmine von Chézy--according to one critic, "dreadful beyond imagination" [Source: Eric Bromberger's program notes for a performance of Schubert's work by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, 12 November 2007; [] ] - and utterly forgotten today, except for the incidental music by Franz Schubert
*1844 "Der Zerrissene" by Johann Nepomuk Nestroy
*1874 (April 5) "Die Fledermaus" by the younger Johann Strauss
*1882 "Der Bettelstudent" by Karl Millöcker
*1898 (January 5) "Der Opernball" by Richard Heuberger
*1905 (December 30) "The Merry Widow" by Franz Lehár
*1908 (November 14) "The Chocolate Soldier" by Oscar Straus
*1909 (November 12) "Der Graf von Luxemburg" by Franz Lehár

Later history

, whose own building had been destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II.

In 1955, the theater 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).

Fortunately, in 1962 the theater found a new and successful role for itself as a venue for contemporary musical theater. Many English-language musicals had their German premieres there. In 1992, the musical "Elisabeth" (about Franz Joseph I of Austria's wife, aka Sissi), premiered there. The musical "Cats" directed and choreographed by Gillian Lynne played successfully for seven years.

Recent years: revival as a full time opera house

In the Mozart bicentennial year, the Theater an der Wien presented a series of major Mozart operas and it has since become a full-time venue for opera and other forms of classical music under the direction of Roland Geyer. The first opera to be given was Mozart's "Idomeneo".

Geyer is quoted as saying that he wishes to "present cutting edge directors and interesting productions" [Anne Midgette, "In Mozart's Backyard, A Fraught Rebirth of an Opera House", "New York Times", 26 November 2006] , and his three main areas of focus are on Baroque opera, contemporary opera, and Mozart.

The theater's seasons have included the following works:

*André Previn: "A Streetcar Named Desire", conducted by Sian Edwards, staged by Stein Winge
*Georg Friedrich Händel:
**"Giulio Cesare in Egitto", conducted by René Jacobs, staged by Christof Loy
**"Ariodante", conducted by Christophe Rousset, staged by Lukas Hemleb
**"Partenope", conducted by Christophe Rousset, staged by Pierre Audi
*Jake Heggie: "Dead Man Walking", conducted by Sian Edwards, staged by Nikolaus Lehnhoff
*Joseph Haydn: "Orlando Paladino"; conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, staged by Keith Warner
*Francis Poulenc: "Dialogues des Carmélites"; conducted by Bertrand de Billy, staged by Robert Carsen
*Luigi Cherubini: "Médée"; conducted by Fabio Luisi, staged by Torsten Schäfer
*Leoš Janáček: "Káťa Kabanová", conducted by Kirill Petrenko, staging by Keith Warner
*Fernando Moreno Torroba: "Luisa Fernanda", conducted by Josep Caballé-Domenech, staged by Emilio Sagi
*Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
**"La finta semplice", conducted by Fabio Luisi, staged by Laurent Pelly;
**"Le nozze di Figaro", conducted by Graeme Jenkins, staged by Kasper Bech Holten;
**"Die Zauberflöte", directed by Jean-Christophe Spinosi, staged by Achim Freyer.Among the singers are Marijana Mijanovic, Frederica von Stade, Olaf Bär, Patricia Petibon, Anatoli Kotscherga, Anja Silja, Diana Damrau, Plácido Domingo, Maria José Montiel, Andrea Rost, Christine Schäfer, David Daniels.

The Theater an der Wien frequently collaborates in co-productions with other opera houses, such as the Washington Opera, the Los Angeles Opera, the Teatro Real in Madrid, De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam, and the Sächsische Staatsoper in Dresden.


"Wien" is the German word for "Vienna"; but the "Wien" in the name of the theater is not the name of the city but rather the name of the Wien River (Wienfluss), which once flowed by the theater site; "an der Wien" means next to (that is, on the banks of) the Wien. In modern times the name has become somewhat opaque, since the river has been covered over in this location; the covered riverbed now houses the Naschmarkt, an open-air market.

Artistic directors

*Roland Geyer



*Braunbehrens, Volkmar (1990) "Mozart in Vienna". New York: Grove Weidenfeld.
*"Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians", online edition. Copyright 2008, Oxford University Press.

External links

* [ Official Website (in German)]
* [ Andreas Praefcke's "Carthalia" site] , entry for "Theater an der Wien". Pictures of both exterior and interior in the form of postcards, as well as a long list of premieres. The image labeled "Millöckergasse entrance" shows the Papageno gate with the memorial to Schikaneder.
* [ Event listings in English]

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