It is a dream of even the most avid theater – to visit a performance of the Vienna Burgtheater one day. The standard of classical productions, a manual of oratory and satire, one of the centre of cultural life in Vienna – this is what experts say about the second of the oldest theaters in Europe, located on the back of a bill with a face value of 50 Austrian shillings sample of 1965-1970.
The auditorium of the majestic building, which looks like a ship from afar, holds about 1000 spectators, and its troupe has more than 100 people, which is one of the most numerous cast in Europe.
Here Mozart and Beethoven debuted, the theater star Joseph Kainz rose, met the performance ” Anna Karenina ” and “Crime and punishment”, discussed acute issues and enlightened…
So, today we are going to the Ringstrasse Boulevard to board this “unsinkable liner of classics” and sail to the origins of the most German of all German theaters.
The influence of “foreign aliens” and ….. Sport’s
They say that theater starts with a hanger, but what about starting with sports? It seems that this is what the Empress Maria Theresa (the mother of the same Marie Antoinette) thought in 1741, when she noticed the empty hall for ball games… in her Vienna Palace… Deciding that her subjects clearly lack spectacles, and cultural development should not be inferior to physical development, she quickly issues a decree on the creation of a theater in the empty room.
The project took 7 years, and on may 14, 1748, the Burgtheater (the original name of the theater an der Burg) opens its doors to the public and automatically receives the status of the Royal theater at the Palace, comfortably located opposite the Chapel of St. Michael.
It is an amazing fact that in the first years exclusively foreign repertoire prevailed here, and Opera and ballet masters from France and Italy came to the stage.
The first” native ” company, consisting of about 20 men and 20 women, Germany received only in 1761, and only ten years later, the performance was played exclusively by German actors, who, in addition to outstanding talent and bright personality, also themselves acted as authors of plays!
Especially successful in this were Stephanie and Mueller, who skillfully exposed topical themes from urban and social life in their productions. Also in the Burgtheater worked one of the greatest actors of the German theater Friedrich Ludwig Schroeder (from 1781 to 1785), performed by Franz Brockman, Joseph Kainz. In General, the entire cast of the first years of the Burgtheater’s life can be divided into 3 categories: bearers of the traditions of classical court Opera, the so-called “people’s theater” and invited guests.
The genre of sharp Comedy, rich in everyday subtleties, so appealed to the Viennese public that it defined the entire style of the Burgtheater for decades to come.
Debuts of Mozart and Beethoven
At the turn of the 1770s-1780s, Maria Theresa’s son, Emperor Joseph II, was looking for ways to develop the German national Opera — “singspiel”, and he himself took a direct part in improving the court and national theater. However, at that time, the leading Viennese composers Gluck and Salieri were engaged in works of higher genres, and hoping for their consent to create “something comic” was not the most reliable occupation.
Then Joseph turns to the young Mozart, who has long pursued ambitions to become a court composer and write “to please the monarch”. However, Mozart’s Zaida, which was created earlier, did not exactly fit the Viennese stage, but it attracted the attention of Johann Gottlieb Stephani, an Austrian playwright and Manager of our Burgtheater.
Anticipating the possible success and gratitude of the Emperor, Stefani promises the young composer a new libretto, and by August Mozart receives the source material for his Opera. The premiere of “the Abduction from the Seraglio” took place on the stage of the Burtheater on July 16, 1782 and was a resounding success, and its creators not only opened the doors to the “big world”, but also broke a good jackpot of 1200 florins in just two days. Later, Mozart would return to this stage in pomp with the premieres of ” the Wedding of Figaro “in 1786,” So everyone does ” in 1790, and the piano Concerto No. 24.
So, Palace plans has succeeded, and the reforms related to the popularization of German classics continue. Young talents get the green light, and 8 years later the stage of the Burgtheater gave a serious start to another celebrity from the world of music — Ludwig van Beethoven, who on April 2, 1800 presented his Symphony No. 1 in C major, dedicated to Baron Gottfried van Swieten.
For its time, the work was very serious in volume – it consists of 4 parts, and the total duration takes about 25 minutes. To the author’s surprise, the performance received incredibly warm approval and was described by critics as: “an exemplary work of art, full of novelty and richness of ideas”. Later, Collin’s “Coriolanus”, for which Beethoven wrote the overture and “Egmont”, again to his music, were also staged here.
The development of the theater and acting companies was also rapid, and in 1794, Joseph ordered to rename the Burgtheater in the Court theater of the Hofburg, under which it was known for many years. However, time passed, the needs of the public and the popularity of the theater grew, there was not enough space to implement all the ideas, and after almost 140 years since the first performance, in October 1888, the Burgtheater troupe was transferred to a new building on Ringstrasse Boulevard. The project of the building was perfectly fits into the development of the new street, which also houses the city Hall and the famous Vienna Opera.
The architects were Gottfried Semper and Karl von Hasenauer. The interior of the building was designed in the French Baroque style with a characteristic predominance of velvet and gilding. The foyer and stairs were touched by the hand of Gustav Klimt and his brother Ernst. Gustav Klimt recreated the ancient theater in the Sicilian Taormina in the painting of the entrance to the Landtmann cafe. The stairwell on the Volksgarten side was decorated with images of the Globe Theatre and the final scene of “Romeo and Juliet” (by the way, the artist painted himself and two of his colleagues in the background of this picture).
The top of the theater building is decorated with a stone statue of Apollo, and on the outer facade there are busts of famous classics of drama, whose plays came to life on the platforms of the Burgtheater: Schiller, Goethe, Shakespeare, Moliere, Lessing. In September 1922, the Akademtheater, located on Liststrasse, joined the Burgtheater as a branch.
The 20th century came, and the existence of the Burgtheater, like many others, was almost interrupted by the Second world war.
In 1943, under Nazi protection, William Shakespeare’s the merchant of Venice was staged at the Burgtheater, with Werner Kraus performing Shylock. By the way, this was just one of a series of roles of the actor that promoted anti-Semitic views. After the end of the war, Kraus was arrested and put on trial for his national intolerance, but managed to get off with a fine.
In March 1945, the theater building was bombed, and later there was a sudden fire, which also brought serious losses. It seems that only Klimt’s staircase was not damaged here.
Restoration work was able to begin only in 1953, and the actors, temporarily left without a working home, were given the stage of the former variety show “Ronacher”. The Burgtheater decided to start its second life in its original building on the Ringstrasse, restored to its former splendor and equipped with new technologies, with the drama “the Greatness and fall of king Ottokar” by Franz Grillparzer, which premiered in 1955.
Today, the Burgtheater is a real “Big Boss”, which continues to exert an active influence on the social and cultural life of the world, and does so with brilliant success. Every year, more than 100 different performances take place on the stage with an area of almost 700 sq.m., and the current repertoire is still occupied by Opera and classical drama by German authors. However, the management maintains friendly relations with foreign colleagues, such as Nature Theater of Oklahoma (new York) and the Belgian Needcompany, which only contributes to its development and adds diversity. The theater pleases those who appreciate Russian drama. One of the most” fresh “and impressive productions is A. Chekhov’s” the Seagull”, which premiered in 2001.
By the way, to appreciate the scale and luxury of the Burgtheater, it is not necessary to buy a ticket for the performance – go on an English or German — language excursion, which is held throughout the theater season at exactly 3 PM-we advise you not to be late. (And Yes — then still go to the play, because this opportunity is not possible for any self-respecting theater-goer).