Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Theater an der Wien
The theater was the brainchild of the Vienna theatrical impresario Emanuel Schikaneder, who is otherwise best known to history as Mozart's librettist and collaborator on the opera The Magic Flute (1791). Schikaneder had been granted an imperial licence in 1786 to build a new theater, but it was only in 1798 that he felt ready to act on this authorization. The building was designed by the architect Franz Jäger ; construction was completed in 1801. The theater opened on June 13 of that year with a prologue written by Schikaneder, followed by a performance of the opera "Alexander" by Alexander Teyber . According to the New Grove, it was "the most lavishly equipped and one of the largest theatres of its age."
Although "Wien" is German for "Vienna", the "Wien" in the name of the theater is actually the name of the Wien River (Wienfluss), which once flowed by the theater site; "an der Wien" means "on the banks of the Wien". Today the river is covered over in this location, and the spot houses the Naschmarkt, an open-air market.
The Theater an der Wien was designed in Empire style. 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.
As a prominent theater in an artistically vital city, the Theater an der Wien has been the location for the premieres of many works of theater 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:
- 1817 Die Ahnfrau by Franz Grillparzer
- 1823 Rosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern (Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus), a play by Wilhelmine von Chézy --according to one source, "dreadful beyond imagination" and utterly forgotten today, except for the incidental music by Franz Schubert
- 1874 (April 5) Die Fledermaus by the younger Johann Strauss
- 1905 (December 30) The Merry Widow by Franz Lehár
- 1908 (November 14) The Chocolate Soldier by Oskar Strauss
The theater experienced a golden age during the flourishing of Viennese operetta, and 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.
In 1955, the Theater an der Wien 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 have had their German premieres there. In 1992, the musical Elisabeth (about Franz Joseph's wife, Elisabeth of Bavaria aka Sissi), premiered there.
The quotation from the New Grove above is from their article "Emanuel Schikaneder".
- The theater's English-language Web page
- About the theater (Vienna Online)
- 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.
- The characterization of "Rosamunde" above is from program notes by Eric Bromberger.
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