On August 4 of last year, we attended a performance of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at Theater An Der Wien in Vienna. I wrote about that performance after we returned from our trip.
Theater An Der Wien, which opened in 1801, was one of the finest theaters of its age. It was the most lavish theater in Europe specifically constructed not as a preserve of the nobility but for the presentation of popular fare for a general audience. The theater was the personal project of impresario Emanuel Schikaneder, best known as librettist of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and originator of the role of Papageno.
Little of the original exterior of Theater An Der Wien remains. The theater has been altered and refurbished numerous times over the last two hundred years, most recently in 1999.
The current main façade is entirely modern, although the restoration pays tribute to the spirit of Imperial Vienna.
Around the corner, on Millockergasse, a side street, may be observed a portion of the original exterior, the carriage entrance. This is the only part of the original exterior that has survived the many reconstructions and restorations.
The interior of Theater An Der Wien is a marvel, the very embodiment of the ideal of an opera house of the first half of the 19th Century. The theater is richly but not excessively adorned, and provides comfortable seating and excellent sightlines for 1000 patrons (the original capacity was 2000, much of which was in the form of standing room).
The original colors of the auditorium were blue and silver, the colors of red and gold having been reserved at the time for Imperial theaters. Other than the change of color scheme and the installation of modern seating, the auditorium remains much as it was in 1801.
Ludwig Von Beethoven was resident composer at Theater An Der Wien from 1803 until 1805. Indeed, Beethoven actually resided in the theater for much of that period.
The original version of “Fidelio” premiered at the theater, as did several Beethoven symphonies and concertos.
A long and distinguished list of classic Viennese operettas first saw the light of day at Theater An Der Wien, including Johann Strauss’s “Die Fledermaus” and Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow”.
Theater An Der Wien was closed as a theater venue shortly before the Anschluss. After Austria joined the Reich, the theater was requisitioned for use by Kraft Durch Freude (“Strength Through Joy”), the Nazi Party-sponsored labor movement that provided entertainment and holidays for the working classes.
The theater emerged from the war unscathed, and from 1945 until 1955 served as home of The Vienna State Opera while the Staatsoper building underwent post-war reconstruction.
Today, Theater An Der Wien once again serves as a full-time opera house, having recently expanded its season so as to offer twelve productions each year, one per month, within a strict stagione system. The productions receive worldwide critical coverage.