Vienna State Opera

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Vienna State Opera
Logo Wiener Staatsoper.svg
Wien - Staatsoper (1).JPG
Location Vienna, Austria
Coordinates 48°12′12″N16°22′09″E / 48.20333°N 16.36917°E / 48.20333; 16.36917 Coordinates: 48°12′12″N16°22′09″E / 48.20333°N 16.36917°E / 48.20333; 16.36917
OwnerCity of Vienna
Type Opera house
Capacity 1709 seated, 567 standing
Construction
Opened25 May 1869
Architect Eduard van der Nüll, August Sicard von Sicardsburg
Builder Josef Hlávka
Website
Official website

The Vienna State Opera (German : Wiener Staatsoper) is an Austrian opera house and opera company based in Vienna, Austria. It was originally called the Vienna Court Opera (Wiener Hofoper). In 1920, with the replacement of the Habsburg Monarchy by the First Austrian Republic, it was renamed the Vienna State Opera. The members of the Vienna Philharmonic are recruited from its orchestra.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Opera house theatre building used for opera performances

An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building.

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

Vienna is the federal capital and largest city of Austria, and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Contents

History

Construction site of the new building, 1863 Bau Staatsoper.jpg
Construction site of the new building, 1863

History of the building

Construction

The opera house was the first major building on the Vienna Ringstrasse commissioned by the Viennese "city expansion fund". Work commenced on the house in 1861 and was completed in 1869, following plans drawn up by architects August Sicard von Sicardsburg and Eduard van der Nüll. It was built in the Neo-Renaissance style by the renowned Czech architect and contractor Josef Hlávka.

Architect person trained to plan and design buildings, and oversee their construction

An architect is a person who plans, designs and reviews the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings that have human occupancy or use as their principal purpose. Etymologically, architect derives from the Latin architectus, which derives from the Greek, i.e., chief builder.

August Sicard von Sicardsburg austrian architect

August Sicard von Sicardsburg was an Austrian architect. He is best remembered as the co-architect of the Vienna State Opera, together with Eduard van der Nüll.

Eduard van der Nüll Austrian architect

Eduard van der Nüll was an Austrian architect, who was one of the great masters in the historicist style of Vienna's Ringstrasse.

Play bill for the opening performance of the new Opernhaus, announcing the opening performance of Don Giovanni on May 25, 1869 Hofoper 1869-05-25 Don-Juan.jpg
Play bill for the opening performance of the new Opernhaus, announcing the opening performance of Don Giovanni on May 25, 1869
Coeval watercolour painting of the opening performance (Kunsthistorisches Museum) Wiener Hofoper 1869.jpg
Coeval watercolour painting of the opening performance (Kunsthistorisches Museum)

The Ministry of the Interior had commissioned a number of reports into the availability of certain building materials, with the result that stones long not seen in Vienna were used, such as Wöllersdorfer Stein, for plinths and free-standing, simply-divided buttresses, the famously hard stone from Kaisersteinbruch, whose colour was more appropriate than that of Kelheimerstein, for more lushly decorated parts. The somewhat coarser-grained Kelheimerstein (also known as Solnhof Plattenstein) was intended as the main stone to be used in the building of the opera house, but the necessary quantity was not deliverable. Breitenbrunner stone was suggested as a substitute for the Kelheimer stone, and stone from Jois was used as a cheaper alternative to the Kaiserstein. The staircases were constructed from polished Kaiserstein, while most of the rest of the interior was decorated with varieties of marble.

Wöllersdorf-Steinabrückl Place in Lower Austria, Austria

Wöllersdorf-Steinabrückl is a municipality in the district of Wiener Neustadt-Land in the Austrian state of Lower Austria.

Kelheim Place in Bavaria, Germany

Kelheim is a town and municipality in Bavaria, Germany. It is the capital of the district Kelheim and is situated at the confluence of Altmühl and Danube. Kelheim has a population of around 15,750.

Breitenbrunn, Austria Place in Burgenland, Austria

Breitenbrunn am Neusiedler See is a small wine village in the district of Eisenstadt-Umgebung in the Austrian state of Burgenland.

The Hofoper, c. 1898 Staatsoper (ca.1898).jpg
The Hofoper, c. 1898

The decision was made to use dimension stone for the exterior of the building. Due to the monumental demand for stone, stone from Sóskút, widely used in Budapest, was also used. Three Viennese masonry companies were employed to supply enough masonry labour: Eduard Hauser (still in existence today), Anton Wasserburger and Moritz Pranter. The foundation stone was laid on 20 May 1863.

Dimension stone Natural stone that has been finished to specific sizes and shapes

Dimension stone is natural stone or rock that has been selected and finished to specific sizes or shapes. Color, texture and pattern, and surface finish of the stone are also normal requirements. Another important selection criterion is durability: the time measure of the ability of dimension stone to endure and to maintain its essential and distinctive characteristics of strength, resistance to decay, and appearance.

Sóskút Place in Central Hungary, Hungary

Sóskút is a village in Pest County, Hungary.

Budapest Capital city in Hungary

Budapest is the capital and the most populous city of Hungary, and the tenth-largest city in the European Union by population within city limits. The city had an estimated population of 1,752,704 in 2016 distributed over a land area of about 525 square kilometres. Budapest is both a city and county, and forms the centre of the Budapest metropolitan area, which has an area of 7,626 square kilometres and a population of 3,303,786, comprising 33 percent of the population of Hungary.

Public response

The building was, however, not very popular with the public. On the one hand, it did not seem as grand as the Heinrichshof, a private residence which was destroyed in World War II (and replaced in 1955 by the Opernringhof). Moreover, because the level of Ringstraße was raised by a metre in front of the opera house after its construction had begun, the latter was likened to "a sunken treasure chest" and, in analogy to the military disaster of 1866 (the Battle of Königgrätz), was deprecatingly referred to as "the 'Königgrätz' of architecture". Eduard van der Nüll committed suicide, and barely ten weeks later Sicardsburg died from tuberculosis so neither architect saw the completion of the building. The opening premiere was Don Giovanni , by Mozart, on May 25, 1869. Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) were present.

Battle of Königgrätz decisive battle of the Austro-Prussian War

The Battle of Königgrätz was the decisive battle of the Austro-Prussian War in which the Kingdom of Prussia defeated the Austrian Empire. Taking place near Königgrätz and Sadowa (Sadová) in Bohemia on 3 July 1866, it was an example of battlefield concentration, a convergence of multiple units at the same location to trap and/or destroy an enemy force between them.

<i>Don Giovanni</i> opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Don Giovanni is an opera in two acts with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It is based on the legends of Don Juan, a fictional libertine and seducer. It was premiered by the Prague Italian opera at the National Theater, now called the Estates Theatre, on 29 October 1787. Da Ponte's libretto was billed as a dramma giocoso, a common designation of its time that denotes a mixing of serious and comic action. Mozart entered the work into his catalogue as an opera buffa. Although sometimes classified as comic, it blends comedy, melodrama and supernatural elements.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Austrian composer of the Classical period

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era.

Wartime bombing and redesign

Play bill of the last performance in the old building: Gotterdammerung , June 30, 1944 Wien Goetterdaemmerung 1944-06-30.JPG
Play bill of the last performance in the old building: Götterdämmerung , June 30, 1944

Towards the end of World War II, on March 12, 1945, the opera was set alight by an American bombardment. The front section, which had been walled off as a precaution, remained intact including the foyer, with frescoes by Moritz von Schwind, the main stairways, the vestibule and the tea room. The auditorium and stage were, however, destroyed by flames as well as almost the entire décor and props for more than 120 operas with around 150,000 costumes. The State Opera was temporarily housed at the Theater an der Wien and at the Vienna Volksoper.

Fresco Mural painting upon freshly laid lime plaster

Fresco is a technique of mural painting executed upon freshly laid, or wet lime plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the dry-powder pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the plaster, the painting becomes an integral part of the wall. The word fresco is derived from the Italian adjective fresco meaning "fresh", and may thus be contrasted with fresco-secco or secco mural painting techniques, which are applied to dried plaster, to supplement painting in fresco. The fresco technique has been employed since antiquity and is closely associated with Italian Renaissance painting.

Moritz von Schwind austrian painter

Moritz von Schwind was an Austrian painter, born in Vienna. Schwind's genius was lyrical—he drew inspiration from chivalry, folklore, and the songs of the people. Schwind died in Pöcking in Bavaria, and was buried in the Alter Südfriedhof in Munich.

Theater an der Wien historic theatre in Vienna

The Theater an der Wien is a historic theatre in Vienna located on the Left Wienzeile in the Mariahilf district. Completed in 1801, the theatre has hosted the premieres of many celebrated works of theatre, opera, and symphonic music. Since 2006, it has served primarily as an opera house, hosting its own company.

Lengthy discussion took place about whether the opera house should be restored to its original state on its original site, or whether it should be completely demolished and rebuilt, either on the same location or on a different site. Eventually the decision was made to rebuild the opera house as it had been, and the main restoration experts involved were Ernst Kolb (1948–1952) and Udo Illig (1953–1956).

The Austrian Federal Chancellor Leopold Figl made the decision in 1946 to have a functioning opera house again by 1949. An architectural competition was announced, which was won by Erich Boltenstern. The submissions had ranged from a complete restructuring of the auditorium to a replica of the original design; Boltenstern decided on a design similar to the original with some modernisation in keeping with the design of the 1950s. In order to achieve a good acoustic, wood was the favoured building material, at the advice of, among others, Arturo Toscanini. In addition, the number of seats in the parterre (stalls) was reduced, and the fourth gallery, which had been fitted with columns, was restructured so as not to need columns. The façade, entrance hall and the "Schwind" foyer were restored and remain in their original style.

In the meantime, the opera company, which had at first been performing in the Volksoper, had moved rehearsals and performances to Theater an der Wien, where, on May 1, 1945, after the liberation and re-independence of Austria from the Nazis, the first performances were given. In 1947, the company went on tour to London.

Due to the appalling conditions at Theater an der Wien, the opera company leadership tried to raise significant quantities of money to speed up reconstruction of the original opera house. Many private donations were made, as well as donations of building material from the Soviets, who were very interested in the rebuilding of the opera. The mayor of Vienna had receptacles placed in many sites around Vienna for people to donate coins only. In this way, everyone in Vienna could say they had participated in the reconstruction and feel pride in considering themselves part owners.

However, in 1949, there was only a temporary roof on the Staatsoper, as construction work continued. It was not until November 5, 1955, after the Austrian State Treaty, that the Staatsoper could be reopened with a performance of Beethoven's Fidelio , conducted by Karl Böhm. [1] The American Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, was present. The state broadcaster ORF used the occasion to make its first live broadcast, at a time when there were only c. 800 televiewers in the whole of Austria. The new auditorium had a reduced capacity of about 2,276, including 567 standing room places. [2] The ensemble, which had remained unified until the opening, crumbled in the following years, and slowly an international ensemble formed.

History of the company after the war

In 1945, the Wiener Mozart-Ensemble was formed, which put on world-renowned guest performances and became known particularly for its singing and playing culture. The Austrian conductor Josef Krips was the founder and mentor, who had only survived the Nazi era (given his Jewish heritage) thanks to luck and help from colleagues. At the end of the war, Krips started the renovation of the Staatoper, and was able to implement his aesthetic principles, including the departure from the Romantic Mozart ideal with a voluminous orchestral sound. Instead, qualities more associated with chamber music were featured, as well as a clearer, lighter sound, which would later come to be known as "typically Viennese". Singers who worked with Krips during this time were Erich Kunz, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Wilma Lipp, among others.

As early as 1947, the Mozart-Ensemble was playing guest performances at the Royal Opera House in London, with Mozart's Don Giovanni. Richard Tauber, who had fled from the Nazis, sang Don Ottavio; three months later he died, and was remembered for singing with "half a lung" in order to fulfil his dream, many other artists became associated with the Mozart-Ensemble, for example Karl Böhm, but their role was still greatly peripheral, in a straightforward or assisting role. This was the beginning of Krips' worldwide career, which would take him to the most prominent houses in the world. Until his death in 1974, Krips was regarded as one of the most important Maestri (conductors/music directors) of the Staatsoper.

On July 1, 1998, a historical broadcast took place, as Austria undertook its first presidency of the European Union. Fidelio was broadcast live from the Vienna State Opera to the 15 capital cities of the EU.

Present day

The company

The Vienna State Opera is closely linked to the Vienna Philharmonic, which is an incorporated society of its own, but whose members are recruited from the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera.

The Wiener Staatsoper is one of the busiest opera houses in the world producing 50 to 60 operas in a repertory system per year and ten ballet productions in more than 350 performances. [3] It is quite common to find a different opera being produced each day of a week. The Staatsoper employs over 1000 people. As of 2008, the annual operating budget of the Staatsoper was 100 million euros with slightly more than 50% as a state subsidy.

Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler was artistic director of the Hofoper from 1897 to 1907 Photo of Gustav Mahler by Moritz Nahr 01.jpg
Gustav Mahler was artistic director of the Hofoper from 1897 to 1907

Gustav Mahler was one of the many conductors who have worked in Vienna. During his tenure (1897–1907), Mahler cultivated a new generation of singers, such as Anna Bahr-Mildenburg and Selma Kurz, and recruited a stage designer who replaced the lavish historical stage decors with sparse stage scenery corresponding to modernistic, Jugendstil tastes. Mahler also introduced the practice of dimming the lighting in the theatre during performances, which was initially not appreciated by the audience. However, Mahler's reforms were maintained by his successors.

Herbert von Karajan, artistic director of the Vienna State Opera from 1957 to 1964 Herbert von Karajan 1963.jpg
Herbert von Karajan, artistic director of the Vienna State Opera from 1957 to 1964

Herbert von Karajan

Herbert von Karajan introduced the practice of performing operas exclusively in their original language instead of being translated into German. He also strengthened the ensemble and regular principal singers and introduced the policy of predominantly engaging guest singers. He began a collaboration with La Scala in Milan, in which both productions and orchestrations were shared. This created an opening for the prominent members of the Viennese ensemble to appear in Milan, especially to perform works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Strauss.

Ballet companies merge

At the beginning of the 2005/2006 season, the ballet companies of the Staatsoper and the Vienna Volksoper were united under the direction of Gyula Harangozó, which led to a reduction in the number of performers in the resulting ensemble. This has resulted in an increase in the number of guest stars engaged to work in the ballet. The practice of combining the two ballet companies proved an artistic failure, and Harangozó left when his contract expired in 2010.

From the 2010/2011 season a new company was formed called Wiener Staatsballet, Vienna State Ballet, under the direction of former Paris Opera Ballet principal male dancer Manuel Legris. Legris eliminated Harangozós's policy of presenting nothing but traditional story ballets with guest artists in the leading roles, and is concentrating on establishing a strong in-house ensemble and has restored evenings of mixed bill programs, featuring works of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Jiří Kylián, William Forsythe, and many contemporary choreographers, as well as a reduced schedule of the classic story ballets.

140th anniversary season

2009 marked the 140th anniversary of the Vienna Opera House. To celebrate this milestone an idea designed to reach out and embrace a new audience was conceived. A giant 50 sqm screen was placed on the side of the opera house facing Kärntnerstraße. In four months live broadcasts of over 60 famous operas were transmitted in this way, including performances of Madama Butterfly, The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni. This successful venture brought a new wave of operatic excitement to the many tourists and locals who experienced this cultural event. During daytime the screen displays a replica of the Opera House's façade, as it obstructs a considerable part of the building, along with information about upcoming performances.

The opera house and children

View from the Ring, on the roof the tent for children's performances (demounted in 2015 and now replaced by a special theatre) Staatsoper Wien DSC 5273w.jpg
View from the Ring, on the roof the tent for children's performances (demounted in 2015 and now replaced by a special theatre)

The Vienna State Opera is particularly open to children: under Holender's direction (he has three children of his own), the opera house has become well known for its children's productions, which are performed in a tent on the roof of the Staatsoper. Recent examples include Peter Pan , Das Traumfresserchen  [ de ] (The Dream Gobbler), Der 35. Mai (The 35th of May), C. F. E. Horneman's Aladdin, Bastien und Bastienne and Wagners Nibelungenring für Kinder (Wagner's Ring for children). In addition to this, there is a production of The Magic Flute every year for 9- and 10-year-olds, decorated like the Opernball.

The opera house also has an opera school for boys and girls between the ages of eight and fourteen, which takes place in the afternoons after regular school. The children are introduced to music theatre and the prospect of becoming opera singers. The company recruits singers for children's roles in its productions from this opera school. Twice every season there is a special matinée performance of the opera school. In 2006, the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, they performed a 20-minute miniature opera Der kleine Friedrich arranged from songs of Mozart by Janko Kastelic and Claudia Toman.

View of the orchestra pit and safety curtain Wien Staatsoper Innenansicht.jpg
View of the orchestra pit and safety curtain

"Standing room only" audience

80 minutes before each performance, cheap standing room tickets are sold ( 2 to 4). [2] These are popular with all age groups, and now have an almost legendary regular clientele, which is merciless in showing its displeasure with a performance loudly and unambiguously, but is even louder in voicing approval. [4] [5]

Der Neue Merker

Debutants entry at the Vienna Opera Ball Vienna Opera Ball 27 February 2014 05.JPG
Debutants entry at the Vienna Opera Ball

Every performance at the Vienna State Opera is reviewed by an independent company in the opera publication Der Neue Merker [6] (The New Judge) which is printed in about 2000 copies. This is unusual in that most opera magazines prefer to concentrate on new productions and premieres. There is an online version [7] parallel to the publication, which receives (as of March 2007) an average of 10000 visitors a week, and therefore is one of the most successful German-language opera portals.

Opera ball

For many decades, the opera house has been the venue of the Vienna Opera Ball. It is an internationally renowned event, which takes place annually on the last Thursday in Fasching. Those in attendance often include visitors from around the world, especially prominent names in business and politics. The opera ball receives media coverage from a range of outlets.

The opera ball in 1968 was the occasion for a protest, at which the organisation was criticised for being "elite" (due to the high prices), "conceited" (due to the opulent display of wealth for the newspapers and cameras) and "reactionary" (for upholding an allegedly outdated culture). There was violence between the demonstrators and the police.

Safety curtain

"Safety Curtain" is an exhibition series conceived by the non-profit art initiative museum in progress, which has been transforming the safety curtain of the Vienna State Opera into a temporary exhibition space for contemporary art since 1998. [8] A jury (Daniel Birnbaum and Hans-Ulrich Obrist) selects the artists whose works are attached to the safety curtain by means of magnets and are shown during the course of a season. Artists up to date: Tauba Auerbach, John Baldessari, Matthew Barney, Thomas Bayrle, Tacita Dean, Cerith Wyn Evans, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Christine & Irene Hohenbüchler, Joan Jonas, Jeff Koons, Maria Lassnig, Oswald Oberhuber, Giulio Paolini, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Rosemarie Trockel, Cy Twombly, Kara Walker and Franz West. [9]

Directors / General managers

In chronological order, the directors (or general managers) of the Staatsoper have been:

The current general director of the company, Dominique Meyer, is scheduled to conclude his tenure in 2020. In December 2016, the company announced the appointment of Bogdan Roščić as its next general director, effective with in 2020. [10]

Artistic/Music Directors

In July 2017, the company announced the appointment of Philippe Jordan as its next music director, effective with the 2020-2021 season. [11] [12]

Prominent artists who have appeared at the Staatsoper

Singers

Conductors

Directors, set designers, and costume designers

Opera title and year of debut at the Vienna State Opera in parentheses:

See also

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References

  1. Tim Smith, "Vienna State Opera 50th Anniversary Reopening Gala: An Illustrious History", p. 4, PBS. Retrieved 12 April 2013
  2. 1 2 "Seating plan and admission prices" (in German). Vienna State Opera. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  3. 2016/17 season, Vienna State Opera
  4. "Vom Reiz der billigen Plätze" by Helmut Söring, Hamburger Abendblatt , 31 October 2006 (in German)
  5. von Hornau, Phillipp (2012). Wien ist anders – Ist Wien anders? (in German). p. 631.
  6. For "Merker", see Meistersinger
  7. Der Neue Merker online (in German)
  8. Cf. Exhibition page "Safety Curtain", museum in progress
  9. Kaspar Mühlemann Hartl, museum in progress; Dominique Meyer, Vienna State Opera (Ed.): CURTAIN – VORHANG. A Living Museum Space – The Vienna State Opera Safety Curtain, Vienna: Verlag für moderne Kunst 2017. ISBN   978-3-903228-11-5.
  10. Michael Cooper (2016-12-21). "Sony Executive to Lead Vienna Opera". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-07-31.
  11. "Philippe Jordan ab 2020 Musikdirektor der Wiener Staatsoper" (Press release). Vienna State Opera. 31 July 2017. Retrieved 2017-07-31.
  12. Michael Cooper (2017-07-31). "Philippe Jordan Will Lead the Vienna State Opera. Can He Bring Peace?". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-07-31.