Vienna – a city of many aspects, but above all, a city of music. No visit could be complete without experiencing the artistic treasures of the city’s great halls and theaters. From Beethoven to the serious intellectualism of the ‘Viennese Schools’, to the frothy waltzes and operettas of Johann Strauss and Léhar, Vienna’s musical history reflects the spectrum of attitudes and endeavors that have shaped the city – a history encapsulated by the story of the Theater an der Wien.
Not to be confused with the Vienna Staatsoper on the Ringstrasse, the Theater an der Wien is at the heart of the old city. The brainchild of Emmanuel Schikaneder, Mozart’s collaborator on Die Zauberflöte and creator of the role of Papageno is commemorated on the Papagenotor or Papageno Gate – one part of the original theater that remains in the building today. A man of both spectacle and excellent musical taste, Schikaneder seems still to be the guiding spirit of the theatre, and his diverse interests and knack for staying ahead of the pack, apparently inherited by his successors, have seen the Theater an der Wien enjoy an extraordinary level of musical influence throughout its starry history.
No less a luminary than Ludwig van Beethoven was the theater’s first musical director and resident composer, making the Theater an der Wien the center of a new musical movement. Following the premieres of “Fidelio” and the “Eroica” Symphony, a steady stream of spectacular plays and momentous musical events followed.
In 1874, the Theater an der Wien presented yet another turning point in musical history – one that set its course until the eve of the Second World War. With the premieres of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus and, later, Léhar’s “The Merry Widow” and “The Land of Smiles”, Viennese operetta took the world by storm.
Home to the Vienna Staatsoper in the 1950s, while the company awaited the rebuilding of their own historic home, legendary conductors such as Karl Böhm, and the evolution of the famous “Viennese Mozart Style”, made the Theater an der Wien one of the most important opera houses in Europe – a reputation resurrected in the present time, after several decades as one of the greatest musical theater venues on the continent.
Opening in its newest incarnation to coincide with Mozart’s 250th anniversary, with a gala headlined by Plácido Domingo, “Vienna’s New Opera House” offers an innovative program to international acclaim. Alongside established stars, one may encounter tomorrow’s operatic heroes, perhaps even in their first performances of a new role.
Mixing standard repertoire with new and unfamiliar works, the theater’s structure reflects the blending of history and modernity that informs the company’s return to its roots. The Classical auditorium is celebrated for both its beauty and its perfect acoustic, and the intimate setting is ideal for appreciating the finer details of the performance.
Opera tickets in Vienna are hotly sought after, so be sure to order tickets for Theater an der Wien in advance, and become part of a musical story that is intrinsic to the city’s character.