150 Years of the Opera House on the Ring

The opera house on the Ring opened on 25 May 1869 with a festive performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. It was an event that not only generated great excitement in Vienna, but also attracted considerable attention beyond the borders of the Hapsburg empire. Since then the opera house has remained in the public spotlight. For 150 years it has been an internationally important institution, and the affairs of Wiener Staatsoper are always also matters of public interest to an extent found in no other city in the world.

However, the history of opera in Vienna did not start just 150 years ago, but much, much earlier. Accordingly these anniversary celebrations are not restricted to a single day at the opera house, but will cast a wide net and tell the story of opera in Vienna. The Wiener Staatsoper is using a wide variety of different vehicles to illuminate the topic: a symposium with top-class participants will take a comprehensive look at music theatre in Vienna from the baroque era to the present; two exhibitions (at the opera house on the Ring and at the Theatre Museum) and a number of publications will focus on the history and current artistic events in the Vienna opera scene; and on the anniversary itself, the artists and the opera house itself will be honoured.

The artistic programming of the season is also very much influenced by examination of the genre of music theatre in all its facets: a world première (Die Weiden by Johannes Maria Staud), a contemporary Staatsoper première (Orest by Manfred Trojahn), the première of Die Frau ohne Schatten, and an extensive repertoire all reflect key milestones in music theatre. With an anniversary CD box set, school and online projects, streaming and the inclusion of the federal provinces, the opera house on the Ring is setting new boundaries; and at an anniversary celebration on Herbert von Karajan Platz, the Wiener Staatsoper opens its doors wide and invites everyone to come to the party.

After all, we want to celebrate not just the opera house on the Ring, but opera everywhere in Vienna! Celebrate with us!

17 to 19 September 2019
Gustav Mahler Room
Free admission, numbered tickets (from 1 August at all ticket windows)

To get a clear understanding of the history of the opera house on the Ring and its performance history, we need information about the broader music theatre context in Vienna, Austria, and Europe. Taking baroque opera as their starting point, a symposium with top-class participants under the direction of Oliver Rathkolb will discuss the changing situations, forms of expression and context of music theatre (in Vienna). Who were the consumers, what was the political situation, what could be performed - and what could not be performed? What was the season policy of each director, and how was the opera house situated financially?

A number of lectures given during the three-day symposium will present an accurate picture of the situation of opera in and around Vienna - and well beyond.

 A second symposium is planned for May 2019. The findings of the session in September and additional contributions will be published in an illustrated two-volume edition.

Folder with the complete programme of the symposium

Topics at the symposium:

  • Herbert Seifert: From the beginnings of opera to Josef I.
  • Claudia Michels: Opera at the court of Charles VI.
  • Andrea Sommer-Mathis: From court opera to public opera
  • The early days of the Kärntnertor Theatre as an opera stage in first half of the 18th century.
  • Michele Calella: The end of opera seria and opera buffa, opéra comique and singspiel through 1815
  • Otto Biba: Suburban theatre, aristocratic and monastic theatre 
  • Clemens Höslinger: Opera from 1816 to 1869
  • Alfred Noe: The Italian art of writing libretti
  • Herbert Zeman: Development of the German language libretto and its use in operas from Mozart to Wagner
  • Irene Brandenburg: Ballet from its beginnings to 1791
  • Gunhild Oberzaucher-Schuller: Ballet from 1791 to 1869
  • Rudi Risatti: Set design
  • Otto Biba / Herbert Seifert: Orchestra
  • Clemens Höslinger: The directorships of Jauner, Jahn, Weingartner, and Gregor
  • Christian Glanz: The directorships of Mahler and Strauss-Schalk in political context
  • Clemens Hellsberg: Franz Dingelstedt, the Court Opera Orchestra and Philharmonic concerts
  • Oliver Rathkolb: Opera in Vienna under the swastika
  • Andreas Láng / Oliver Láng: Staatsoper directorships since 1945
  • Peter Dusek: Singers at the Wiener Staatsoper after 1945 and ““ the””  orchestra
  • Fritz Trümpi: The “reconstruction”  of the Staatsoper from the viewpoint of the exile (1945 to 1955)
  • Michael Kraus: The Wiener Staatsoper and musical Modernism after 1945
  • Oswald Panagl: The Wiener Staatsoper and the Salzburg Festival
  • Richard Kurdiovsky: The imperial and royal opera of Sicardsburg and van der Nüll
  • Anna Stuhlpfarrer: The reconstruction of the Wiener Staatsoper by Erich Boltenstern
  • Susana Zapke: The Wiener Staatsoper as an urban memorial and representational site since 1945
  • Oliver Rathkolb: The Wiener Staatsoper as an international and global icon of Austria
  • Stefan Schmidl: The Wiener Staatsoper and its media productions
  • Isolde Schmid-Reiter: Music theatre for children as a contemporary art form

On the morning of 25 May 2019, as part of an anniversary matinée the 150 year history of the opera house and its international artistic importance far beyond the borders of Austria will be celebrated, as will the artists who bring the opera house to life performance after performance.

On the evening of 25 May 2019 -  the anniversary of its opening -  a star-studded festival première of Richard Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten will take place. Together with his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Strauss, at the time director of the opera house, developed a fairytale, complex and psychologically discriminating work that received its world première a hundred years ago, on 10 October 1919 at the opera house on the Ring. Since then, Die Frau ohne Schatten has enjoyed a rich performance history and is regarded as a special highlight of Viennese and international music theatre.

Conductor: Christian Thielemann
Director: Vincent Huguet
Sets: Aurélie Maestre
Costumes: Caroline de Vivaise
Lights and video: Bertrand Couderc
Choral direction: Thomas Lang
The Emperor: Stephen Gould
The Empress: Camilla Nylund
The Nurse: Evelyn Jean Landry
Barak the Dyer: Wolfgang Koch
The Dyer’s Wife: Nina Stemme

Première: 25 May 2019

Additional performances: 30 May, 2, 6, 10 June 2019

A celebration for all: on 26 May 2019, the Wiener Staatsoper steps out onto Herbert von Karajan Platz where it will present performances by ensemble singers, guests, the Staatsoper orchestra, the stage orchestra and the Staatsoper chorus, using this public area and the Staatsoper building in somewhat unconventional ways - surprises included!

The comprehensive exhibition entitled “150 Years of the Opera House on the Ring”  closely traces the 150-year history of the institution. Original documents, loaned items and snapshots will shed new light on artistic positions, personal fates and milestones in the history of the opera house.

The exhibition tells an all-encompassing story, not only of an opera house, but also reflecting on concepts, social circumstances and the cultural political environment in which the artists performed. From 16 May 2019 on, in collaboration with the Wiener Staatsballett the Austrian Theatre Museum presents the exhibition “The Pointe Dances” curated by Andrea Amort and illustrating 150 years of ballet at the Wiener Staatsoper. In the exhibition, selected contemporary testimonies can be seen describing the value of the ensemble, artistic highlights and the impact of the political upheavals of both world wars. Catalogues will be published for both exhibitions.

Zur Eröffnung des Hauses im Jahr 1869 erschien – in limitierter Auflage – ein edler Prachtband mit detailreichen Studien und Abbildungen zur Architektur des damals neuen Opernhauses. Inzwischen existieren nur noch wenige dieser – bei Sammlern hochbegehrten – großformatigen Sonderdrucke. Anlässlich des Jubiläums 2019 hat sich die Wiener Staatsoper entschlossen, einen Faksimile-Nachdruck der historischen Architekturstudien, erweitert durch einen Band mit Entwürfen zum Wiederaufbau 1945 bis 1955 des Architekten Erich Boltenstern, aufzulegen.

The Wiener Staatsoper is also celebrating its anniversary with a number of special publications. In addition to the aforementioned symposium, facsimile volumes and catalogues, other documents on the history and present of the opera house will be published on and around 25 May 2019. These include for example a book about standing room at operas in Vienna.

At 10 a.m. on 9 May 2019 a book presentation and discussion of “150 years of the opera house on the Ring” will take place.

In collaboration with ORFEO, the Wiener Staatsoper is bringing out a special edition of major recordings from the opera house on the Ring. 

The systematic indexing of all performances (including those in the temporary quarters) and of all guest performances since the opening in 1869 and their transfer to a user-friendly online database on the website of the Wiener Staatsoper will be completed in May 2019. From then on, all performances including their casts can be called up at www.wiener-staatsoper.at, including using complex search criteria by role/artist/date.

The Wiener Staatsoper is stepping out into the public at large with various individual projects. Whether schools or Austrian provinces, live or via streaming, this time the opera house on the Ring is visiting its patrons!


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