K. K. Court Opera
Opera has been performed in Vienna for around 400 years, initially in adapted halls, in public squares, but also in small and large theatres. Venues were, for example, the Redoutensaal, the theatre »Auf der Cortina» or today’s Josefsplatz. The actual forerunners of today’s Vienna State Opera are the »Altes Burgtheater« (»Theatre next to the Castle« on Michaelerplatz) and the »Kärntnerthortheater« (on the site of today’s Hotel Sacher).
The history of today’s Vienna State Opera begins in the middle of the 19th century. In 1857, Emperor Franz Joseph I decided on the grand project of the Ringstrasse: the old city walls, which had surrounded Vienna since the Middle Ages, were replaced by a grand boulevard with prestigious, elegant buildings. The Opera House was to be the first public building on the Ring.
The majority of the buildings represent the historicist Ringstrassenstil. Historical forms were used as a rolemodel, mixed and elaborated. The town hall, for example, was built in neo-Gothic style, the parliament has classicist features, and the Opera House was built in the neo-Renaissance style.
The Opera House was planned by the architects August Sicard von Sicardsburg, who designed the basic plan, and Eduard van der Nüll, who designed the interior decoration. On 25 May 1869, after 8 years of construction, the Opera was ceremoniously opened as the »K. k. Hofoper« in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth; Mozart’s Don Giovanni (under the German translation Don Juan) was performed.
In the following decades, the artistic charisma and popularity of the Opera grew steadily, reaching a first peak around the turn of the century under the revolutionary director Gustav Mahler, who renewed the outdated performance system, strengthened precision and ensemble spirit and created a new stage aesthetic.
After the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the establishment of the First Austrian Republic, the »K. k. Hofoper« is finally renamed »Wiener Staatsoper« (the Vienna State Opera).