The Burgtheater (en: (Imperial) Court Theatre), originally known as K.K. Theater an der Burg, then until 1918 as the K.K. Hofburgtheater, is the Austrian National Theatre in Vienna and one of the most important German language theatres in the world.  The Burgtheater was created in 1741 and has become known as "die Burg" by the Viennese population; its theatre company of more or less regular members has created a traditional style and speech typical of Burgtheater performances.
The theatre opened on 14 March 1741, the creation of the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa of Austria who wanted a theatre next to her palace. Her son, Emperor Joseph II, called it the "German National Theatre" in 1776. Three Mozart operas premiered there: Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782), Le nozze di Figaro (1786) and Così fan tutte (1790), as well as his Piano Conerto #24 in C Minor (1786). Beginning in 1794, the theatre was called the "K.K. Hoftheater nächst der Burg". Beethoven's 1st Symphony premiered there on 2 April 1800. The last performance, in October 1888, was of Goethe’s Iphigenie auf Tauris
The theatre's first building adjoined the Hofburg at Michaelerplatz, opposite St. Michael's Church. The theatre was moved to a new building at the Ringstraße on 14 October 1888 designed by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer, and St. Michael's Wing of the Hofburg Palace was erected at the vacated site.
In 1943, under Nazi rule, a notoriously extreme production of The Merchant of Venice was staged at the Burgtheater - with Werner Krauss as Shylock, one of several theatre and film roles by this actor pandering to antisemitic stereotypes.
On 12 March 1945 the Burgtheater was largely destroyed in a bombing raid, and one month later, on 12 April 1945, it was further damaged by a fire of unknown origin. After the war, the theatre was restored between 1953 and 1955. The classic Burgtheater style and the Burgtheater-German language were trend-setting for German language theatres.
Directors of the Burgtheater
Before 1776 the theatre had been leased from the state by Johann Koháry. The tenant of the theatre Johann Koháry came into financial difficulties in 1773, he got in 1773 Joseph Keglevich as a curator to his side, the director of the theatre Wenzel Sporck, who was the great nephew of Franz Anton Sporck, who had brought the french horn and Antonio Vivaldi to Prague, got a committee for financing under the chairman Franz Keglevich as his assistance in 1773 and Karl Keglevich became the director of the Theater am Kärntnertor in 1773 to have comparative figures. The curator Joseph Keglevich declared the bankruptcy of the theatre in 1776 and the state under Joseph II took over the theatre again in 1776. The director of the theatre Wenzel Sporck and the chairman of the committee for financing the theatre Franz Keglevich were released of their duties in 1776 and the University of Trnava, which rector was Alexander Keglevich in the year 1770/71, got the permission to move into the Buda Castle. Until 1776 the theatre had been financed de facto, but not de jure, by the University of Trnava of the Society of Jesus, which were suppressed by the order of Pope Clement XIV in 1773, therefore it is difficult to determine who the actual director was and therefore the suspicion that the same surnames were no coincidence, however, did not constitute a kinship, but a financial intelligence for purchased exams and for identifying of high-risk housing tenants. Francis II decided on 4 July 1792 to let out the theatre to lease again, but it was not possible to find any tenant, therefore it was not permitted to the directors of the Burgtheater as state employees to bow to the audience, because their performance was not over, because there was no new tenant. The benchmark for the directors became the finances of the house. Finally, Ferdinánd Pálffy became the tenant 1794-1817, his finances had come from the mining institute in Banská Štiavnica the first technical university in the world.
|Joint direction by 15-22 senior
|Franz Carl Hieronymus Brockmann||1790||1790|
|Direction by 5 senior members
|Peter von Braun||1794||1806|
|Direction by a group of senior courtiers
(initially 8) (Kavaliersdirektion)
|Johann Ludwig Deinhardstein||1832||1841|
|Franz Ignaz von Holbein||1841||1849|
|Friedrich Halm (pseudonym of
Eligius Freiherr von Münch-Bellinghausen)
|Franz Freiherr von Dingelstedt||1870||1881|
|Adolf von Wilbrandt||1881||1887|
|Adolf von Sonnenthal||1887||1888|
|Adolf von Sonnenthal||1889||1890|
|Alfred Freiherr von Berger||1910||1912|
|Max von Millenkovich||1917||1918|
|Joint direction by Hermann Bahr, Max Devrient
and Robert Michel (Dreierkollegium)
The theatre and its actors
The Burgtheater remained a strongly traditional stage with a distinct culture until the late 1960s. From the early 1970s on, it became a venue for some of Europe's most important stage director and designers. With many debut performances of plays written by Thomas Bernhard, Elfriede Jelinek, Peter Handke, Peter Turrini and George Tabori, Claus Peymann managed to affirm the Burgtheater's reputation as one of Europe's foremost stages.
Among the best known actors in the ensemble of about 120 members are: Sven-Eric Bechtolf, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Kirsten Dene, Andrea Clausen, Bruno Ganz, Karlheinz Hackl, Robert Meyer, Gertraud Jesserer, August Diehl, Jutta Lampe, Susanne Lothar, Michael Maertens, Tamara Metelka, Birgit Minichmayr, Nicholas Ofczarek, Hedwig Pistorius, Elisabeth Orth, Martin Schwab, Peter Simonischek, Ulrich Tukur, Franz Tscherne and Gert Voss.
Some famous former members of the ensemble were Max Devrient, Josef Kainz, Josef Lewinsky, Joseph Schreyvogel, Adolf von Sonnenthal, Charlotte Wolter, Ludwig Gabillon, Zerline Gabillon, Attila Hörbiger, Paula Wessely, Curd Jürgens, O. W. Fischer, Paul Hörbiger, Otto Tausig, Peter Weck, Fritz Muliar, and Christoph Waltz. Particularly deserving artists may be designated honorable members. Their names are engraved in marble at the bottom end of the ceremonial stairs at the side of the theatre facing the Volksgarten. Members of honor include: Annemarie Düringer, Wolfgang Gasser, Heinrich Schweiger, Gusti Wolf, Klaus Maria Brandauer and Michael Heltau.
The Burgtheater has seen productions staged by directors like Otto Schenk, Peter Hall, Giorgio Strehler, Luca Ronconi, Hans Neuenfels, Terry Hands, Jonathan Miller, Peter Zadek, Paulus Manker, Luc Bondy, Christoph Schlingensief, and Thomas Vinterberg. Among the staged and costume designers were Fritz Wotruba, Luciano Damiani, Pier Luigi Pizzi, Ezio Frigerio, Franca Squarciapino, Josef Svoboda, Anselm Kiefer, Moidele Bickel, and Milena Canonero.
Notable performances: The world premiere of "Des Feux dans la Nuit" in 1999 at the Burgtheater; was the first solo created for a man by internationally acclaimed choreographer Marie Chouinard. It was created specifically for Elijah Brown who went on to tour the solo internationally before becoming the lead character in Celine Dion's stage show "A New Day" created by world-famous director Franco Dragone.
- aeiou-Burgtheater "Burgtheater" (history), Encyclopedia of Austria, Aeiou Project, 1999
- Wiener Tagblatt, 13 October 1888
- Yates, W.E., Theatre in Vienna: A Critical History, 1776-1995, Cambridge University Press; New edition (21 Aug. 2008). p.81
- Briefe an ihre Kinder und Freunde; Verfasser/in: Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria; Alfred Ritter von Arneth, Verlag: Braumüller, Wien 1881.
- Katalog der Portrait-Sammlung der k.u.k. General-Intendanz der k.k. Hoftheater: zugleich ein biographisches Hilfsbuch auf dem Gebiet von Theater und Musik, Burgtheater, Wien 1892, A. W. Künast
- Alt und Neu Wien: Geschichte der österreichischen Kaiserstadt, Band 2, von Karl Eduard Schimmer, Horitz Bermann, Wien 1904, Seite 215
- Théâtre, nation & société en Allemagne au XVIIIe siècle, Roland Krebs, Jean Marie Valentin, Presses universitaires de Nancy, 1990.
- Ungarische Revue, Volume 11, S.53, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, Franklin-Verein, 1891.
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