Vienna State Opera

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Vienna State Opera (Ger. Wiener Staatsoper). Prin. Austrian opera house and co., one of leading opera organizations of world. Orig. Vienna Court Opera (Wiener Hofoper). The first opera was perf. in Vienna in 1633 ( Bartolaia's Il Sidonio). Opera then became est. as regular court entertainment and special th. built. Theater bei der Hofburg was opened 1748. Gluck was court Kapellmeister 1754–70, 10 of his operas being written for Vienna. Towards end of 18th cent., Burgtheater lost ground to Theater am Kärntnerthor (built 1708), where Salieri became cond. Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782), Le nozze di Figaro (1786), and Così fan tutte (1790) all had at Burgtheater, while Don Giovanni had its first Vienna perf. there (with additions) in 1788. In 1842 Donizetti was both court composer and cond. Court opera's first permanent cond. was Karl Eckert (1854–60) who introduced Wagner's operas to the city. New theatre, Die Oper am Ring, opened 1869. Richter became cond. in 1875 and shared directorship with Jahn from 1880 to 1896, the co. in this period having singers of the quality of Materna, Reichmann, Winkelmann, and van Dyck. In 1897 Mahler became dir. and initiated the most glorious decade in the history of the th., with a great singing-acting co. incl. Gutheil-Schoder, Mildenburg, Selma Kurz, Schmedes, Mayr, and Slezak, and Roller as designer. Mahler was succeeded by Weingartner 1907–11 and Hans Gregor 1911–18. In 1918 Court Opera became State Opera, with Schalk and R. Strauss as joint dirs. 1919–24, Schalk continuing alone until 1929. The singers now included Lotte Lehmann, Elisabeth Schumann, Jerger, Piccaver, and Jeritza, who were joined in the 1930s by Tauber, Kern, Ursuleac, Kiepura, Schorr, Olszewska, Dermota, etc. Krauss was cond. 1929–34, Weingartner 1934–6, Walter 1936–8. After an interregnum, Karl Böhm became dir. in 1943 until the th. was bombed in March 1945. For 10 years, with Böhm, Josef Krips, and Krauss as conds. the State Opera played in the Theater an der Wien and the Volksoper, and visited London in 1948. Böhm again became dir. 1955 and the rebuilt th. (capacity 2,200) opened in 1955 with Fidelio. Böhm resigned 1956, being succeeded by Karajan 1956–64. The post-war vocal galaxy incl. Gueden, Schwarzkopf, Reining, Seefried, Welitsch, Hotter, Patzak, Schöffler, and Weber. In the 1970s Bernstein, Böhm, Karajan, and Mehta cond. famous perfs. In 1982 Lorin Maazel, an American, was appointed dir., with a contract until 1986, but he left in 1984 after a controversial period of musical politics which his predecessors Mahler and Strauss would have recognized as characteristically Viennese. Claudio Abbado was appointed in 1986 but—politics again!—resigned in 1991. It may be fairly said that the history of the Vienna Opera is one of spectacular triumphs, petty politics, a fairly conservative policy towards new mus., and glorious singing.