The history of the Vienna Opera creation
The appearance of the Viennese opera dates back to the middle of the 17th century, when the first opera performances of the Italian troupe took place at the court of the Austrian Emperor. From the 2nd half of the 17th century, operas performed by the Austrian court troupe were staged in various theaters (first in the Vienna Burgtheater and beginning from 1763 mainly in the Theater am Kärntnertor). Italian operas comprised the basis of the repertoire. Those performances were pompous.
From the middle of the 18th century, the activity of the court opera troupe was connected with Christoph Willibald Gluck (from 1754 - the court chapel-master) opera reform and with the development of the national opera style based on the genre of the Singspiel. The operas by Ignaz Umlauf (“Miners”, 1778, etc.), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (“The Abduction from the Seraglio”, 1782), Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (“Doctor and Apotheker”, 1786) and others were staged.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, the Viennese opera staged the best works of German, Austrian, Italian and French composers: Luigi Cherubini (“Medea”), Ludwig van Beethoven (“Fidelio”), Gioachino Rossini (“Tancred”, “La gazza ladra"," William Tell" and others.), C. M. Weber ("Der Freischütz"), Giacomo Meyerbeer “Robert le Diable», Huguenots"), Gaetano Donizetti ("Lucia di Lammermoor"," Lucrezia Borgia"), Giuseppe Verdi “Nabucco", "Rigoletto", "The Troubadour", etc.), Richard Wagner (“Lohengrin”, “Tannhäuser”, etc.), Charles Gounod ("Faust"), etc. During these years, many of the prominent European singers, including Austrian and German ones, were performing there: Paulina Anna Milder-Hauptmann, Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, Caroline Unger, Henriette Sontagand and others.
In 1869, the Vienna Court Opera received a new building, which for a long time was considered one of the best theater buildings in the world (the project of architects Eduard van der Nüll and August Sicard von Sicardsburg). The theater opened with the opera Don Giovanni by Mozart. In 1875-97, Hans Richter was the musical director and principal conductor of the theater. He was the outstanding interpreter of the Wagner's operas. During his directorship, the following performances were staged: tetralogy “The Ring of the Nibelung” (1877-79), “Tristan and Iseult”, the Mozart cycle, “Othello”, as well as the modern operas by Peter Cornelius, Jules Massenet, Engelbert Humperdinck and others. The interest in ballet increased by the end of the 19th century, and among others, the ballets “Die Puppenfee” and “The Sun and the Earth” by Josef Bayer were often performed.
At the end of the 19th - beginning of the 20th centuries, thanks to the reformist activity of Gustav Mahler (the principal conductor of the theater in 1897–1907), the Vienna Court Opera became one of the best European opera houses. Mahler sought to subordinate all opera performance components to a single concept (in accordance with the author's score), carefully preparing each production, imposing high requirements on the orchestra, chorus and singers, seeking special musical drama expressiveness. He involved in the theater work the conductors Bruno Walter and Franz Schalk, decorator Andreas Roller.
During these years, along with the brilliant productions of the works by Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Wagner, for the first time were performed “La Bohème”, “Falstaff”, “Electra” and other operas by Richard Strauss. As well as the operas of Pyotr Tchaikovsky “Eugene Onegin”, “The Queen of Spades” and “Iolanta”. The singers Pauline Lucca, Amalie Friedrich-Materna, Hermann Winkelmann, Anna von Mildenburg, Lotte Lehmann, Leo Slezak, and others performed on the opera stage.
In 1918, after the establishment of the Austrian Republic, the theater received its present name. Franz Schalk headed the theater until 1929. In the 1920’s – 1930’s, along with the works of Mozart (“Idomeneus”), Giuseppe Verdi (“Don Carlos”, “Macbeth”); Richard Strauss (“The Woman without a Shadow”, “Salome”, “Helena of Egypt”); Maurice Ravel (“The Spanish Hour”); Manuel de Falla (“Short Life”); the operas of contemporary composers in the repertoire of the theater occupied important place. Among them were “The Miracle of Eliana” by Erich Wolfgang Korngold; “Johnny plays” by Ernst Krenek; “Die Glückliche Hand” by Arnold Schoenberg; "Oedipus Rex» by Igor Stravinsky and others.
During the years of the fascist occupation (1938-45), the Vienna State Opera sank into decay. Immediately after the liberation of Austria (1945), the theater resumed its activity and soon regained the glory of the country's leading musical and theatrical center. The theater building in 1945 was destroyed by bombardment; the theater temporarily gave performances in the premises of the Theater an der Wien and the National Opera.
Season of 1955-56 opened in the restored building (auditorium for 2209 seats). The following operas were staged: “Fidelio”, “Don Giovanni”, “Aida”; «The Master-Singers of Nuremberg" by Wagner, etc.
In 1956-64, Herbert von Karajan directed the Vienna State Opera. Among the best performances of the 50’s-60’s were: “All Women Do It, or The School for Lovers”, ”The Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart; “Julius Caesar” by George Handel; “Orpheus” by Christoph Willibald Gluck; “Cinderella” by Gioachino Rossini; Masquerade Ball; tetralogy "The Ring of the Nibelung ", "Tristan and Isolde" by Wagner; " The Bartered Bride", "Prince Igor"; “Ariadne on Naxos” and “Salome” by Richard Strauss; “Lulu” Alban Berg; the triptych “Triumphs” and “King Oedipus” by Carl Orff; “Der Revisor” by Werner Egk; “Matthias the Painter” by Paul Hindemith; “Dialogues of the Carmelites” by Francis Poulenc, etc.
The best Austrian singers and singers from other countries performed in the Vienna State Opera in the 1930-1960’s. They were Maria Cebotari, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Irmgard Seefried, Hilda GüdenLisa Della Casa, Sena Jurinac, Anton Dermota, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Julius Patzak, Birgit Nilsson, Mario Del Monaco, P. Schöfler, M. Lorenz and others. The major conductors worked there as well - Clemens Krauss, Richard Strauss, Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Josef Krips, Victor de Sabata, Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Leonard Bernstein and others.
In the 70’s, singers V. Berry, O. Wiener, Erich Kunz, Christa Ludwig, V. Lipp, Leonie Rysanek, R. Holm and others were in the theater troupe. The conductors Josef Krips and Karl Böhm worked in the theater. In 1971, the Vienna State Opera toured in the USSR.
Ref: S. M. Gryshchenko. Musical Encyclopedia, 1973;