Theater in the Josefstadt

   Next to the Burgtheater, the Theater in the Josefstadt is the oldest dramatic stage in Vienna. Founded in 1788 by an actor, Karl Mayer (1753–1830), it was the first of three playhouses in the adjacent outlying districts of the city, the other two being the Theater an der Wien and the Theater in der Leopoldstadt. It is also the smallest, but nevertheless it is central to the rich theatrical history of the Habsburg Empire and the modern Austrian capital. Its repertory, both popular and classical, is known for its variety, which over the centuries has ranged from opera to boulevard comedy. Its company and guest players have been known for their high performance standards. Many of the major figures of the Austrian stage, and more recently, screen, have worked here, often early in their careers. Ferdinand Raimund made his debut at the Theater in the Josefstadt in 1814 as Franz Moor in the German dramatist Friedrich Schiller’s The Robbers (Die Räuber). When a new theater was completed in 1822, it opened with the “Consecration of the House” overture by Ludwig van Beethoven.
   In 1924, the theater was once again substantially rebuilt. For the next two years, it functioned under the direction of Max Reinhardt, who wanted to turn the house into a showcase for fine acting. The reputations of several major names of the Germanspeaking theater—notably the members of the Thimig family— spread through central Europe and beyond, in part because of their participation in Reinhardt’s theater. Though Reinhardt’s presence was short-lived, his program survived. As late as 1972, one of Reinhardt’s successors, Ernst Haeusserman (1916–1984), announced that the Theater in the Josefstadt was to be an actor’s house, open to the dramatic work of both Austrian authors and those of the rest of the world.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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