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Coordinates: 48°12′37″N 16°21′41″E / 48.21028°N 16.36139°E / 48.21028; 16.36139
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Former names
  • K.K. Theater an der Burg
  • K.K. Hofburgtheater
  • K.K. Hoftheater nächst der Burg
AddressUniversitätsring 2
Coordinates48°12′37″N 16°21′41″E / 48.21028°N 16.36139°E / 48.21028; 16.36139
Opened14 March 1741 (1741-03-14)

The Burgtheater (German: [ˈbʊʁk.teˌaːtɐ]; literally: "Castle Theater" but alternatively translated as "(Imperial) Court Theater"), originally known as K.K. Theater an der Burg, then until 1918 as the K.K. Hofburgtheater, is the national theater of Austria in Vienna. It is the most important German-language theater and one of the most important theatres in the world.[1] The Burgtheater was opened in 1741 and has become known as die Burg by the Viennese population;[1] its theater company has created a traditional style and speech typical of Burgtheater performances.


The old Burgtheater (before 1888)
Burgtheater (right after its construction)
Burgtheater (side)
Detail of facade of Burgtheater
Burgtheater (main entrance)

The original Burgtheater was set up in a tennis court (called a 'ball house' at the time) that the Roman-German king and later emperor Ferdinand I had built in 1540 in the lower pleasure garden of the Hofburg after the old ball house fell victim to a fire in 1525.[2][3]

The theater opened on 14 March 1741, the creation of the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, who wanted a theater next to her palace. Her son, Emperor Joseph II, called it the "German National Theater" 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 Concerto No. 24 in C Minor (1786). Beginning in 1794, the theater 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.[4][5]

The theater's first building adjoined the Hofburg at Michaelerplatz, opposite St. Michael's Church. The theater 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 theater and film roles by this actor pandering to antisemitic stereotypes.[6]

On 12 March 1945, the Burgtheater was largely destroyed in a USAF bombing raid, and one month later, on 12 April 1945, it was further damaged by a fire of unknown origin.[1] After the war, the theater was rebuilt between 1953 and 1955.[1] The classic Burgtheater style and the Burgtheater-German language were groundbreaking for German-language theater.[citation needed]


Before 1776, the theater had been leased from the state by Johann Koháry. After encountering financial difficulties in 1773, he convinced Joseph Keglevich to act as curator. The director of the theater, Wenzel Sporck, who was the great nephew of Franz Anton Sporck, who had brought the french horn and Antonio Vivaldi to Prague, established a committee to finance the theater under the chairmanship of Franz Keglevich in 1773, and Karl Keglevich became the director of the Theater am Kärntnertor in 1773. Joseph Keglevich declared the theater bankrupt in 1776 and the state, under Joseph II, took over its operation in 1776. Wenzel Sporck and Franz Keglevich were released from their duties in 1776 and the University of Trnava, whose rector was Alexander Keglevich in the year 1770/71, received permission to move into the Buda Castle. Until 1776, the theater 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. Francis II decided on 4 July 1792 to lease the theater again, but couldn't find a tenant. Finally, Ferdinánd Pálffy became the tenant in 1794, until 1817; his finances originated from the mining institute in Banská Štiavnica, the first technical university in the world.[7][8][9][10][11]

Name Start  End 
Joint direction by 15–22 senior
members (Künstlerrepublik)
1776 1789
Franz Carl Hieronymus Brockmann 1790 1790
Direction by 5 senior members
1790 1794
Peter von Braun 1794 1806
Direction by a group of senior courtiers
(initially 8) (Kavaliersdirektion)
1807 1817
Joseph Schreyvogel 1814 1832
Johann Ludwig Deinhardstein 1832 1841
Franz Ignaz von Holbein 1841 1849
Heinrich Laube 1849 1867
Friedrich Halm (pseudonym of
Eligius Freiherr von Münch-Bellinghausen)
1867 1868
August Wolff 1868 1870
Franz Freiherr von Dingelstedt 1870 1881
Adolf von Wilbrandt 1881 1887
Adolf von Sonnenthal 1887 1888
August Förster 1888 1889
Adolf von Sonnenthal 1889 1890
Max Burckhard 1890 1898
Paul Schlenther 1898 1910
Alfred Freiherr von Berger 1910 1912
Hugo Thimig 1912 1917
Max von Millenkovich 1917 1918
Joint direction by Hermann Bahr, Max Devrient
and Robert Michel (Dreierkollegium)
1918 1918
Albert Heine 1918 1921
Anton Wildgans 1921 1922
Max Paulsen 1922 1923
Franz Herterich 1923 1930
Anton Wildgans 1930 1931
Hermann Röbbeling 1932 1938
Mirko Jelusich 1938 1938
Ulrich Bettac 1938 1939
Lothar Müthel 1939 1945
Raoul Aslan 1945 1948
Erhard Buschbeck 1948 1948
Josef Gielen 1948 1954
Adolf Rott 1954 1959
Ernst Haeusserman 1959 1968
Paul Hoffmann 1968 1971
Gerhard Klingenberg 1971 1976
Achim Benning 1976 1986
Claus Peymann 1986 1999
Klaus Bachler 1999 2009
Matthias Hartmann 2009 2014
Karin Bergmann 2014 2019
Martin Kušej 2019

Theater and renowned actors[edit]

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 directors 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, Philipp Hochmair,[12] 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, Christoph Waltz, Ignaz Kirchner, and Gert Voss. 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 theater 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 include the world premiere of Des Feux dans la Nuit in 1999, whose choreography was done by Marie Chouinard.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d aeiou-Burgtheater "Burgtheater" (history), Encyclopedia of Austria, Aeiou Project, 1999 Archived 26 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Theatre Database / Theatre Architecture – database, projects". www.theatre-architecture.eu. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  3. ^ "Real Tennis History - Austria". Real Tennis History. Archived from the original on 23 January 2021. Retrieved 31 July 2021.
  4. ^ Wiener Tagblatt, 13 October 1888
  5. ^ Yates, W.E., Theater in Vienna: A Critical History, 1776–1995, Cambridge University Press; New edition (21 Aug 2008). p.81
  6. ^ Bassey, Alexandra (Autumn 2018). "Shylock and the Nazis: Continuation or Reinvention?". European Judaism. 51 (2): 152–158. doi:10.3167/ej.2017.510221.
  7. ^ Briefe an ihre Kinder und Freunde, Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria; Alfred Ritter von Arneth, Verlag: Braumüller, Wien 1881.
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ Alt und Neu Wien: Geschichte der österreichischen Kaiserstadt, Band 2, von Karl Eduard Schimmer, Horitz Bermann, Wien 1904, p. 215
  10. ^ Théâtre, nation & société en Allemagne au XVIIIe siècle, Roland Krebs, Jean Marie Valentin, Presses universitaires de Nancy, 1990.
  11. ^ Ungarische Revue, Volume 11, p. 53, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, Franklin-Verein, 1891.
  12. ^ "Burgtheater | Burgtheater". www.burgtheater.at (in German). Retrieved 20 June 2022.

External links[edit]