Comparative Theatre Review
[Reseach Note] The Acceptance of Musicals in Vienna from 1956 to 1990: The Shift of the Leading Role from Volksoper to Theater an der Wien
Rina TANAKA
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Volume 16 (2016) Issue 1 Pages 17-38

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Abstract

Although musicals from Broadway and the West End are generally regarded as the mainstream ever since the genre was established, since 1992 musicals from Vienna have been gradually recognized on a global scale. This research note outlines the acceptance of musicals in Vienna from the first performance in 1956 to the preparation for the original productions aiming at the global market in the 1990s, focusing on two main musical theaters, the Volksoper Wien and the Theater an der Wien. The Volksoper took the initiative to introduce musicals to the Viennese audience. Led by Ernst Marboe and Marcel Prawy, American musicals were first incorporated in the annual repertoire of the Volksoper, one of the state theaters, with Kiss me Kate (1956). In fact, considering the Volksoper as a responsible for music dramas in Vienna, musicals remained as a sub category of its repertoire. On the other hand, musicals were regarded as one of the main categories at the Theater an der Wien since their first appearance under the direction of Fritz Klingenbeck (1962-1965). While staging imported musicals, the Theater an der Wien created four original productions under the direction of Rolf Kutschera (1965-1982). Polterabend (1967), Helden, Helden (1972), Das Glas Wasser (1977), and Die Gräfin vom Natschmarkt (1978), were performed not only in Vienna but also in the other German-speaking countries. As not only the productions but also the management structure as well as the actors and actresses were expected to be homemade, Peter Weck (directed 1982-1992) established a management foundation »Vereinigte Bühnen Wien« in 1970 and a musical academy »Tanz-Studio Theater an der Wien« in 1984. His attempt was to produce high quality musical performances that not only meet the global standards but also clearly Austrian, in response to the criticism that the conventional performances were imperfect in quality or too Anglo-Saxon-styled for Vienna. The acceptance of musicals in Vienna was influenced by a multitude of cultural and social factors in the post-war era. For example, musicals were both accepted and rejected because of political factors such as the Viennese cultural policies and the relationship with the United States. Economic factors such as tourism and theater management were also influential. In addition, differences between high culture and popular culture influenced the reception to musicals. By these factors, the center of musical theater shifted from the Volksoper to the Theater an der Wien, and finally it got ready to produce the original musical series in the 1990s.

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© 2016 Japanese Society for Theatre Research. Comparative Theatre Section
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