123 years ago today, the operetta Die Faschingsfee by Emmerich Kálmán was premiered at the Johann Strauss Theater in Vienna. This house, which unfortunately no longer exists today, was one of the top addresses at the beginning of the 20th century when it came to operetta.
If you manage to have a theater named after you within ten years of your death, you must have been a truly famous person. Johann Strauss (son) was such a person. After the death of the “King of Waltz” in 1899, it took just about nine years until the Johann Strauss Theater was opened in the fourth district of Vienna.
Famous works, long series
How could it be otherwise: Of course the theater opened with a work by Strauss. On October 30, 1908, Tausend und eine Nacht was the first performance at the Johann Strauss Theater. During this time, the Viennese operetta enjoyed its greatest popularity – both on the part of the audience and the organizers.
The audience was enthusiastic about rousing plays such as Die Csárdásfürstin by Emmerich Kálmán or Paganini by Franz Lehár (both pieces had their premiere in the Johann Strauss Theater in Vienna). The organizers were delighted with the ringing box office – Die Csárdásfürstin alone was performed over 500 times in the Johann Strauss Theater! Unbelievable. If you consider that the Johann Strauss Theatre had almost 1200 seats, you can easily calculate that the theater impresarios of that time were engaged in lucrative work…
The steep fall
But even the most lucrative concepts are rarely permanent. Starting in 1929, two global developments caused the Johann Strauss Theater to suffer: Firstly, the year 1929 was marked by a deep world economic crisis, and secondly, the sound film became increasingly popular. Although the Johann Strauss Theatre continued to play for decades – first cinema on a grand scale (as in the Bucharest Athenaeum), and later, during the Soviet occupation, theater with top-class cast again – it was not possible to return to the glorious times of the early 20th century. Thus the Johann Strauss Theater was demolished between 1959 and 1960.