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Ballets companies are attached to the opera houses of several Austrian cities: Baden bei Wien, Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz, Salzburg, and St Pölten, though until recently their prime function has been performing in operas. Historically, the main centre of dance activity has been Vienna. During the 18th century some of the greatest ballet masters came to the Habsburg court including Hilverding, Angiolini, Noverre, and Viganò, instituting a lively tradition of dramatic ballets at the Kärntnertor Theater (the opera house). Dance was also popular at the city's Theater auf der Wieden with Friedrich Horschelt's fairy-tale ballets and Vienna Children's Ballet drawing enthusiastic crowds, and at the Theater in der Leopoldstadt with Rainoldi's pantomimes. During the first half of the 19th century most of the great Romantic ballerinas performed in the city. In the 1820s Vienna's most renowned dancer, Elssler, came to fame while her rival Taglioni made her Viennese debut in 1822. Productions of many popular ballets were danced including La Sylphide (1836), La Fille du Danube (1839), La Gitana (1840), Giselle (1842), and La Péri (1844). After 1853 P. Taglioni made regular visits as guest choreographer and between 1855 and 1856 August Bournonville was ballet master, staging Napoli in 1856. In 1869 P. Taglioni's Sardanapal was the opening production of the Hofopertheater, the newly built Opera House. Karl Telle was in charge of the ballet company here until 1890, staging productions of Coppélia in 1876 and Sylvia in 1877, although ballet was by this time subservient to opera. He was succeeded by Josef Hassreiter whose first ballet The Fairy Doll (1888) achieved considerable success and is still in the repertory. He reigned until 1920 having choreographed 48 ballets, many to music by Josef Bayer. Between 1922 and 1928 Heinrich Kröller was ballet master staging several ballets to music by Richard Strauss including Couperin Suite (1923), the latter being director of the State Opera. Margarete Wallmann, who had studied with Wigman, directed the Opera Ballet and its school from 1934 to 1939. Erika Hanka was appointed in 1942 and choreographed many ballets based in European modern dance techniques, including Homeric Symphony (mus. T. Berger, 1950) and Medusa (mus. von Einem, 1957). She was, however, instrumental in re-introducing the classical repertoire with Gordon Hamilton's staging of Giselle opening the theatre on 29 Nov. 1955, after the re-opening of the Opera House (it had been destroyed in 1945). Standards rose but after Hanka's death in 1958 there was a disruptively rapid turnover of ballet masters and directors—Parlic (1958–61), Milloss (1961–6 and 1971–4), and Orlikowsky (1966–71). There were, however, two outstanding triumphs: Nureyev's 1964 production of Swan Lake and Grigorovich's 1973 production of Nutcracker. In 1976 Gerhard Brunner became director of the State Opera Ballet and its school and the repertoire expanded to include works by van Manen, Cranko, and Massine. A. Woolliams took over the company's direction in 1994 (from Elena Tchernichova) and continued to expand the modern repertoire with new works by Renato Zernatto and Uwe Scholz. Subsequent directors have been Renato Zanella, appointed in 1995, and Gyula Harangozo, appointed in 2005, and new works added to the repertory have included ballets by Jorma Elo. Other ballet performances take place at the Theater an der Wien and the Volksoper. In Salzburg the ballet company has also expanded its modern repertory under the direction of Peter Breuer whose own creations for the company include Angels (2007), while the company at Graz has works by Spoerli, Smok, and van Manen in its repertory. Modern dance groups are overshadowed by the opera house companies but a growing number of independent choreographers have begun working in the country during the past decade including Eva-Maria Lerchenberg-Thony, Willi Dorner, and Jochen Ulrich, their activity given focus by the biannual dance festival in Vienna and by the Austria Dances festival in Graz.


Subjects: Dance.

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