Vienna theatres have a fantastic reputation throughout Europe, and come in various formats: from our national treasure Burgtheater to opera theaters, musical theatres, and small but ambitious English language stages.
Whether you kept some of your school German or know no Deutsch at all, screen a selection of the best theatres. Some perform in English and some offer English surtitles. With musicals, you will probably hold it like at the opera: read the plot before, then lean back and enjoy the music and costumes. My list of Vienna theatres below is not only ranked by popularity but by relevance for English speakers.
The Theater an der Wien is actually Vienna’s newest opera house. One of the oldest Vienna theatres, it was built in 1801. 250 years later, in 2006, it adapted its repertoire and focus to become a modern day opera house. The theatre complements the sometimes hopelessly sold out Vienna State Opera (Vienna Opera House) in many ways: It stages performances throughout the year, i.e. also in July and August, when the State Opera is closed. It covers opera niches, dance performances and concert.
The Theater an der Wien produces and stages many modern operas and brings classical operas into a contemporary setting, while also presenting rarely played baroque operas. Unlike the Vienna State Opera, each opera at the Theater an der Wien maintains the same cast throughout the various performances (stagione system). Here is a list of current performances . Some of them are in English language. With concerts and ballets, luckily, you won’t need surtitles that much.
The big private Vienna theatres like the Ronacher, our old variété theatre, and the Raimundtheater have been particularly popular in the past years. They are THE place to go if you are after fun musical entertainment in Vienna. Many of the shows project English surtitles onto screens, so you enjoy the musicals in original language while getting the full story.
Between now until early April 2019 the Raimund Theater will stage the brilliant Austrian musical I am from Austria, based on the greatest hits by local pop hero Rainhard Fendrich. Surprisingly well reviewed by critical daily Der Standard the musical is ‘fulminant’, blending sentimental with fancy scenes.
If you’d like to discretely test your German, watch the musical Body Guard at Ronacher, in German language, with English songs. From 16th October 2018 to 31st March 2019.
Vienna Theatre Project
There is no shortage of classical theatre venues for the German speaking world in my city. But where does the large Viennese expat community stir their feelings on a theatre night out? The Viennatheatreproject is an English language theatre that stages contemporary plays and fresh invigorating acting. The small theatre’s team performs at Theater Drachengasse in one of Vienna’s oldest parts in the city centre. Go to Theater Drachengasse’s calendar of plays to find English language plays on show.
At my age, I have grown out of Punch & Judy puppets but love fine historic crafts brought to life. That is what the marionette theatre at Schonbrunn Palace is about: classical theatre for adults AND children, gracefully and skillfully performed by beautifully crafted rococo-style marionettes.
When we watched Mozart’s The Magic Flute in 2011 and 2018. My little daughter and I were thrown over by the quality of the performance, the marionettes and the acoustics. As for the language, I think non- German speakers will have no problem following the plot with a bit of upfront reading. Since we watched both the children’s 1-hour adaptation and the full 2-hour play our advice is to go with the shortened version for smaller children.
A nice add on was that the small audience room and the backstage tour after the performance made you feel part of a real insider show. Read our full experience in Puppets Theatre Vienna.
Location: Hofratstrakt, on the left of Schonbrunn Palace
Tickets: Get tickets for Mozart’s Magic Flute.
Our Burgtheater is Austria’s National Theater. Being the second-oldest theatre after the Comédie Francaise, Burgtheater has shaped European theatre for decades. Famously the theatre has a reputation for classical as well as controversial plays: A scandalous Burgtheater play can create local headlines that dwarf the most bloody wars and catastrophic events.
Unfortunately for many travellers the vast majority of plays at Burgtheater are in German. Only during the annual Vienna Festival, the Burgtheater sometages stages English and other foreign language plays. Check current calendar of plays.
Popular Vienna Theatres
Popular Vienna theatres like the Volkstheater (see photo) or Theater in der Josefstadt were the cinema of my grandparents and their generation, and continue to attract locals and visitors.
The Volkstheater was built at the end of the 19th century to stage popular Austrian plays and comedies as well as classic and modern dramas for the bourgeoisie and lower ranks. (The aristocracy amused itself at the Burgtheater.) Like a few traditional Vienna theatres, the Volkstheater managed to keep this mixture until today.
Since 2017, Volkstheater also offers English surtitles for some of its German language plays, such as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s Nathan the Wise. In general, the repertoire comprises works by popular Austrian and German playwrights. Especially Ferdinand Raimund and Johann Nestroy will resonate with so many Austrian school children! Apart from local flavours, expect adaptations of contemporary plays.
In addition, the Volkstheater has become hugely popular among Viennese insiders for its sophisticated Saturday clubbings, literature salons and musical performances at the Rote Bar, also called Salon Rouge (see photo).
Location: Neustiftgasse 1, A-1070 Vienna
Visit website for current calendar of plays.
The Theater in der Josefstadt is one of the oldest Vienna theatres, and originates from the 18th century. It is built in the typical Viennese Biedermeier style. The theatre, where Harry Lime’s girlfriend Anna Schmidt performed in Graham Greene classic The Third Man, offers a broader choice of both international and Austrian plays, such as the Three Sisters by Tschechow, Arthur Schnitzler’s Das Weite Land or a Campiello adaption based on Goldoni’s play. Fingers crossed that theater will once present English surtitles, it’s such an amazing place.
Location: Josefstädter Strasse 26, A-1080 Vienna
Visit website for current calendar of plays.
go to Vienna State Opera – 12 Tips For Opera Fans
findout more about booking Vienna Opera Tickets – A Native’s Guide
go to Vienna Concerts – Quality Music Events And How To Secure A Space
explore Vienna Travel Planning – Trip Planning And Travel Consulting by Vienna Unwrapped
check other Vienna Tourism Tips – 15 Essentials To Know
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