- Freihaustheater in Wien 1787–1801. Wirkungsstätte von W. A. Mozart und E. Schikaneder. Sammlung der Dokumente
The Freihaustheater auf der Wieden is legendary as the theater where Mozart's Die Zauberflöte premiered on 30 September 1791. Yet much of the theater's history remained veiled until only recently. Even the name "Freihaustheater" is a misnomer. During its lifetime, the establishment was known as the Wiedner Theater; its popular name came only later in the nineteenth century. Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist of Die Zauberflöte, managed the Wiedner Theater from 1789 until 1801 when he moved into the new, and still standing, Theater an der Wien. However, little of the theatrical edifice, its repertory, and Schickaneder's managerial activities were known to following generations, other than for tantalizing, but brief descriptions in travel accounts and personal diaries of prominent Viennese historical figures.
Only recently have scholars stepped up to close these lacunae. The first to explore the beginnings of the theater in 1787 up to [End Page 116] its closure in 1801 was Otto Erich Deutsch in his "Das Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden," a short but important essay of forty-three pages that appeared in 1937; it was published later that same year in slightly expanded form as a monograph as well (Das Freihaustheater auf der Wieden: 1787–1801 [Vienna: Deutscher Verlag für Jugend & Volk, 1937]). Deutsch's essay also included a detailed chronology based on the available documentation. In the last decade, several important scholarly studies have included detailed examinations of both the repertory and the music. In her Emanuel Schikaneder. Theaterprinzipal, Schauspieler, und Stückeschreiber (Kassel: Bären reiter, 1999), Anke Sonnek closely examined Schikaneder's activities as manager, playwright, and actor, and provided a detailed chronology of performances in Nürnberg, Regensburg, Salzburg, and Vienna. Schikaneder's Stein der Weisen provided the impetus for David Buch's investigations into the activities of the theater (in his edition of the work, published by A-R Editions in 2009). Most recently, Michael Lorenz, an indefatigable detective of all things Mozartean, has published new research into the history of the Wiedner Theater ("Neue Forschungsergebnisse zum Theater auf der Wieden und Emanuel Schikaneder," Wiener Geschichtsblätter 63, no. 4 : 15–36), a work richly deserving English publication.
Tadeusz Krzeszowiak is the longtime technical director of the Theater an der Wien. His Freihaustheater in Wien 1787–1801. Wirkungsstätte von W. A. Mozart und E. Schikaneder weighs in at almost five hundred pages, and the well-bound and handsomely produced book includes more than 250 illustrations—many well known, others less so—and extensive chronologies. The key to the entire book is its subtitle, as it offers a collection of documents. At first the book is quite promising, with Krzeszowiak preferring to let extensive extracts from correspondence, documents, newspaper reports, and similar material speak for themselves. Unfortunately, the author's seriously flawed scholarly methodologies, along with the lack of detailed indexes and bibliographies seriously derail it.
Divided into eight chapters and twelve appendices, Freihaustheater in Wien surveys first the Viennese theater scene with its government censorship, the activities of the Burgtheater, and the construction of the suburban theaters outside the city walls after 1776 when Joseph II permitted theaters to operate outside of royal purview. These included the Theater in the Josefstadt and the Leopoldstadttheater (later the Carl theater, closed in 1929). The histories of the Freihaus, the largest residential complex in Vienna with over two hundred apartments, and its owner, the Starhemberg family, form the core of chapter 2. An examination of the first two years of the "Theater in the Freihaus" before Schikaneder's arrival in 1789 follows in chapter 3. So far, so good.
Chapters 4 and 5 provide information about Schikaneder's life and theatrical activities up to 1791 and about the preparations for the first performances of Die Zauberflöte. However, the book goes seriously awry with the author's penchant for publishing every possible document...