Its history goes back to 1741 when Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa of Austria was asked by an entrepreneur the permission to transform a disused building into a stage in Michaelerplatz.
After many efforts - despite her majesties' approval, the theater was born. In 1776, her son Emperor Joseph II turned the institution into the official court and national theater by calling it "German National Theatre". Getting involved both behind the scenes and as a spectator, he offered not only financial support but his time and interest as well. In 1794, the theatre was renamed "K.K. Hoftheater nächst der Burg" and became the place where not only plays could be seen, but the emperor himself - quite a tempting catch not only for the crowds but also for the aristocracy. With all the rumour and the political pressure, few of the performances escaped censorship. Even Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was re-written before being presented to the public. In 1874 a new construction began on the opposite the town hall on Vienna’s Ring. The Imperial Hofburgtheater only opened in 1888 and was refurbished because of the unpractical seat arrangements.
But with the political instability and the ending of the empire, in 1918 the Imperial Theater became Burgtheater and was taken over by the new government. The theater survived despite the lack of financing from the new administration, but in 1930 history was to radically change again. The Nazis arrival removed any Jews from the artistic ground and excluded any “inappropriate” playwrights. The plays were to begin with a Nazi salute and were only to take place in the presence of an officer or a party member. In 1945 the theater seem to have finally regain peace after being damaged from the Second World War bombing, but only a month after the last bomb raid, on April 12, the theater went on fire. Ten years later -in 1955, the same year with Austria regaining its independence - the theater as it can be seen today was reopened.
Burgtheater is today the second-oldest theater in the world, after the Comédie Francaise and remains a reference point not only in local architecture but in the history of theater.
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