The Burgtheater and Austrian Identity
Theatre and Cultural Politics in Vienna, 1918-38
National and cultural identity
Legenda: Oxford, 2007
The collapse of the Habsburg monarchy in 1918 galvanized discussion about national identity in the new Republic of Austria. As Robert Pyrah shows in this thoroughly documented study, the complex identity politics of interwar Austria were played out in the theatres of Vienna, which enjoyed a cultural prominence rarely matched in other countries. By 1934, productions across the city were being co-opted to serve the newly patriotic cause of the Dollfuss and Schuschnigg regimes, and the Burgtheater, once known as the ‘first German stage’, had been transformed into a ‘national theatre for Austria’. Using case studies of key productions and a wealth of previously unseen archival material, Pyrah sheds new light on artistic and ideological developments throughout the period, including the neglected earlier years. He documents previously unexplored overlaps in the cultural programmes of Left and Right, and unearths evidence that key institutions were subverted by the Right well before the suspension of parliamentary rule in 1933.
Robert Pyrah is a Junior Research Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford, specialising in Central European Studies.