• Bühnenbildmodell © Katharina Schiffl

Stage models for the Theatermuseum


The Theatermuseum is pleased to announce a significant new addition to its collections: Roland Geyer, outgoing artistic director of the Theater an der Wien, and Franz Patay, managing director of the Vereinigte Bühnen Wien, have donated 18 stage models of celebrated opera productions of the Theater an der Wien to the Theatermuseum (KHM-Museumsverband).

Rudi Risatti, head of the collections for models and hand drawings, spoke of a "wonderful enrichment for the theatre" at the signing of the donation contract.


In 2006 Roland Geyer took over the artistic direction of the theatre, which advanced to become a leading international centre for baroque opera and modern, contemporary music theatre in Vienna. 197 different staged opera productions between 2006 and 2022 at the Theater an der Wien and the Kammeroper (since 2012) have made a lasting contribution to Austrian opera culture.


"The acquisition and archiving of many stage design models of my era from 2006-2022 by the Theatermuseum means a lot to me," said Roland Geyer at the handover ceremony, "because it will make it possible in the future for visitors, tourists, Viennese and scholars from all over the world to get a great insight into the reopening and the subsequent 16-year period of success of the Theater an der Wien as an opera house after 40 years of musicals."


The collection, which has now been donated to the Theatermuseum, includes models that impress above all with their "sharpening" spatial aesthetics or their sculptural design. For Rudi Risatti, as for Roland Geyer, this includes the model for Paul Hindemith's opera Mathis der Maler (2012), the first and only work by the South African stage and costume designer Johan Engels for the Theater an der Wien. For this work, the artist brought motifs from Matthias Grünewald's Isenheim Altar (1506-1515) onto the stage in three dimensions, such as a monumental Christ sculpture almost 20 metres long.


The British Es Devlin created the stage design for Hans Werner Henze's opera Elegy for Young Lovers (2017, directed by Keith Warner). Her designs were on a par with Engel's huge stage designs: Five large, symbolic, playable objects, such as a typewriter magnified thirty times, represented the world of thought of the main character, the poet Mittenhofer.


Stylistically the opposite, namely simple and minimalist, is the stage design by Johannes Leiacker, a busy stage designer during Roland Geyer's directorship. Among other things, he created the stage design for the commissioned composition and world premiere of Anno Schreier's Hamlet (2016, directed by Christof Loy): A large, uniform space with mysterious doors. Spaces characterised by emptiness have become a kind of trademark of Leiacker. His work for the Theater an der Wien also includes the "uncanny" stage for Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes in Christof Loy's production. It won the International Opera Award as the best production of 2015.


The Theatermuseum's collection of stage design and architectural models includes almost 1,000 pieces from the 18th to the 21st century and represents over 160 artists. Through contact with stage designers, theatres and other institutions, the collection has been expanded again and again over the course of more than sixty years. It thus offers a comprehensive insight into the theatrical work of Austrian and international artists.


As Marie-Theres Arnbom, director of the Theatermuseum, points out, "this material will help document the diverse and creative opera scene in Vienna in a stage world that is increasingly planned and worked digitally." After the conservation and restoration measures, the objects will be processed in the Theatermuseum and made accessible to the public for research purposes and, depending on the topic, will also be on display in special exhibitions.