- Austria's national theater, in Vienna opposite the Rathaus(City Hall). It maintains one of the leading companies in the German-speakingworld. In 1776 Emperor Josef II decreed the theater would become thehome of a new Hof-und-Nationaltheater company; this would performserious drama instead of the popular comedy that had reigned for morethan 30 years (see Altwiener Volkstheater).
The Burgtheater's first manager was Josef von Sonnenfels (1733 - 1817),who brought in new Austrian plays modelled on classical French andGerman works, as well as such renowned actors as Germany's FriedrichSchröder. Sonnenfels built up an impressive reputationfor the theater during his 38 years as manager, being succeeded in1814 by Josef Schreyvogel (1768 - 1832), who furthered his reformsand discovered Austria's greatest Romantic dramatist, Franz Grillparzer.In 1849 Heinrich Laube (1806 - 84) took over. Under his managementthe theater pioneered the box set and popularized the Frenchwell-made play.
The company moved to a new building in 1888. Here the poetand playwright Anton Wildgans (1881 - 1932) presented mainly expressionistworks between the wars. The building was severely damaged during WorldWar II but reopened after extensive restoration in 1955. Notable postwardirectors of the Burgtheater have included Achim Benning (1976 - 86)and Claus Peymann (1986 - 1999).