Specialist venue for children’s opera opens in Vienna

Vienna State Opera (WSO) has brought a new venue under its wing: Walfischgasse Theatre. Formally a municipal theatre in its own right, Walfischgasse was recently leased by WSO and will now host its programme of children’s operas. It has been rebranded as Studio Walfischgasse (SWG).

‘With its outstanding infrastructure the theatre offers great seating capacity and an ideal view for the audience during the very popular children’s opera performances,’ said WSO director Dominique Meyer.

Doors opened on 17 October with Alexander Medem’s fairy tale revival of Albert Lortzing’s Undine. Two other children’s productions are planned for 2015-16, with Fatima, Oder von den Mutigen Kindern starting in December followed by Pünktchen und Anton in March 2016.

The theatre is the second major addition to WSO’s programme for young people in as many years, following the creation of Live at School in 2014. Live at School allows schools to live stream WSO performances as well as educational material like stage rehearsals and interviews with artists. Over 100 schools have made use of the broadcasts so far, with a further 10 planned for the 2015-16 season.

The space will be used to expand WSO’s educational for both children and adults, with readings, talks and other special events. This new programme launches on 5 November and coincides with the 60th anniversary of WSO’s reopening. Former WSO vice director Hubert Deutsch and WSO konzertmeister Walter Barylli will take part in a panel discussion to mark the occasion, discussing that crucial time in the opera house’s history from a first-hand perspective.

Meanwhile music director Witolf Werner will give a backstage tour of WSO, answering questions along the lines of ‘How does one beat a triple time?’ and ‘What are the criteria for the orchestra lineup?’

‘This new programme gives audiences the chance to engage with beloved artists like Elīna Garanča and KS Ferruccio Furlanetto, as well as take part in workshops with conductor Adam Fischer,’ said Meyer.

The introductory matinee series WSO currently offers is to be expanded, with lectures on the history of opera now part of the programme. Meyer has put the series together, which includes an analysis of the musical language used in Hänsel und Gretel by pianist Jendrik Springer and a talk from the performers in La Fille Mal Gardée.

SWG is also good news for WSO’s Opera School, now in its eighth season. The school, which works with vocally talented young people, will use the space for performances. Children enrolled rehearse with the choir for two hours each week and receive vocal individual vocal training. WSO’s Ballet Academy (founded in 1771) also plans to use the new space for performances.