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Opera House

Hermann Helmer, Ferdinand Fellner

alias Stadttheater (City Theatre), Opernhaus
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)17.9.1899 | Opening night
16th September 1899, Friedrich Schiller: Wilhelm Tell; 17th September 1899, Richard Wagner: Lohengrin
(detail)1948 | Destruction of the portico

(detail)1984 | Extension added
1983-1984, Gunther Wawrik (Modernisation of stagecraft; erection of an administrative building, connected to the main house or stage by a glass bridge; amplification of the fundament, enlargement of the proscenium; relocation of the orchestra pit; renovation of the auditorium (restoration of stucco work, renewal of the lighting system, new carpets etc.)


(detail)Hermann Helmer |main architect
The phenomenon of the architects Fellner and Helmer would be difficult to capture with only one building. Their work consisted of continual, although somewhat stereotypical, work in terms of style. They placed a great emphasis on achieving the technical-operational needs of theatre buildings. They created a large number of theatres (mainly national theatres) in Central Europe - Austria, Croatia, Romania, the Czech Republic, etc.More theatres

Gunther Wawrik |architect
Carl Duxa |painter
(detail)Ludwig/Leopold Kosig |sculptor

Among his works belong Apollo Cycle, stucco figuration  at the ceiling’s edge in the Graz Theatre auditorium.

In: LIST, R. Kunst und Künstler in der Steiermark. Ein Nachschlagwerk. OÖ. Landesverlag Ried im Innkreis 1967, s. 428.

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Graz had two theatres in the second half of the 19th Century. The theatre on today Freedom Square and the Thalia-Theater, both houses did not represent, however, the requirements of a modern time conditions for theatre operations. With the convening of an expert committee on 27 April 1893, the municipal council responded to the increasingly loud demands for a new theatre. The result of the deliberations was initially limited to a proposal on the building site for the new building. The area between the Karl-Ludwig-Ring (now Opera Ring) and the Kaiser-Josef square was chosen. The Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer were assigned to prepare a preliminary project. 

First draft was submitted to the mayor on 10 November 1893. It was an extremely generous solution, an urban masterpiece, including even a concert hall, but failed due to lack of financial resources. The actual decision of the municipal council for the theatre was at the meetings of 25 February and 26 July 1897.The already made choice of the site was now quickly transformed into the decision of the type of financing, and the project was assigned again to Fellner and Helmer. Essential was the question of the choice of architectural style for the new theatre. For the period of historicism it was significant, despite the use of modern building materials, that historical architectural styles were employed. At the request of the city council, Fellner and Helmer built the opera in neo-Baroque style. The role of the executive architect took Franz Staerk. The building was opened after 17 months on 16 September 1899 with a performance of Schiller's “Wilhelm Tell”, followed the next day by Wagner’s “Lohengrin”.

A bomb explosion in the Second World War resulted in the later demolition of the original portico and a simplification of the façade. Inside, however, the spacious staircase and the auditorium with its boxes, the luxuriant, partly gilded stucco and the ceiling paintings have remained intact. In the mid-eighties, a very sensitive extension designed by Gunther Wawrik was added to the opera house. Now a glazed bridge connects the stage area to the newly erected scene dock. 



Visits: guided tours every first Saturday of the month at 17:00 (Sept-June) and on appointment

Tel.: +43 (0) 316 8008 1234
E-mail: oper@oper-graz.com

3D tour: www.oper-graz.com/besichtigung.php 


This text is a compilation of the articles from these web sites :









- Hans-Christoph Hoffmann, Die Theaterbauten von Felner und Helmer, München 1966

- Gerhard M. Dienes (ed.), Fellner & Helmer – die Architekten der Illusion: Theaterbau und Bühnenbild in Europa (Anlässlich des Jubiläums „100 Jahre Grazer Oper“), Graz 1999

- Brigitte Marshall – Fritz Trumpi, Opernhaus, Graz, in Igor Kovačevič (ed.), Beyond Everydayness: Theatre Architecture in Central Europe, Praha 2010, s. 230–235


Tags: Fellner and Helmer, Neo-Baroque, Belle Époque


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