YNWA-Blog #4

“Come one, come all!” - Historic Vienna (1)

Although audiences in Budapest originally did not warm up to the theater play “Liliom,” Alfred Polgar's German version made it a worldwide hit. All of that happened in Vienna, the metropolis on the Danube, our next stop in exploring the cultural history of the song "You'll never walk alone.”

Around the turn of the century, Vienna, as one of the two Austrian-Hungarian metropolitan cities, was among Europe’s premier cultural and political centers. The heyday of philosophy, architecture, literature, music and painting made history as the era of Viennese Modernism. Our first stop in the Austrian capital is the Vienna Burgtheater. It is one of the most important theater stages in Europe and the second oldest European spoken theater venue after the Comédie Française in Paris. The magnificent building in the style of the Renaissance Revival is located across from City Hall on the busy Ringstraße in Vienna. As we can see from the posters on the outside wall, the theater is currently showing a production of Carlo Goldoni’s “Servant of Two Masters.” The play premiered in May at the "Ruhrfestspiele" in Recklinghausen, an event Evonik has supported as a main sponsor for many years. The posters show the charming Mavie Hörbiger, who unfortunately was not available for today's film shooting session.

That's why today's film schedule only includes outdoor scenes in front of the Burgtheater: Joachim Król arrives on a historic tram, gets off, and walks into the magnificent building. That’s more easily said than done, because the traffic continues to flow. Moreover, the historic trams share the tracks with modern trains, and one of the transport lines turns left toward City Hall just before reaching the Burgtheater. After a number of failed attempts, the scene is finally done. Time for a little lunch break at Café Landtmann next to the Burgtheater. This typical Viennese coffeehouse, which opened in 1873, was a popular meeting point for many prominent actors, artists and writers during Polgar’s time. Celebrities such as Gustav Mahler, Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich and Romy Schneider were counted among the regulars here.

The Burgtheater production of “Liliom” in the 1930s laid the foundation for the global success of the play, which is still performed to this day. It is the tragic love story of carousel barker Liliom, Mrs. Muskat , and the housemaid Julie. Julie and Liliom fall in love and risk their employment. When Julie becomes pregnant, the couple’s financial survival is at stake. The desperate father agrees to take part in a hold-up and commits suicide when fleeing from the police. After sixteen years of purgatory he gets a second chance: He is allowed to return to earth for one day to atone for his sins. The Austrian writer and theater critic Alfred Polgar translated the play into German and helped make “Liliom” a great success at Theater in der Josefstadt in 1913. In doing so, he transferred the scene of the play from City Park in Budapest to the Viennese Prater. This popular amusement park is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year and is our next destination. Of course, Joachim Król and director André Schäfer ride a historic tram to get there. More details will follow soon.