A NEW ROOF FOR THE FELSENREITSCHULE
Max Reinhardt had Jedermann performed during the first Festival summer in 1920 in front of the Cathedral. Originally, the Felsenreitschule with the impressive 96 audience loges which Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach had cut into the mountain in 1693 was to have been the venue. For the summer of 1921, the courtyard was to be covered with an end-to-end roof without any supporting columns.
Understandably, the Federal Landmark Preservation Authority rejected such a fixed roof, but suggested a temporary solution for rainy weather, “an advantage for the Festival performances too”. Clemens Holzmeister paid heed to this helpful suggestion when he turned the spacious courtyard into a weather-independent performance venue starting in 1926. He left the Mönchsberg side with its arcades untouched and turned it into the back stage wall.
That same year, Max Reinhardt’s production of Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters proved that the new performance venue was ideal for this character comedy in the popular theater style. The floor was still tamped-down earth and the audience seated on wooden benches.
The Faust City erected by Clemens Holzmeister in 1933 at the Felsenreitschule is among the most impressive transformations the space has undergone. The wooden audience grandstand was created in 1933 together with the Faust City, covered almost entirely by a wooden roof from 1934 onwards, to which a mobile tarpaulin against rain could be added.
Herbert von Karajan transformed the Felsenreitschule stage into an opera venue for the first time in 1948, performing Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.
Another upgrade of the Felsenreitschule was planned and implemented by Holzmeister in 1968/1970: it included a sub-stage, orchestra pit and lighting ramp, a weather-proof roll-up roof, an audience space with loges and ramps and a storage space for stage sets. The roof consisted of a plastic canvas, which was unfurled using a rope mechanism and thus sealed the stage from light and rain. Rain was atomized by a grill placed above the roof. Despite these innovations, the disadvantage that the stage was exposed to any weather in the winter continued. When the Haus für Mozart was constructed in 2006, the Felsenreitschule received further improvements: a new audience grandstand optimized the sightlines, the acoustics were refined, and ventilation and air conditioning technology were renewed.
In 2010/2011 the architecture firm HALLE 1 is renewing the roof and covering the walls in a contemporary style with plaster boards. The slightly inclined pitch roof consisting of three mobile segments can be retracted and extended using five telescope arms and will protect the stage against weather and fire.