Elisabeth in Vienna
Michael Kunze's and Sylvester Levay's musical ELISABETH about the life and loves of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria opened September 9, 1992 in Vienna's prestigious "Theater an der Wien" (director: Harry Kupfer, production designer: Hans Schavernoch) where it broke box office records. According to the British weekly The European, the show is "restoring Vienna's pride in the theatrical tradition it invented".
The original cast album of ELISABETH", released by Polygram, went Gold in 1993, Platinum in 1994 and Double-Platinum 1995.
ELISABETH is a musical about the life and loves of a most romantic turn-of-the-century beauty, a woman who virtually ruled the world, but gave it all up to gain personal liberty. It tells a (true) fairytale with much conflict and adventure, ending with the heroine's eventual redemption. Its story of liberation, love and the temptation of Death as a lover, set in a greatly interesting historical context, is appealing to all audiences, even those not interested in history itself. ELISABETH is a family musical.
The image of the historical Elisabeth already has reached Broadway, and in a way has even won a 1994 Tony Award, as costume designer Ann Hould-Ward used pictures of Elisabeth to create the costumes of the "Beauty and the Beast".
The show's personification of Death as an attractive androgynous young man reflects a new contemporary attitude towards that mystic figure. During this time of AIDS Death has become "younger". The point of view of the show not only has Elisabeth falling in love with Death, but also provokes the audience into doing the same thing. One is not afraid of what one loves. The show and this theme (amongst several themes) has been directly responsible for an Austrian psychiatrist sending patients to see the show. The actor portraying Death constantly receives flowers and letters from suicidal people who contend the show saved their lives.
ELISABETH has also become a symbol for the new self-confidence of the contemporary generation of women. Her theme song "I Belong to Me" is their secret hymn. Figure skater Katerina Witt, the well-known Olympic star, has chosen it as the theme music for her principal skating dance in the category of exhibition, in life performances as well as over Television.
There are already several ELISABETH fan clubs all over Europe with about 1200 members. The show has become an important element of Vienna's tourism, as many people come to Vienna just to see it. Four new travel agencies in Germany have specialized in organizing "Elisabeth" trips. A recent survey shows that most of the visitors who come to see the show are following the recommendations of relatives or friends.
According to a recent poll, 91.5 % of the audience coming out of the show want to see it again. 86.7 % will recommend it to relatives and friends.
Recent productions of the Theater an der Wien were the first German stagings of Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. Both shows ran for years, but the current success of ELISABETH surpasses even those extraordinary hits. To meet the continued demand, the theater has just extended the scheduled running time of ELISABETH for another - its fifth - year.