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ELISABETH – a Success Story


ELISABETH – the musical by the hit writers Michael Kunze & Sylvester Levay tells the dramatic and touching story of the life, activities and suffering of Empress Elisabeth. A moving musical score, stunning choreography and lavish sets have captivated audiences the world over since the show’s premiere and allow them to rediscover the historical world of the Habsburgs time and time again.

Back in 1992 hardly anyone imagined what an astonishing success was to follow the very first performance of this Vereinigte Bühnen Wien production.

Michael Kunze: "For 20 years hardly a day has passed without ELISABETH being performed somewhere in the world. And that’s not entirely devoid of irony. It was never our intention to create a show for the global musical market. At the time, in the wake of all those imported musicals from England and New York, Peter Weck and Harold Prince encouraged me to create something that was entirely our own, something especially for Vienna. I didn’t even like the term ‘musical’ for what we came up with. I wanted to tell the story of the unhappy Empress as contemporary, emotional musical theatre, without considering its suitability for Broadway. The best I could hope for was that Viennese audiences would like it. I genuinely did not think it could be a worldwide success.”

Sylvester Levay: "When I turned my back on Hollywood 20 years ago to work on the musical ELISABETH, I really had no idea what success this show would bring me. It was also useful that I was able to compose free of all preconceptions and could concentrate fully on the story and its emotions. As a result, Vienna became part of my life and my family, too. I cannot tell you how delighted I am at ELISABETH’s return.”

From 1992 to 1998 ELISABETH was performed in Vienna without a break. In 1996 it celebrated its first run outside Austria, in Japan. This laid the foundation of the show’s global success. Productions in nine other countries followed, including Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland and Korea. For those performances the hit musical was translated into seven languages (German, Finnish, Dutch, Swedish, Hungarian, Korean, Japanese).

In the interim the show has attracted a total number of visitors that exceeds 8.5 million people in eleven countries who have watched over 6,500 performances in all. In Vienna alone, the musical about the life of Empress Elisabeth was enjoyed by 1.8 million people in over 1,750 performances. In Japan, total audience figures have reached over 3.2 million, in Germany over 2 million.