The performing arts are a focal point of cultural life in Austria. The country’s prestige theatres, opera houses and orchestras are international flagships, while the other theatres and the numerous groups from the independent scene in cities and regions develop diverse formats of the highest quality. Festivals are also an important part of this category.
Drama in Austria takes place on the stages of large, established theatres with permanent ensembles on the one hand and as part of a constantly growing independent scene on the other. Both the state and the provinces and municipalities are committed to the promotion of the performing arts. At the federal level, for example, annual expenditure on the performing arts is the highest in comparison with the other sectors (LIKUS) (see chapter 7.1).
The state is the owner of the Bundestheater-Holding GmbH, which with its four subsidiaries forms the largest theatre group in the world, with 989 artists and 1 066 technical staff as well as seven venues and the opera school, ballet academy and choir academy of the Vienna State Opera.
In addition to the financing of the federal theatres, the Federal Chancellery’s annual funding programme supports: theatres that are based in Austria and have continuous performances in the country; independent groups in the fields of dance, theatre and performance; Austrian orchestras and music ensembles; concert organisers; and festivals. It also subsidises production and project costs, investment costs, travel and tour costs, and grants scholarships and awards various prizes.
The Freie Theater interest group represents the interests of the freelance performing arts in Austria. Together with organisations and national representatives of the scene from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Hungary, it founded the European Association of Independent Performing Arts (EAIPA) in Vienna in 2018. The EAIPA pursues the goal of improving the structural, social, legal, financial, political, organisational, artistic and cultural conditions of performing artists, groups of artists, independent theatres and other artistic enterprises, as well as of all professional groups and infrastructures associated with the sector, throughout Europe. To launch its activities, it has published the study Introduction to the Independent Performing Arts in Europe: Eight European Performing Arts Structures at a Glance.
The basis for the support of independent performing arts in Vienna is the 2004 Vienna Theatre Reform, which aims to promote artistic quality in a multi-stage, transparent funding model. To this end, several funding categories with different time limits have been established, ranging between short-term funding of individual projects and longer-term funding for projects of up to four years. Evaluation and assessment are carried out by expert juries.