The performing arts in Austria

Opera and drama are traditionally areas of outstanding importance in Austria’s cultural life. About 14,000 drama and music performances are staged for audiences of some 5.3 million visitors every year, according to the records of the national statistics authority Statistik Austria.

Government spending on the performing arts is significantly higher than on any other artistic endeavour. At the national level, subsidies for the performing arts amounted to €188.34m in 2013. This equalled 22.8 per cent of the federal government’s budget for cultural activities in that year (by comparison, 1.1 per cent was allocated to visual arts and 4.4 per cent to film). The pre-eminent position of the theatre is even more marked in the capital city Vienna. Fully 39.8 per cent of the City of Vienna’s cultural affairs budget (€85.24m of a total of €215.01m) was allocated to performing arts institutions and companies in 2013.

A large share of public spending on culture goes towards funding a small number of major stages (in some provinces, up to 90 per cent) . The City of Vienna, for example, is home to independent drama companies with excellent international contacts and a rich and diverse scene of small and medium-sized theatres. But multi-year subsidy programmes for these groups and stages account for only about 14 per cent of the funds spent by the City of Vienna on the promotion of the performing arts . Only 2.5 per cent of all local public spending on drama is allocated to short-term project finance.

Despite the low volume of public subsidies, independent drama productions regularly attract large audiences. In 2013, some 2,000 performances were seen by nearly 350,000 theatregoers. In the city of Graz, the combined audiences of the independent theatre scene are about 85,000 per year, equalling the audience numbers at the Grazer Schauspielhaus, the city’s leading stage .