The top 25 Vienna Legends, Myths and Rumours: #4 / The State Opera and Edward van der Nuell

The State Opera and Van der Nüll

More than two years ago when I used to attend the German language class, my teacher told us the sensitive Viennese architect who masterminded the construction of the State Opera.

“Never criticise a talented Viennese…” She told us.

This was the time I learned of Eduard van der Nuell and his master August Sicard von Sicardsburg and the fate of State Opera, which was known then as Hofoper.

Van der Nuell was famous for his “exceptional ornamental and decorative talent.” Together with Sicardsburg, “They advocated an internationally open-minded and independent concept of the total work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk) without restrictions of style or norms, a very twentieth-century approach to architecture.” (Source)

Because of different styles associated in constructing the State Opera building, instead of praises what they heaped was a strong opposition from the public. They accused the team of Van der Nuell and Sicardsburg of having no style insinuating that they didn’t really invent anything new.

Although the building of State Opera also brought them critical acclaim from abroad, the last straw was Franz Josef’s dislike towards the building. It was rumoured that the emperor never favoured the architecture and even complained that it was an eyesore. Van der Nuell, who couldn’t handle the amount of flak he received especially from the Austrian emperor, committed suicide by hanging himself.

The emperor was so shocked after he heard the news of the ill-fated architect. From then on every time he wasn’t pleased with the new trends in art he was caught saying the cliched yet diplomatic phrase “Es war sehr schoen, es hat mich sehr gefreut ” to assure/please the artists.

A few months after Van der Nuell’s death, Sicardsburg died of a heart attack.

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