Elisabeth is a Viennese, German-language musical commissioned by the Vereinigte Bühnen Wien (VBW), with book/lyrics by Michael Kunze and music by Sylvester Levay. It portrays the life and death of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I. It has been translated into seven languages and seen by over ten million spectators worldwide, making it the most successful German-language musical of all time.
The musical tells the story of Elisabeth ("Sisi"), the Empress of Austria, from her engagement and marriage in 1854 to her murder in 1898 at the hands of the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni, through the lens of her growing obsession with Death as her marriage and her empire crumble around her at the turn of the century.
The show opens in the "nightly world of the dead and the dreamers", where Luigi Lucheni is being interrogated by a Judge as to why he has murdered the Empress Elisabeth. Lucheni claims that he did no more than what Elisabeth herself wanted, since all her life Elisabeth has been in love with Death himself - and vice versa. As his witnesses, Lucheni brings back the dead aristocracy of the bygone era and takes us to the past, where he serves as a sarcastic narrator of the events that lead to the transformation of the sweet and innocent Sisi to the revered and infamous Elisabeth, Empress of Austria and Hungary, and her decline through later years until her assassination.
At a young age, Sisi, grown up in a seemingly sorrowless environment, experiences her first encounter with Death, which launches a love-hate affair that will span her entire life. Lucheni claims that once Franz Joseph, the Emperor of Austria, picks Elisabeth as his bride - for once opposing his domineering mother Sophie - he begins a chain of events that will eventually topple the Habsburg empire. Elisabeth herself very soon comes to regret her seemingly "fairy-tale marriage" as the biggest mistake of her life. She feels abandoned by her careless husband, psychologically abused by her possessive mother-in-law and is chronically depressed due to her loneliness. There is only one thing that keeps her emotionally stimulated--the dark and sensual shadow of Death; but Elisabeth is reluctant to consummate their relationship. When Death takes her infant daughter, the tragedy shakes the young Empress extremely, but she refuses to give in to Death's sway. After her other two children, including her only son Rudolf, are taken away by Sophie, Elisabeth calluses over and becomes a cold, selfish woman. She flees the Austrian court and spends decades restlessly travelling all over the world, trying in vain to escape from her fear of emptiness. Eventually, Elisabeth makes peace with her husband and finds new meaning in her life when she helps unify Austria and Hungary, but her newfound purpose makes her neglect her psychologically delicate son even further, sending young Rudolf into deep depression and causing him to bond with Death.
Eventually, Rudolf's own loneliness and his father's pressure cause him to snap and he embraces Death, committing suicide at Mayerling with his mistress, Mary Vetsera. This event completely breaks down Elisabeth and she begs Death to take her. However, her scorned lover now refuses to take her in.
Another decade goes by. Elisabeth still wanders from place to place, dressed in permanent mourning. Franz Joseph visits her from time to time, begging her to return home to Vienna, firmly believing that love is the answer to all sorrows, but Elisabeth refuses, citing that sometimes love is simply not enough to cure old wounds.
Finally, in a horrifying vision of the fall of the House of Habsburg, Franz Joseph at last meets his mysterious rival. He watches as Death throws Lucheni a dagger, but crushed by the weight of his imperial crest, he is powerless to save his wife.
On September 10, 1898, while on her way to board a ship in Geneva, Empress Elisabeth of Austria is mortally wounded, stabbed in the heart with a crudely sharpened file. As she lies dying, Death comes to claim her spirit with a kiss.
- Elisabeth, the Empress of Austria and later Queen of Hungary
- Death, the personification
- Luigi Lucheni, an anarchist and Elisabeth's assassin. The narrator of the play
- Franz Joseph, the Emperor of Austria and later King of Hungary
- Archduchess Sophie, Franz Joseph's autocratic mother
- Rudolf, Elisabeth and Franz Joseph's son
- Max, Duke in Bavaria, Elisabeth's father
- Ludovika, Duchess in Bavaria, Elisabeth's mother and Sophie's sister
- Helene, Elisabeth's sister
- Countess Esterházy, the Mistress of the Household
- Count Grünne, Franz Joseph's advisor
- Cardinal Archbishop Rauscher, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria
- Prince Schwarzenberg, the State Minister
- Frau Wolf, the mistress of a brothel in Vienna
The world premiere of Elisabeth, directed by Harry Kupfer, took place on September 3, 1992 at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, Austria, where it ran until January 1997. After a brief hiatus, it reopened on September 4, 1997. The final closing date was on April 25, 1998. In October 2002, a 10th Anniversary miniseries of concerts took place at the Wiener Konzerthaus in Vienna. The Vienna production was revived on October 1, 2003 and ran until December 4, 2005.a
Other productions have been mounted in the following countries. Current or upcoming productions are in bold:
- Japan: The Takarazuka Grand Theatre, The Takarazuka Revue- Hy?go, Japand
- February 16, 1996 - current
- Japan: The Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre, The Takarazuka Revue- Tokyo, Japand
- Japan: The Imperial Garden Theater, The Toho Company- Tokyo, Japan
- June 6, 2000 - ?; 2001-2002; 2004; February 2005; August 3, 2008 - February 2, 2009
- Hungary: The Open-Air Theatre of Szeged- Szeged, Hungary
- August 17, 1996 - September/October 1996
- Hungary: The Operetta Theatre (Budapesti Operett Színház) Budapest, Hungaryc
- October 5, 1996 - January 2005; July 2007 -
- Hungary: The Hungarian National Theatre- Miskolc, Hungary
- Sweden: Musiktheatern i Värmland- Karlstad, Sweden
- September 30, 1999 - January 9, 2000
- Netherlands: Amateur Dutch Production (1998)
- Netherlands: Fortis Circus Theatre, Stage Entertainment, Scheveningen
- November 21, 1999 - July 22, 2001
- Germany: The Colosseum Theater, Stage Entertainment- Essen, Germany
- March 22, 2001 - June 29, 2003
- Germany: The Apollo Theater, Stage Holding/Stage Entertainment- Stuttgart, Germany
- March 6, 2005 - September 17, 2006
- Germany: Theater des Westens, Semmel Concerts/Premium Entertainment- Berlin, Germany
- April 20 - September 27, 2008
- October 2008 - April 2010 (toured throughout Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Austria. See tour dates below.e)
- Italy: Miramare Castle, Open-air Concert Version- Trieste, Italyb
- July 21-27, 2004; July 31 - August 6, 2005
- Finland: Turun Kaupunginteatteri, The Municipal Theatre of Turku- Turku, Finland
- September 23, 2005 - December 30, 2006
- Switzerland: Thunersee Open-Air Theatre- Thun, Switzerland
- July 19 - August 30, 2006
- Japan: Umeda Arts Theatre- Osaka, Japan. Original Vienna Production.
- March 28 - April 30, 2007
- South Korea: Samsung Electronics Hall- Seoul, South Korea.
- February 9 - May 13, 2012
- Austria: Raimund Theater- Vienna, Austria. Elisabeth: 20th Anniversary Revival
- September 5, 2012 - February 1, 2014
- Japan: Umeda Arts Theatre- Osaka, Japan. Elisabeth in Concert: 20th Anniversary
- South Korea: Seoul Art Center Opera House - Seoul, South Korea.
- July 26 - September 7, 2013
- September 14 - October 20, 2013f
- China: Shanghai Cultural Square - Shanghai, China
- December 9, 2014 - January 11, 2015
- Japan: Imperial Garden Theater - Tokyo, Japan.
- June 13, - August 26, 2015
- South Korea: Samsung Electronics Hall - Seoul, South Korea.
- June 13, - September 6, 2015
- European Tour: Germany & Austria
- February 26 - March 22, 2015 - Essen, Germany; Colosseum Theater
- March 26 - June 7, 2015 - Munich, Germany
- July 7 - August 9, 2015 - Linz, Austria
- December 16, 2015 - January 3, 2016 - Frankfurt am Main, Germany
- January 7 - February 14, 2016 - Berlin, Germany
- Netherlands: Paleis Het Loo - Apeldoorn. Elisabeth in Concert.
Additional songs have been added for some productions of Elisabeth that are not featured in all productions. Also the order of songs is often switched, which is the most noticeable between the German and the Viennese versions. This song list and order, with titles in English, is based upon the original Vienna production except where noted.
- Prologue (Prolog) - Judge, Lucheni, Death
- Like You (Wie du) - Elisabeth, Max
- Lovely to Have You All Here - (Schön, euch alle zu seh'n) Ludovika, Hélène, Family
- No Coming Without Going (Kein Kommen ohne Geh'n) - Death (Hungarian, Japanese, 2012 Vienna productions only (sung by Death and Elisabeth in 2012 Vienna production))
- Black Prince (Schwarzer Prinz) - Elisabeth (originally a direct reprise of Like You, rewritten for the Dutch premiere and subsequent productions, cut in 2012 Vienna production)
- To Each He Gives His Own (Jedem gibt er das Seine) - Sophie, Franz-Joseph, the Court
- Things Never Happen As Planned (So wie man plant und denkt...) - Lucheni, Sophie, Hélène, Elisabeth, Franz-Joseph
- Nothing is Difficult Any More (Nichts ist schwer) - Franz-Joseph, Elisabeth
- All Questions Have Been Asked (Alle Fragen sind gestellt) - Wedding Chorus (and Death in the Takarazuka production)
- She Doesn't Fit (Sie passt nicht) - Sophie, Max, Wedding Guests
- The Last Dance (Der letzte Tanz) - Death
- An Empress Must Shine (Eine Kaiserin muss glänzen) - Sophie, Countess Esterházy, Ladies-in-Waiting
- I Belong to Me (Ich Gehör Nur Mir) - Elisabeth
- The First Four Years (Die Ersten Vier Jahre) - Lucheni, Elisabeth, Sophie, Ladies-in-Waiting, Franz-Joseph, The Court, Hungarians (finale completely rewritten for the Takarazuka production and partially for the Hungarian version.)
- The Shadows Grow Longer (Die Schatten werden länger) (Preview) - Death
- The Cheerful Apocalypse (Die fröhliche Apokalypse) - Lucheni, coffeehouse patrons
- Child or Not (Kind oder nicht) - Sophie, Countess Esterházy, Young Rudolf (appears from the German premiere and subsequent productions, except the Takarazuka production)
- Elisabeth, Open Up My Angel (Elisabeth, mach auf mein Engel) - Franz-Joseph, Elisabeth, Death
- Milk (Milch) - Lucheni, the Poor (and Death in the Takarazuka production)
- Beauty Care (Schönheitspflege) - Countess Esterházy, Ladies-in-Waiting
- I Just Want to Tell You (Ich will dir nur sagen) (I Belong to Me Reprise) - Franz-Joseph, Elisabeth, Death (originally only Franz-Joseph and Elisabeth in the original Vienna and Hungarian productions)
- Kitsch (Kitsch) - Lucheni
- Éljen (which is Hungarian for "long live...") (Éljen) - Hungarian Crowds, Lucheni (omitted in Stage Entertainment productions)
- When I Want to Dance (Wenn ich tanzen will) - Death, Elisabeth (written for the German premiere and appears in subsequent productions, sans the Hungarian staging)
- Mama, Where Are You? (Mama, wo bist du?) - Young Rudolf, Death
- Mama, Where Are You? (reprise) (Mama, wo bist du reprise) - Young Rudolf, Death (Original Dutch production only; the scene was inserted into the gap made by moving the earlier song into act one)
- She Is Insane (Sie ist verrückt) - Elisabeth, Miss Windisch
- Nothing, Nothing, Nothing at All (Nichts, nichts, gar nichts) - Elisabeth (originally a dance-sequence with Elisabeth as Titania from A Midsummer Night's Dream, missing the second half of the song in the Takarazuka production)
- I Belong To Me (Ich Gehör Nur Mir reprise) - Elisabeth (Takarazuka productions only)
- Us or Her (Wir oder sie) - Sophie, The Court
- Don't Play the Prude (Nur kein Genieren) - Madame Wolf, Lucheni, Whores
- The Last Chance (Or 'The Malady') (Die letzte Chance (Maladie)) - Death, Elisabeth
- Between Dream and Reality (Zwischen Traum und Wirklichkeit) - Elisabeth (Toho Japanese productions only, also recorded for the Stuttgart production cast recording, though not utilised in the actual show)
- Argument between Mother and Son - Franz Josef & Sophie (Streit Mutter und Sohn) (proceeds Sophie's solo "Bellaira")
- Bellaria (Bellaria) - Sophie (Primarily appeared in Hungarian and Japanese productions starting in 1996; Has been present in all productions since then, except for the Takarazuka production)
- The Restless Years (Die rastlosen Jahre) - Franz-Joseph, The Court, Ladies-in-Waiting
- Hunt (Jagd) - A sequence referencing Elisabeth's hunting trips in Europe in the original Viennese production (deleted in all but the Hungarian production)
- The Shadows Grow Longer (Die Schatten werden länger (Reprise)) - Death, Rudolf
- Argument Between Father and Son (Streit Vater & Sohn) - Rudolf, Franz Joseph (first seen in the Dutch and Essen productions, then inserted into the Viennese revival and subsequent German productions)
- Hate (Hass) - Anti-Semites & Lucheni (cut from the Takarazuka productions due to controversial content)
- Conspiracy (Verschwörung) - Rudolf, Hungarian Nationalists (does not appear in the Vienna production; expanded for the Takarazuka version)
- Like You (Wie du (Reprise)) - Elisabeth, Max's Ghost (does not appear in the Takarazuka production)
- If I Were Your Mirror (Wenn ich dein Spiegel wär) - Rudolf, Elisabeth
- The Mayerling Waltz (Mayerling-Walzer) - Rudolf, Death, Mary Vetsera (orchestrations expanded in the Takarazuka production since the Star Troupe 1996 performance and used for current productions)
- Rudolf, Where Are You? (Dirge) (Rudolf, wo bist du? (Totenklage)) - Elisabeth (a duet with Sophie's Ghost in the Dutch and Hungarian productions)
- No Coming Without Going (Kein Kommen ohne Geh'n Reprise) - Death (Takarazuka productions only)
- My New Assortment (Mein neues Sortiment) (Kitsch reprise) - Lucheni
- Ships in the Night (Boote in der Nacht) - Elisabeth, Franz-Joseph
- On the Deck of the Sinking World (Am Deck der sinkenden Welt) - Lucheni, Death, Franz-Joseph, the Habsburgs (Missing first half of the song in the Takarazuka stagings)
- The Veil Descends (Der Schleier fällt) - Elisabeth, Death
- Closing Music (Schlussapplaus) - Instrumental (Length and assortment of themes vary from production to production)
CD and DVD releases
Elisabeth has been known to inspire a collector's mania that does not limit itself solely to audio and visual memorabilia. However, as of November 2007, there have been a total of at least twenty-five cast albums, complete works, demos, and promotional albums/singles, as well as eight commercial DVDs of the show, released to the public. These releases do not include countless other artists' solo albums and special compilations that also feature songs from the musical. Listed here are a few from the more mainstream, or better-known, productions.
VIENNA 1992 Elisabeth -- original cast recording (Originalaufnahmen aus dem Musical Elisabeth)
Elisabeth: Pia Douwes, Der Tod: Uwe Kröger, Luigi Lucheni: Ethan Freeman
Producer - Jimmy Bowien
Polydor GMBH - 513 792-2
VIENNA 1996 Elisabeth -- complete live recording (Live aus dem Theater an der Wien Gesamtaufnahme des Musicals Elisabeth)
Elisabeth: Maya Hakvoort, Der Tod: Addo Kruizinga, Luigi Lucheni: Bruno Grassini
Polydor GMBH - 531 481-2
- On 19 and 20 January 1996, a complete live recording was made of the original Vienna run.
SCHEVENINGEN 1999 Elisabeth -- original Dutch cast album
Elisabeth: Pia Douwes, De Dood: Stanley Burleson, Luigi Luicheni: Wim van den Driessche
Polydor - 543 335-2
ESSEN 2001 Elisabeth -- original German cast album (Highlights der deutschen Urauffürung im Colosseum Theater Essen)
Elisabeth: Pia Douwes, Der Tod: Uwe Kröger, Luigi Lucheni: Carsten Lepper
Polydor GMBH - 549 800-2
VIENNA 2004 Elisabeth -- Revival cast recording (Aktuelles Cast Album, Wien)
Elisabeth: Maya Hakvoort, Der Tod: Máté Kamarás, Luigi Luicheni: Serkan Kaya
HitSquad Records 6680530
VIENNA 2005 Elisabeth -- complete live recording (Gesamtaufnahme live aus dem Theater an der Wien)
Elisabeth: Maya Hakvoort, Der Tod: Máté Kamarás, Luigi Luicheni: Serkan Kaya, Kaiser Franz Joseph: André Bauer, Erzherzogin Sophie: Else Ludwig, Erzherzog Rudolf: Fritz Schmid
HitSquad Records 668262
- On 30 and 31 October 2005, a complete live recording of the Vienna Revival was made. A more popular item among fans is a DVD of the show recorded on these same two nights. A November 2007 release of the same live recording in widescreen spread over 2 DVDs also boasts a 1-disc companion with a short history of backstage interviews, pictures, and production videos from the last thirteen years of the musical, subtitled in English and Japanese.
- CDs and DVDs have also been released for each of the nine Japanese productions of the Takarazuka Revue since 2016, and additionally for the Japanese 10th anniversary concert in February 2006. A CD has been released for the Vienna 10th anniversary concert which was staged in 2002.
- ^a The Vienna Revival also went on to tour Japan in 2007. It opened in Osaka at the Umeda Arts Theatre on March 28, 2007 and showed 40 performances through April 30, 2007. On May 7, 2007, the production opened (in concert version) at the Koma Stadium Theatre in Tokyo. The Japan Tour of the Vienna Revival run ended on May 20, 2007.
- ^b For two consecutive summers, these special, week-long invitational concerts were held by the historic Miramare Castle to promote the Vienna Revival. These performances were held during the show's annual summer pause, and several cast members from the Vienna Revival participated. The concerts were performed in German and Italian.
- ^c Elisabeth premiered in the Hungarian language at The Open-Air Theatre of Szeged in August 1996. The Budapest production that premiered at The Operetta Theatre in October 1996, took over the repertoire for the previous Open-Air production. Between the years of 1996 and 2005, with allowance for casting changes and the use of the theatre's space for other various events, subsequent productions were held (including the Miskolc run). The Hungarian production has a running history of eight years, the longest running, un-interrupted Elisabeth production in the world.
- A new production of the musical with a partially new cast opened at the Operetta Theatre in Budapest in July 2007. Since then, Elisabeth enjoys a regular run at The Operetta Theatre.
- ^d Since 1996, the musical has been performed at least once by each of the five troupes of the all-female Japanese Takarazuka Revue.
- Yukigumi/Snow Troupe- The Takarazuka Grand Theatre (February 16 - March 25, 1996); The Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre (June 3-30, 1996)
- Reprise: The Takarazuka Grand Theatre (May 4 - June 18, 2007); The Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre (July 6 - August 12, 2007)
- Hoshigumi/Star Troupe- The Takarazuka Grand Theater (November 8 - December 16, 1996); The Tokyo Takarazuka Theater (March 4-31, 1997)
- Soragumi/Cosmos Troupe- The Takarazuka Grand Theater (October 30 - December 20, 1998); The 1000 Days Theater (February 19 - March 29, 1999)
- Hanagumi/Flower Troupe- The Takarazuka Grand Theater (October 4 - November 18, 2002); The Tokyo Takarazuka Theater (January 2 - February 9, 2003)
- Reprise: The Takarazuka Grand Theatre (July 22 - August 22, 2014); The Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre (October 11 - November 16, 2014)
- Tsukigumi/Moon Troupe- The Takarazuka Grand Theater (February 4 - March 21, 2005); The Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre (April 28 - May 22, 2005)
- Reprise: The Takarazuka Grand Theatre (May 22 - June 22, 2009); The Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre (July 10 - August 9, 2009)
- ^e After its run in Berlin, the Semmel Concerts production of Elisabeth proceeded to tour Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Austria. Dates for the Semmel Concerts Tour are as follows:
- Zurich-Oerlikon, Switzerland- Theater 11 (October 17, 2008 - January 4, 2009)
- Antwerp, Belgium- Stadsschouburg Antwerpen (March 22 - April 19, 2009)
- Munich, Germany- Deutsches Theater (October 21 - December 12, 2009)
- Frankfurt, Germany- Alte Oper (December 18, 2009 - January 14, 2010)
- Bremen, Germany- Musical Theater Bremen (January 19 - February 14, 2010)
- Bregenz, Austria- Festspielhaus (February 24 - March 10, 2010)
- Düsseldorf, Germany - Capitol Theater (March 18 - April 25, 2010)
- ^f After its run in Seoul, Interpark revealed other cities EMK Musical COmpany's 2013 production of the Korean version of Elisabeth will travel to and perform in South Korea. Dates are as follows:
- Busan, South Korea- Busan Cultural Center (September 14-15, 2013)
- Daegu, South Korea- Keimyung Art Center (September 21-22, 2013)
- Gwangju, South Korea- Gwangju Culture & Art Center (September 28-29, 2013)
- Changwon, South Korea- Sungsan Art Hall (October 19-20, 2013)