The Ringtheater in 1881
The Ringtheater was a popular theater in Vienna, Austria. It was located in the First District (Bezirk I), Schottenring 7. It was destroyed in a fire in 1881, and today the site is the federal headquarters of police for Vienna
The Ringtheater was built between 1872 and 1874 by Heinrich von Förster, following plans by Emil Ritter. It opened on January 17, 1874, under the direction of Albin Swoboda, Sr. as an 'Opéra Comique', antithetical to the "seriousness" of the Vienna State Opera, then called the Court Opera ('Hofoper'). However in September 1878, the focus was shifted to spoken plays, German and Italian opera and variety, and the name was changed to the "Ringtheater".
Given that the footprint of the theatre was small—and the theatre was intended to hold an audience of 1700—the architect was forced to build high, but with disastrous consequences. On December 8, 1881, a fire broke out shortly before a performance of Les contes d'Hoffmann. The "Ringtheaterbrand" ("Ringtheater Fire") totally destroyed the theatre, and killed at least 384, according to official figures. (The following year, a new law was passed, regarding the outfitting and safety provisions, including safety curtains, outwards-opening doors and fireproofing of the set).
A so-called 'Sühnhaus' was built on the site of the Ringtheater out of the Emperor's private funds; it was a private residence, which supported worthy causes. This was badly damaged in 1945 and eventually fell down in 1951; between 1969 and 1974, an office block was erected on the site, in which the federal headquarters for police in Vienna and the general inspectorate of the federal security guards, and the now police commandos are housed. The fire is commemorated on a plaque on the police building. The Attic style statues, which had stood on the pilasters, are now in the Pötzleinsdorfer Schlosspark.
The ruins of the fire at the Ringtheater, 8 December 1881