In most significant ways, Austria's municipally funded theatres are like those in West Germany, with two exceptions: there are not as many of them, and Austria has a theatre center for the country, its capital, Vienna. The first is readily explained in that Austria is largely a rural country. The second cannot be explained; it has always been true and does not show much sign of changing, except, perhaps, in the summer.
Vienna has nearly all of Austria's theatres. The best theatre, opera, and ballet companies are all located there; if a singer, actor, or dancer is good, sooner or later Vienna will make a lasting claim. Vienna also trades people (especially regisseurs [stage managers]) with the rest of the German-speaking countries, including East Germany.
This picture changes in the summer when the festivals begin. Both the Vienna and the Salzburg festivals focus on opera, though a good deal of theatre is staged at both, which is not as well publicized. As part of these festivals, usually at least one great Austrian actor ( Oskar Wemer, for example) returns to the stage. Salzburg also has an excellent marionette theatre, which is described later in this section.
Theatre in the provinces of Austria is uneven in quality, although opera in the smaller cities of Graz and Linz is apt to be quite good. With certain exceptions, theatre companies throughout Austria produce the same bill of fare as those in West Germany. Austria has had a number of fine playwrights, most of whose works, because of their highly literary qualities or their use of argot, are seldom performed outside German-speaking theatres. Austria's most literary playwright is the nineteenth-century Franz Grillparzer, whose work is not performed much outside Austria and is given the same kind of reverence nationally that the French give Racine. Grillparzer is much admired for his use of language, though his stage machinery frequently creaks. More accessible in terms of charm are two nineteenth-century comic writers: Ferdinand Raimund, fantastical and light, and the Viennese Molière, Johann Nepomuk Nestroy, best known as the playwright