Christopher Widauer

Christopher Widauer

Head of Digital Development @ Wiener Staatsoper

Christopher Widauer was born in Salzburg in 1961. After 4 years as assistant lecturer at Salzburg University he moved into music management, working in Germany and Austria, (eg as private secretary of Friedrich Gulda). As director for styriarte Graz (1987-1990), an international music festival spirited by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, development of a ticketing software now installed in prestigious venues, e.g. Konzerthaus and Volkstheater Wien, Salzburg Festival, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg. 1992-1999 programming of an International Festival for Contemporary Music featuring artists in residence like Steve Reich or Mauricio Kagel, and Head of PR and communications at SZENE Salzburg.

Foundation of a puppet theatre with focus on contemporary music and literature in 1989, commissioning and first performing a great number of works by important authors and composers such as Georges Aperghis, Olga Neuwirth, Bernhard Lang, playing at festivals like Biennale di Venezia, Bregenz and Ludwigsburg Festival, Warszaw Autumn, with orchestras and chamber music groups and in prestigious venues all over Europe. Developing a highly successful educational program in a series of 24 concerts with Vienna Symphony Orchestra in the main hall of Wiener Konzerthaus with a broad repertoire from Mozart to Charles Ives, and prominent partners such as Gustavo Dudamel, Yakov Kreizberg, Fabio Luisi, Vladimir Fedosejev, Katia and Marielle Labeque, Patricia Kopatchinskaya or Heinrich Schiff.

Having run and internationally toured this Vienna based private theatre company for twenty years, he joined Vienna’s City Commissioner for Cultural Affairs in 2010 as Head of Performing Arts Department, and developed a Digital Cultural Content Strategy in close cooperation with BCG. In March 2013 recruited as Head of Digital Development by Dominique Meyer, General Director of Vienna State Opera. Until October 2013, he and his teams developed Vienna State Opera into a fully independent producer and distributor of high class full HD digital content.

During the past four years, Christopher Widauer extended his already broad network in classical music largely into the operatic world, by closely cooperating with leading institutions and their management, the leading opera houses and concert halls in e.g. Berlin, London, Madrid, Zurich, Paris, Munich, Hamburg, Milan, New York or Beijing.

Christopher Widauer was responsible for the design and setup of state of the art infrastructure – remote cameras, new audio and video studios, inhouse watermarking, encoding and transcoding technology -, the development of a complex software solution with backend, CMS, website, mobile and SmartTV Apps and synchronized Second Screen content, the recruiting and training of 20 new staff members, as well as developing new workflows for all the concerned departments of Vienna State Opera (employing a workforce of 1.000 with an overall annual turnover of USD 135 m). Vienna State Opera succesfully aired the first UHD live stream in May 2014, and launched the first worldwide regular UHD live service in September 2015, having developed and installed the production and encoding technology inhouse as well. For this cutting edge innovations in close cooperation with global market leading partners, Vienna State Opera was honoured with the prestigous IBC Special Award in Amsterdam, as well as the Austrian National Innovation Award. 2016 this initiative was developed together with SAMSUNG into the first UHD HDR live programme worldwide.

An important disruption was achieved when Vienna State Opera started to produce for linear TV broadcast on Austrias ORFIII network in June 2016 with its inhouse equipment and teams, one more production also aired on 3SAT. This cooperation will bring 17 operas on TV screens until June 2020 – a huge number compared to what has been broadcast during the past years.

During the 2017 summer break of the opera house, Christopher and his team implemented a new in-house infotainment and subtitling system: 2.100 tablet computers installed in every seat and standing room, offering subtitles in six languages (soon also in Chinese) during the performance, and manifold options for patrons – information on the productions, cast and the house, subscription to newsletters, booking drinks for the interval, taking part in surveys. Every single tablet can be addressed with individualized messages – text, images and video –, and the user’s behaviour can be tracked by Google Analytics.

In January 2018, a future-looking project has been launched together with an Israeli/French startup: the digitization of the Vienna State Operas music library, aiming at replacing paper scores and sheets by digital music on tablets – for nearly 500 people working in the artistic field at the opera on 60 different works per season played in two series with different cast, respectively. An important additional goal of this project is to make available the treasures of Vienna State Operas vast archive of scores and music, dating back to 1869, to musicians, enthusiasts and scientists all over the world.