Urban, Joseph


Urban, Joseph
(1872-1933)
   Born in Vienna, Joseph Urban became one of the most acclaimed theatre architects and scene designers in early 20th-century American theatre and may be credited with launching the New Stagecraft. He studied at the Vienna Art Academy with Baron Carl Hassauer and at the Polytechnicum, after which he designed palaces and even a bridge before coming to the United States in 1904 to design the Austrian Pavilion for the St. Louis World's Fair. Urban returned to Europe upon completing the task; he worked for the Vienna Burgtheater and designed operas throughout Europe. He did not return to America until 1911 when Alice Nielsen invited him to be resident designer for the new Boston Opera Company. His settings for Madame Butterfly (1913) there were inspired by the design of a kimono Nielsen had brought from Japan, and they in turn inspired Robert Edmond Jones's innovative design for The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife.
   Impressed with Urban's designs for The Garden of Paradise (1914), producer Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. began a long association with Urban, who designed 16 editions of Ziegfeld Follies from 1915 to 1931, the lavish Ziegfeld Theatre itself, and a series of Ziegfeld-produced musicals and operettas, including Sally (1920), Sunny (1925), Rio Rita (1927), Show Boat (1927), The Three Musketeers (1928), Rosalie (1928), Whoopee (1928), and Music in the Air (1932). Between 1917 and 1933, Urban designed and supervised construction of settings for 54 productions. Urban also designed nonmusical plays, including Shakespearean revivals for actor James K. Hackett and Smilin ' Through (1919), starring Jane Cowl.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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