The establishment and development of the Municipal Theater in Pressburg in the period 1886–1920 was closely linked with the cultural and social development of the city in the period following the Austrian-Hungarian Compromise in 1867. The theater was built by the rising stratum of Pressburg townsmen, based on a requirement of the Hungarian government. The theater was in the possession of the town that rented it to theater directors and their German and Hungarian companies. The theater had a primacy among provincial theaters in Hungary. This was mainly due to the vicinity of Vienna and the efforts to resemble the metropolis, notably by the local patriotism of Pressburg inhabitants who wanted their locality to be regarded as a leading Hungarian town. The opera performances and their reception in the newspapers demonstrate the history of culture of the town, mentalities and collective identifications of its citizens, and last but not least the history of culture of Central Europe.
Staging Beethoven’s Fidelio in the second half of the nineteenth century in Pressburg drew on a long- standing Beethoven tradition prevalent in the town. Also, it stood at the center of protests against the growing influence of Hungarian theater in the newly constructed theater building since Fidelio was performed always at a time when the renewal of an agreement with a German-speaking director was being decided on (1889, 1892, 1895). The opera was staged with the participation of the choral societies and musical associations of the town. Its performances were held close to the annual festive masses of the most well-known association of Pressburg, the Church Music Association of St. Martin’s Cathedral (Germ. Kirchenmusikverein bei der Dom-, Kollegiats- und Stadtpfarrkirche zu St. Martin, Hung. Szent Márton Pozsonyi Egyházi Zeneegylet), where Beethoven’s Missa solemnis was performed. This enhanced the efforts of the supporters of the German theater to call Beethoven’s œuvre a carrier of “true art” and humanism and use it as a symbol of cultural identity in the discussions led about preserving the German season in the Municipal Theater (Germ. Stadttheater, Hung. Városi Színház).