This article examines nobles' influence on the culture of cities in East Central Europe. In a follow-up to his latest book, the author compares the opera theatres in Lemberg and Prague, and considers how they positioned themselves vis-á-vis their respective cities. The article explains the rise and fall of aristocratic dominance that for a long time ran counter to the embourgeoisement of the opera stages of Western Europe. In East Central Europe, the aristocracy was vital in establishing public theatres which became the most significant competitors of court theatres in the first half of the nineteenth century. The article also analyses power struggles over the theatre between various social and political groups in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the intelligentsia increasingly questioned nobles' domination of the theatre. Although these power struggles destabilized the respective opera houses at times, they contributed to the identification of the two cities with them. The article ends by outlining how Prague and Lemberg fashioned themselves as "opera cities."