The Vienna State Opera is an opera house located in the center of Vienna, Austria.
It was originally called the Vienna Court Opera.
In 1920, with the replacement of the Habsburg Monarchy by the First Austrian Republic, it was renamed the Vienna State Opera.
The Vienna State Opera is one of the most famous operas in the whole world.
The structure of the opera house was planned by the Viennese architect August Sicard von Sicardsburg, while the inside was designed by interior decorator Eduard van der Nüll.
It was built by the renowned Czech architect and contractor Josef Hlávka.
Built in a grandiose Neo-Renaissance style to reflect the origins of its art, construction began in 1861 and finished in 1869.
On May 25, 1869, the opera house solemnly opened with Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth.
In the last year of World War II, the Vienna State Opera was nearly destroyed during an allied bombing raid intended for another target. Only the front section and the main stairways remained intact. The stage and the auditorium, however, were completely destroyed.
The Secretary of State for Public Works, Julius Raab, announced on May 24, 1945, that reconstruction of the Vienna State Opera would begin immediately.
On November 5, 1955, the Vienna State Opera reopened with a new auditorium and modernized technology. Under the direction of Karl Böhm, Beethoven’s Fidelio was brilliantly performed, and the opening ceremonies were broadcast by Austrian television.
Looking at the front of the building from the Ring Road, one can see the original structure that has been preserved since 1869.
The statues of the two riders on horseback were placed on the main facade of the loggia in 1876. They were created by Ernst Julius Hähnel, and represent Erato’s two winged horses that are led by “Harmony and the Muse of Poetry”.
On the arches above the veranda are Hähnel’s five bronze statues representing, from left to right: heroism, tragedy, fantasy, comedy, and love. On the right and left sides of the opera house are two fountains by Josef Gasser, representing two different worlds: on the left, music, dance, joy, and levity, and on the right, seduction, sorrow, love, and revenge.
The rear part of the two-piece building is clearly broader, and includes the stage and the surrounding rooms. The narrower front part contains the auditorium and the adjoining rooms that are open to the public.
Marble interior with ornate decoration welcomes the visitors inside the Opera.
A superb marble staircase sweeps up from the main entrance to the first floor. The staircase shows off seven allegorical statues made of Carrara marble, representing arts such as music, dance and sculpture.
In the tea room Emperor Franz Joseph used to sip tea. Roped off from the public, the tea room is decorated with the golden silk embroidered wall panels boasting the emperor’s monogram. Austrian coats-of-arms also make up the pattern. On the ceiling the allegorical figure of Music, perched on an eagle and holding a lyre, ascends toward Heaven.
The foyer shows off 14 busts of composers and lunettes depicting scenes from legendary operas, including The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Busts of Franz Schubert, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven make appearances, too.
Frescoes from The Magic Flute decorate the loggia. Visitors see the protagonist Papageno, disguised as an elderly woman, meeting Papagena and Papageno saved by three boys after he tries to commit suicide. In the center of the middle loggia, Maria Theresa and a young Mozart are depicted in a mother and child fashion.
The horseshoe-shaped auditorium has capacity of 2,284 spectators. It offers 1,709 seats, 567 standing spaces, 4 wheelchair spaces, and 4 wheelchair companion seats. The traditional colors of red, gold, and ivory were used for the auditorium, and the large central chandelier was replaced for safety by ring of built-in ceiling lights made of crystal glass.
The stage is one of the largest in Europe.
For many decades, the opera house has been the venue of the Vienna Opera Ball. It is an internationally renowned event, which takes place annually on the last Thursday in Fasching. Those in attendance often include visitors from around the world, especially prominent names in business and politics. The opera ball receives media coverage from a range of outlets.
The opera ball in 1968 was the occasion for a protest, at which the organisation was criticised for being “elite” (due to the high prices), “conceited” (due to the opulent display of wealth for the newspapers and cameras) and “reactionary” (for upholding an allegedly outdated culture). There was violence between the demonstrators and the police.
The season at the Vienna State Opera runs from September to June with a programme of opera, operetta, ballet and concerts.
The Vienna State Opera produces annually up to 60 operas in approximately 200 performances. This means that opera enthusiasts could attend a different opera each day of the week. To achieve this outstanding service the Vienna State Opera employs over 1000 professionals of various disciplines.
80 minutes before each performance, cheap standing room tickets are sold (€2 to 4) – these are popular with all age groups.
In April, May, June and September the Vienna State Opera broadcasts performances live on a 50 m2 LED video wall placed on the side of the opera house.