The Vienna State Opera House is one of the world's largest and most splendid theaters, where numerous prominent composers and conductors, international soloists and dancers have performed. After Franz Schalk, the first director, there have been 30 others including Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Herbert von Karajan, Egon Hilbert and Karl Böhm. Under the law, the Austrian Republic is required to ensure that full use is made of its famous opera house, and so there is a different opera or ballet on the program on 300 evenings in the year.
Opernring 2, A-1010 Vienna, Austria
Useful tips: The regular season runs from September 1 to June 30. Written applications for tickets must reach the office at least three weeks before the performance. Order forms and programs are available from the Austrian National Tourist Office. Send orders to : Osterreichischer Bundestheaterverband, Hanuschgasse 3, A-1010 Vienna. Phone orders begin six days proir to performance, call 011-43-1-51-31-513 for charge to American Express, Diners Club, Visa, Mastercard, Eurocard and JCB Card.
Guided tours upon request.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
Transit: U-Bahn: Karlsplatz (U1, U2, U4); Tram: 1, 2, D, J.
The Viennese obsession with music goes far back into Habsburg history. The first recorded Viennese Court opera was performed in 1625, on the occasion of the birthday of Ferdinand II, on the Hradschin or Prager Burg, where the Emperor resided for six months. In 1660 Leopold II, probably the greatest music-lover and theatrical devotee of the Baroque period, had a smart theater built on the square in front of the Court Riding School in 1660-62. After 1668 numerous operas were performed, first on the site of the present Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, then in the Redoutensälen and in the old Burgtheater on Michaelerplatz, where Mozart's "Il Seraglio", "Marriage of Figaro" and "Cosi fan tutte" were first performed, and subsequently in the Kärntnertor Theater, where Weber's "Euryanthe" had its unhappy première and Beethoven's "Fidelio" began its series of triumphs in 1814. A few years later the first performances in Vienna of works by Rossini and Verdi ushered in a period of euphoria for Italian opera. After the destruction by fire of the Ringtheater the opera moved to its new home on the Ringstrasse in 1869.
The vast Opera House with its clearly defined structure is in the French Early Renaissance style. It was built between 1861 and 1869 to plans by August von Siccardsburg and Eduard van der Nüll. It opened on May 25 1869 with Mozart's "Don Giovanni" and a prologue spoken by the popular actress Charlotte Wolter. Neither architect lived to see the day. The criticisms and cruel jibes of the local populace while building was in progress drove van der Nüll to suicide, and Siccardsburg died just two months later, in 1868, from a heart attack. The Opera House was hit by bombs on March 12 1945 and gutted by fire. Reconstruction was not completed until 1955. The second inauguration of the "Opera House on the Ringstrasse" took place on November 5 1955, when Beethoven's "Fidelio" was performed. The Opera House can accommodate an audience of 2,211, with 110 musicians; the Vienna Philharmonic has been the resident orchestra since 1842. The buildings cover an area of 9,000sq.m/10,760sq.yd and a permanent staff of more than 1,000 is required to ensure the efficient running of the enterprise. The main facade with its two story foyer opens onto the Ringstrasse. The tripartite stage covers an area of 1,500sq.m/1,800sq.yd and is 45m/148ft high.
Inside a grand staircase leads up to the first floor. Immediately opposite lies the "Schwind Foyer" which takes its name from the pictures by Martin Schwind of scenes from operas. The staircase, the foyer and the tea room with its valuable tapestries were the only parts of the building left undamaged after the fire in 1945. The restored former Imperial Box, on the left of the proscenium, is now reserved for the Federal President, while the Archduke Box opposite is used by the Federal Chancellor for social functions.