The city located at the eastern tip of the Alps and at the foot of the Vienna Woods has special values such as the Wiener waltz, its several outstanding characters of classical music, countless cultural monuments and, of course, a vast number of gastronomic delights.
Photo: The auditorium (c) Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn
When we hear the word ”Vienna”, we automatically recall Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert who lived in the city, as well as the members of the Strauss dynasty, the stars of the Vienna Operetta, the Wiener Sängerknaben, and the New Year Eve concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic Choir broadcast in hundreds of millions of homes.
The Vienna State Opera located on the Ring, is one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world, where the audience can enjoy the highest quality performances. In the children’s opera tent on the roof of the opera house, there are productions featuring popular operas for children.
Artists and stage designers of different nationalities present their knowledge to the expert and critical audience of Vienna and abroad. Performances on the renowned stage change daily, which means over 60 different opera and ballet pieces for the 300 days each season. The opera playlist has a worldwide unique bandwidth. The Vienna State Opera will host the Rudolf Nurayev Gala in June 2020 and it is the venue of the world-famous Vienna Opera Ball every year. This grand ball is one of the most prominent events in the social life of the Austrian capital as well as the largest gathering of the international elite representing the economy, culture, sport, science and politics. Once a year, at the Opera Ball, the auditorium is transformed into a ballroom and the stage together with the auditorium becomes the dance floor. The Austrian Head of State enters to the national anthem of Austria and the European Union, and after the arrival and dance of the first ballers, “Alles Walzer” is announced and the ball begins.
Photo: Nurajew Gala 2019 (c) Wiener Staatsballett / Ashley Taylor
The monumental building on the Ringstrasse, the former imperial and royal court opera theatre, was designed by architect August Sicard von Sicardsburg and interior designer Eduard van der Nüll.
The centre of the musical life was decorated with several frescos painted by Moritz von Schwind. Unfortunately, neither of the architects had the opportunity to see the Opera House when it was completed: the sensitive-spirited van der Nüll committed suicide, and shortly after his death, his friend Sicardsburg had a stroke and died.
The ceremonial opening of the Neo-Renaissance building was held on May 25, 1869, with Mozart’s Don Juan. The prestigious event was not only followed by the Vienna audience but the entire Habsburg Empire. Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph were also represented at the opening. The “golden age” of the Vienna Opera House was between 1897 and 1907, when the institution was headed by the famous composer Gustav Mahler. Mahler’s successor, Felix Weingartner, was an outstanding conductor.
The name Staatsoper was – originally unofficially – introduced after the fall of the Monarchy and the proclamation of the Republic of Austria in the early 1920s. At that time, the main music director was Franz Schalk, along with Richard Strauss for four years. Among the great conductors, Schalk and Strauss were followed by Clemens Krauss, Weingartner again, and then Bruno Walter until the Second World War.
During the Nazi occupation, between 1938 and 1945, there was a very dark period in the life of the Vienna Opera House. Most of the pieces were not allowed to be played, and the performers, opera directors and staff were killed or expelled from the country.
On March 12, 1945, due to a bombing the building of the Vienna Opera House was demolished, and the Opera House was temporarily relocated to the Volksoper building on May 1, 1945. On 6 October 1945, the rapidly renovated “Theaters an der Wien” opened with Beethoven’s Fidelio.
In the next 10 years, during the reconstruction of the mother building the Vienna Opera House operated at two locations.
On November 5, 1955, the rebuilt Vienna Opera House reopened at its original location, with a new auditorium and more modern technology. At the opening ceremony, led by Karl Böhm and also broadcast by Austrian TV, the audience saw a brilliant performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio. Böhm was at the head of the institution until his resignation in 1956. After that, from 1956 to 1964, the Staatsoper was led by Herbert von Karajan. Many people referred to this period as the second golden age of the Vienna Opera House. However, Karajan still had to resign because of the criticisms he received.
Photo: Wiener Opernball (c) Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn
The repertoire of the Vienna State Opera covers the period from Baroque to the 21st century, but it focuses on the 19th century. The highlight of the Vienna State Opera’s 2018/19 season is an important anniversary, namely that the Opera House on the Ring celebrates its 150th anniversary, which was be celebrated on 25 May, as part of a festive event.
On May 26, everyone could join in the celebration as part of a festive event on the square in front of the Opera House.
In April, May, June and September there were 80 opera and ballet performances broadcast live on the 50-square-meter canvas in front of the Opera on Herbert von Karajan Square.
Visitors can have a glimpse behind the scenes in the guided tours of the magnificent building of the Opera House. If you are in Vienna, it is definitely worth visiting the exhibition on the history of the house in the building of the Opera House and Theatermuseum, a wonderful retrospection over the past 150 years of the Vienna Opera House.
More info about the Vienna State Opera and its season: www.wiener-staatsoper.at
Cover photo: The front of the Vienna State Opera (c) Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn