“During the years I studied (…) in Vienna, my actual home was the standing room of the Vienna State Opera.” This is how world-famous conductor Zubin Mehta felt as a young student - an experience shared by generations of Vienna opera fans. Some people say the standing room is a legendary place, and if you want to really get to know the Vienna State Opera, you’d be better off avoiding an expensive seat. The standing room is traditionally where there are the most heated discussions, the most thunderous applause and the loudest catcalls, where you meet people who can tell stories from decades of opera experience. And also where the future of singers and opera per se is fervently negotiated, while the in-house programming generally remains conservative. But of course the fabled standing room is not the only place where we can witness the action on stage; dressed in fine evening attire, we can also look on from the loge or the orchestra stalls - which are now furnished with a subtitle screen in front of every seat. This grand institution, in the heart of a city whose residents are well known as lovers of music theater, offers plenty of food for discussion about opera - the world’s most famed singers and renowned conductors have been guests here, a tradition that continues to this day. And evening after evening, the undeclared star is the orchestra, the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, whose members hail from the Vienna Philharmonic.
The predecessor of the Vienna State Opera was the Vienna Court Opera, founded by the Habsburgs.
The “Haus am Ring,” as it is known, was built according to the plans of architects August Sicard von Sicardsburg and Eduard van der Nüll in Renaissance Revival style and inaugurated in 1869.
The new building was first harshly criticized, which allegedly led van der Nüll to commit suicide. Sicardsburg also died of a heart attack before the inauguration.
Composer and conductor Gustav Mahler was court opera director for ten years beginning in 1897.
On March 12, 1945 the building was badly damaged by bombing during the war.
After the end of the war, rehearsals and performances were held by the opera ensemble in alternative locations, including the Theater an der Wien and Vienna People’s Opera.
The Haus am Ring finally reopened on November 5, 1955, to Beethoven’s Fidelio under the baton of Karl Böhm.
The opera house’s longest-serving director was Ioan Holender (from April 1, 1992 to August 31, 2010).
The Vienna State Opera maintains a repertoire of around 50 productions each season.
The Vienna State Opera Chorus and Vienna State Ballet are resident ensembles.
Did you know?
Since 1998 the “Iron Curtain” (the fire safety wall between the stage and audience) has been newly designed every year by renowned artists, including Jeff Koons, Maria Lassnig, Cy Twombly, and Franz West.
Once a year the Vienna State Opera is the setting for the legendary Vienna Opera Ball.
During the International Year of Biodiversity, a beehive was installed on the roof, where it remained for two years.