A whirl around the Vienna State Opera

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I love opera and I love Mahler. So it’s kind of inevitable that someone like me is going to be very keen to visit Vienna State Opera as soon as I have the chance. As with other Viennese places I’ve blogged about, visiting around the time of my summer birthday means no performances. But we did head inside for a tour and got to see some things we wouldn’t have done if we’d just gone to a performance.

When we visited, the opera house website wasn’t so up-to-date and you could only find out about English tours from a board outside the box office. That seems to have IMG_5109changed now though – you can find out about tours here on their Guided tour page. Tours are now €9 and it’s definitely worth it. I think it lasted around an hour and we found out A LOT of information. Plus there was a “pretend to dress up as a sparkly Mozart” prop in the foyer – what’s not to like? We took the tram around the Ringstrasse to get there – but don’t bother with the tourist sight-seeing tram. The normal public-transport tram is just as fun and a lot cheaper. Hop off at the opera stop and head on in – if you’re facing the grand main entrance to the house, the box office is on the left-hand side.

IMG_5099.JPGWe assembled in the entrance hall, and were lead around inside – we saw

  • the Emperor’s Tea-Salon (if I remember rightly, this survived the WWII bombing of the opera house)
  • A whole host of beautiful and ornate foyers, hallways and staircases
  • Function rooms including the Mahlersaal and Schwind Foyer (containing paintings of opera scenes by Moritz von Schwind, and busts of composers)
  • Inside the auditorium – the gorgeous ceiling chandelier, tiers of boxes and plush red seats.
  • On the stage! It was enormous and it was interesting to see some of the technical goings-on! It’s definitely a side we don’t get to see very often.

    They also told us alot about how the Opera Ball works – though I’m afraid my ears switched off when they mentioned the €1000+ price tag per ticket.

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    Gustav Mahler outside stage door

    We went for a walk around the outside of the house afterwards too, mainly so I could see the spot where this photo was taken  <<<<<<<<<<
    (or rather, the part of the building that would’ve been there but really was reconstructed on top of the spot where this photo was taken). Mahler was the director of the Vienna Opera from 1897 – 1907, and this photo shows him outside the stage door. He conducted a lot of Wagner and Mozart during his time – in fact you can see his conducting score for Mozart’s La Nozze di Figaro at the Haus der Musik. Richard Strauss also has connections here – he was director himself for a short time, and Mahler tried to put on the premiere production of Strauss’s Salome, but they couldn’t get permission from the censors. I wish I could’ve been at one of the performances Mahler conducted – it’s also thanks to him that the audience lights are dimmed during a performance, late-comers can’t just walk in whenever they like, and claques (paid-for applause people!) were banned.

I hope I’ll get to go back one day to actually watch some opera there in the future (not the past!) – also because you can get standing day tickets for as little as €4. I’ll be very happy for an excuse to return.

But don’t worry if you can’t make it there yourself! Handily, you can do your own virtual tour on the Wiener Staatsoper website – though it’s worth going if you can, even if it’s just for the coffee and cake afterwards. You could go to the Hotel Sacher for a Sachertorte (though I think it’s expensive there) or pick up a slice in one of the hundreds of amazing cafes that are dotted between the city’s musical landmarks. Did I mention how much I love Vienna?!

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Sachertorte, from Hotel Sacher just behind the opera house

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