Vienna has two nicknames: The City of Music, for being home to some of classical music’s best composers, and The City of Dreams, for being home to the world’s first psycho-analyst, Sigmund Freud. To me, it was the City of Dreams because of its incredible opera.
The Vienna State Opera, or Wiener Staatsoper, is one of the best opera companies in the world. It holds the title for the most productions per year and is notorious for its outstanding performances, thanks to its incredible acoustics.
The Vienna State Opera is full of fascinating facts. Here are just a few of them, plus a few tips for seeing the opera in Vienna.
5 Incredible Facts About the Vienna Opera
1. The Vienna Opera has 70 productions a year and never repeats a performance two nights in a row.
With one exception: it’s tradition to perform Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, about a New Year’s Eve party in Vienna, both on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day — the only time a performance is repeated two nights in a row. (I saw Die Fledermaus on New Year’s Day and the set was so incredible the crowd gasped and applauded when the curtain went up!)
The Vienna Opera also has more than 180,000 costumes, housed in a building next door that is connected by an underground tunnel.
2. More than 1,000 people work at the Vienna Opera house.
The Vienna Opera house is practically a city, with more than 1,000 people employed full time, including 250 stage hands, 100 chorus singers, 60 fixed singers (although main roles are always given to visiting stars) and 70 in the orchestra (with capacity for 100).
3. And more than 2,200 people can fit in the auditorium.
There are around 1,709 seats in the Vienna Opera House with standing room for 567 additional people, with a total capacity of 2,284. That makes for one incredibly large audience!
And for incredibly loud applause after an outstanding performance. I sat on the 6th row for Rigoletto and while it was a little too close for me, I loved hearing the applause of thousands of people behind me. Feeling the energy and excitement of 2,000 people was the most amazing feeling in the world.
4. The stage is four times the size of the auditorium.
The stage doesn’t exactly appear small — it’s 88 feet high — but behind the curtain it’s four times the size of the massive auditorium. The ginormous stage allows for different sets to rotate using hydraulic lifts that require so much power the Vienna Opera has two of its own substations.
And speaking of huge, the chandelier is three tons of Bohemian crystal with 1,100 bulbs spanning 22 feet in diameter and 16 feet high. It even has corridors for maintenance and takes more than a week to clean, which is done from the ceiling because it can’t be lowered.
5. It holds a world record for the longest standing ovation: 80 minutes!
In 1991 Placido Domingo received 101 curtain calls after his performance of Otello, lasting an hour and 20 minutes. It’s the world’s longest standing ovation. Domingo said that the audience kept clapping, so he kept coming back on stage — again and again.
But that wasn’t the only time a performance at the Vienna Opera house kept the audience applauding for awhile. A performance of Swan Lake in 1969 received 89 curtain calls.
The Vienna Opera house may not be as aesthetically stunning as the Palais Garnier in Paris or the Gran Teatro Liceu in Barcelona, but the performances are outstanding. Rigoletto was easily the best opera I’ve ever seen. If you plan to go…
A few tips for seeing the opera in Vienna:
• Plan way ahead for tickets. Tickets for operas around New Years were sold out by the previous July, but I was able to get standby tickets (probably because I only needed one). Note that standby requires a credit card that will be charged without notice if you are selected (and tickets are nonrefundable/non-exchangeable).
• Dress up! Unlike Paris and Barcelona (where I was overdressed), people dress up for the opera in Vienna. Tuxes and long gowns were common, although I saw a lot of business casual too. Whatever you do, please don’t wear khakis or jeans.
• Subtitles are in several languages. The Vienna Opera is one of three opera houses in the world (with New York City and Santa Fe) with individual subtitle screens with selectable languages. German and English are always available in Vienna.
• Programs are 4,80€ and are not always available in English. But if they are, they have a lot of articles in addition to information about the performance.
Check out the Random Acts of Kelliness facebook page for more travel tips, photos and more!