State Opera House in Vienna

Photo of State Opera House in Vienna, Vienna
Photo of State Opera House in Vienna, Vienna
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Photo of State Opera House in Vienna, Vienna
Photo of State Opera House in Vienna, Vienna
Photo of State Opera House in Vienna, Vienna
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State Opera House

Staatsoper
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The Vienna State Opera House is one of the premier venues in the world. To experience a classic performance here is to experience it as the author intended. In fact, operas are almost always performed in their original language.

Today most of the Neo-Renaissance building is only decades old. The outside walls, the façade, and the grand staircase were the only portions to survive a direct hit by an Allied bomb during the Second World War. The interior is a reconstruction. Though it attempts to capture the grandeur of the original building, an exact reconstruction would have cost too much. Still, the Staatsoper is symbolic of Vienna's emergence as one of the world's cultural capitals.

The Opera House was the first building erected on the Ringstraße when the old city's fortifications were torn down and replaced by massive public works projects. When the building opened on 25 May, 1869 the first performance was Mozart's Don Giovanni. Mozart loved Vienna, though Vienna loved Strauss more.

Inside, the Grand Staircase is a sweeping expanse of chandelier-lit marble decorated by statues representing the seven liberal arts. Outside, there are five alcoves built into the façade. Each houses a bronze statue by Ernst Julius Hähnel representing Drama, Fantasy, Heroism, Humor, and Love. The building is flanked by fountains by Hans Glasser. Even today, the opera house is the center of social activity in Vienna. The directorship of the opera is considered one of the most important positions in Austria. Even more so than the president of the nation. It is for that reason that there is always lots of controversy and intrigue surrounding the post.

Performances are always formal affairs, and well attended. Once a year the stage is extended to cover the first-tier seats and the Opera Ball is held. This is when the young socialites of the city put on the finest white dresses in a coming-out gala that they'll remember for the rest of their lives.

A contest was held in 1860 to come up with a design for the building. It was won by two professors from the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. They divided up the work so that August Siccard von Siccardsburg handled the engineering, and Eduard van der Nüll was in charge of the decorative elements. Construction of the building took its emotional toll. An urban legend states that the opera was supposed to be much higher than it currently is, but rushed planning of the Ringstraße left it at the same height as its neighboring buildings. One architect is said to have killed himself because he let the Emperor down. The other died of grief shortly thereafter.

Quick Facts
Notes
    > 1860 - An architectural contest is announced to come up with a design for the new opera house.
    > 1861 - Construction begins with designs drawn up by a pair of professors from the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts.
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