For most people, who visit Vienna, Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) is the first attraction that they are introduced to. It is a prominent landmark, from which the most sightseeing tours around the city start and end. I have met with people numerous times around Opera. I have had an Apfelstrudel in Opera Cafe. I have used Opera as a starting point of my walks in the city, and this is where I always come back.
The structure of the Wiener Staatsoper was planned by the Viennese architect August Sicard von Sicardsburg, while the inside was designed by interior decorator Eduard van der Nüll. Neither of the architects survived to see the opening of the opera house: the sensitive van der Nüll committed suicide, and his friend Sicardsburg died of a stroke soon afterwards. The building was majorly damaged during the WWII. Only the main facade, the grand staircase, and the Schwind Foyer had been spared from the bombs. It was reconstructed after the war, and in 1955, the Vienna State Opera reopened with a new auditorium and modernized technology.
Wiener Staatsoper is one of the leading opera houses in the world. Each season, the schedule features 350 performances of more than 60 different operas and ballets. It is said to have one of the largest repertoires in the world.
Open Doors Day
Every year, before the official start of the season, Wiener Staatsoper holds the Open Door Day. This event is free of charge, but the tickets have to be picked up beforehand in the theatre’s ticket office (Bundestheaterkassen). I learned about this event only this year, even though it was far from my first (or my second) visit to Vienna. Years ago I was even lucky to score a ticket for the performance. But I didn’t know that the opera house hosted Open Doors Day. This year, it took place on September 3rd, Sunday. I knew that I would be in the city on that day but all the traveling, and scheduling, and meeting my parents and friends, the fact that I had to acquire the tickets beforehand had totally slipped my mind.
So, when we were leisurely strolling past Staatsoper after 1pm and saw lines of people in the middle of the day, something clicked in my mind. It was the Open Doors Day. The event took place twice during the day: first session – 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm; and second session – 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm. We lined up at first for 2pm, but when I rushed into the ticket office, I was informed that they only had four tickets left for 5:30pm session. I couldn’t believe my luck! Of course, I snatched three of those, even though it sort of upset our evening plans.
But it was so worth it.
The doors of Wiener Staatsoper opened at 5:30pm, and everybody rushed in. We were allowed to walk everywhere, or almost everywhere, including backstage, on stage, up to the rehearsal rooms. Small orchestra was playing on one of the balconies. In one of the halls, the costume department brought out various costumes and hats for the public to try on. On the stage itself, we were introduced to various technical departments and the effects they can produce: foam, smoke, lights – it was so much fun for both adults and kids. The staff were there to explain what parts of the stage equipment was used for what.
As a theatre geek, I was in heaven. I couldn’t take enough selfies next to a smoke machine too.
At 7:30pm everybody was called to their seats for the Technical Show. (And this is why it is important to keep your ticket till the very end, as those ticket ladies can be very strict.) The Technical show had bits of ballet and opera repertoire, but intercepted with talks and introductions by the technical director of the opera house. Every change of stage was done with curtains up, which allowed the audience to see how it all happens. The decorations went up and down (the stage goes down 11.5 meters!), there was smoke, lights, and fire!
Both my parents and I were stunned. It was one of the best technical shows ever. It was fully conducted in German, though, which made it a bit difficult to follow the jokes (as my German is far from good), but it was just a small part of the performance.
Even if you are not a theatre or opera fan, do not miss out on this opportunity next year. It is a free and fun event for all. Definitely, something that I would love to experience again.