Various popular opera composers called Vienna home, so it’s no surprise to find one of the world’s most prestigious opera venues here as well.
- The famous Staatsoper recently celebrated its 150th anniversary
- Vienna actually has three major opera houses
- Egalitarian tradition means opera is priced for everyone
- See also:
The opera houses
Let us begin with the magnificence that is…
(The Staatsoper at night)
The Staatsoper (State Opera House) opened in 1869 and enjoys an outstanding global reputation. Experts speak of it in the same breath as Milan’s La Scala, the Paris Opera or New York’s The Met.
The house on Vienna’s Ringstrassen boulevard has the biggest budget and the best-looking building of the city’s opera venues and hosts — surprise! — mainly operatic productions with some ballet.
Many iconic names like Luciano Pavarotti, Maria Callas, Enrico Caruso, and Tom Cruise all performed here. Tom Cruise? Yep…the Staatsoper made an excellent film set for a Mission Impossible movie.
The downside to this glorious history and reputation is that the Staatsoper nearly always sells out (at least in normal times). However, you have an entirely plausible way to get inexpensive tickets on the day of a performance.
Should you simply wish to see inside this historical building, you don’t need a ticket for an opera. The Staatsoper offers rather nice guided tours in various languages.
Season: September to June
Address: Opernring 2, 1010 Vienna
Next up in our operatic tour is…
Like the Staatsoper, the Volksoper (opened 1898) also has its own ensemble, so can vary its schedule frequently. It hosts opera, operettas, ballet and musicals; you might catch La Traviata one day and Carousel the next.
The Staatsoper actually moved here temporarily when WWII bombing heavily damaged their building.
The Volksoper also enjoys its own movie claim to fame, having featured in the Bond film, The Living Daylights.
Tip: after a performance, pop across to the Grand Café am Alsergrund and enjoy the original 1950s design. The Volksoper performers may decamp here after the curtain drops.
Season: September to June
Address: Währinger Straße 78, 1090 Vienna
The Theater an der Wien
(Scene from the Magic Flute at the Papagenotor of the Theater an der Wien)
The Theater an der Wien tends to host short-run guest productions and only recently returned to the role of opera house, though it has a long and honourable operatic and musical history that predates the Staatsoper.
Beethoven’s Fidelio premiered here, for example, in 1805. As did Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus in 1874.
One or two of Vienna’s hidden delights surround the Theater an der Wien. For example…
- Go around the side of the building to find the famous Papagenotor. This gateway with motifs from The Magic Flute pays tribute to Emanuel Schikaneder, who wrote the opera’s libretto
- Cross over the road from the venue to the Naschmarkt, Vienna’s largest open-air market, full of international and gourmet delights, bars, and restaurants
- Go further up the road to see Otto Wagner’s Majolikahaus building(s) with their absolutely gorgeous facades
Season: September to June (the main house is closed for renovations until 2024, but performances continue elsewhere during that period)
Address: Linke Wienzeile 6, 1060 Vienna
Opera on film
The Rathaus Film Festival open-air cinema normally runs across July and August and always features numerous operas as part of their programme.
The event forms one of the summer highlights in the city centre, since you get to watch top opera (and other musical genres) in front of the neogothic city hall with a square full of international cuisine behind you.