Vienna state opera

The Vienna State Opera is closely linked to the Vienna Philharmonic, which is an incorporated society of its own, but whose members are recruited from the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera.

The Wiener Staatsoper is one of the busiest opera houses in the world producing 50 to 60 operas per year in approximately 200 performances. It is quite common to find a different opera being produced each day of a week. As such, the Staatsoper employs over 1000 people. As of 2008, the annual operating budget of the Staatsoper was 100 million Euros with slightly more than 50% coming in the form of a state subsidy. The opera company operates a repertoire system: more than 50 productions are staged every year, and there is a performance nearly every day for ten months of the year.



The Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) is an opera house – and opera company – with a history dating back to the mid-19th century. It is located in the centre of Vienna, Austria. It was originally called the Vienna Court Opera (Wiener Hofoper); in 1920, it was renamed the Vienna State Opera. The members of the Vienna Philharmonic are recruited from its orchestra.

The building was, however, not very popular with the public. On the one hand, it did not seem as grand as the Heinrichshof, a private residence which was destroyed in World War II (and replaced in 1955 by the Opernringhof). Moreover because the level of Ringstraße was raised by a metre in front of the opera house after its construction had begun, the latter was likened to "a sunken treasure chest" and, in analogy to the military disaster of 1866 (the Battle of Königgrätz), was deprecatingly referred to as "the 'Königgrätz' of architecture". Eduard van der Nüll committed suicide, and barely ten weeks later Sicardsburg suffered a fatal heart attack so neither architect saw the completion of the building. The opening premiere was Don Giovanni, by Mozart, on May 25, 1869. Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth were present.

Towards the end of World War II, on March 12, 1945, the opera was set alight by an American bombardment, which was intended for the Raffinerie in Floridsdorf. The front section, which had been walled off as a precaution, remained intact including the foyer, with frescoes by Moritz von Schwind, the main stairways, the vestibule and the tea room. The auditorium and stage were, however, destroyed by flames as well as almost the entire décor and props for more than 120 operas with around 150,000 costumes. The State Opera was temporarily housed at the Theater an der Wien and at the Vienna Volksoper.

Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler was one of the many conductors who have worked in Vienna. During his tenure, Mahler cultivated a new generation of singers, such as Anna Bahr-Mildenburg and Selma Kurz, and recruited a stage designer who replaced the lavish historical stage decors with sparse stage scenery corresponding to modernistic, Jugendstil tastes. Mahler also introduced the practice of dimming the lighting in the theatre during performances, which was initially not appreciated by the audience. However, Mahler's reforms were maintained by his successors.

Herbert von Karajan

Herbert von Karajan introduced the practice of performing operas exclusively in their original language during his directorship of the company; prior to this, operas were performed in German. He also strengthened the ensemble and regular principal singers and introduced the policy of predominantly engaging guest singers; and began a collaboration with La Scala in Milan, in which both productions and orchestrations were shared. This created an opening for the prominent members of the Viennese ensemble to appear in Milan, especially to perform works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Strauss.


Tags: | Austria | Vienna | Concerts | Herbert von Karajan | Gustav Mahler | Vienna State Opera | Music | Art |


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