Discover Austria: Vienna Opera House: Femme Actuelle MAG

The first on the “Ring”

From the entrance hall, two medallions bearing the image of the architects recall tragic beginnings. In the middle of the 19th century, Emperor François-Joseph I wanted to build a prestigious avenue, the Ringstrasse, around the old town, with the aim, in particular, of hosting the Opera. His desires resound like orders. At the end of the construction, the first criticisms are raised: the building seems to sink into the “Ring” and looks, according to the Viennese, like a submerged ship. Defects (now corrected) which push to suicide one of the two architects, while the second dies of a heart attack before the inauguration of May 25, 1869.

A very select tea room

During the intermission, the spectators circulate freely in the Opera. Only one room remains closed: the tea room. Because, contrary to what his name implies, impossible to settle there: it is that of the emperor, which remained intact despite the bombardments of April 1945. During the construction, François-Joseph Ier made to arrange this sumptuous space between the central staircase and the royal box in order to relax there or to welcome its guests with dignity. A room upholstered with the initials of the Habsburg monarch and equipped with a window that undoubtedly allows him to look at the crowd of spectators gathered in the hall from a certain height.

The home of art

Wikimedia Commons

Main relaxation area on the first floor, the Schwind foyer is named after the artist who painted the murals: Moritz von Schwind. Under the arcades, the paintings represent fourteen works associated with the bust of their composer: The Magic Flute and Mozart, Creation and Joseph Haydn… A gallery completed by the sculpture by Gustav Mahler (of Rodin!) which sits on the mantelpiece and reminds us that his stint at the direction of the Opera, from 1897 to 1907, marked the spirits. During these ten years, he revolutionized the genre and its rules, in particular by plunging spectators into darkness during performances. Above all, he imposes a level of perfection that lasts after his departure.

At the forefront of modernity

Jorge Royan / Wikimedia Commons

At the end of World War II, the Opera House was in ruins. If we rebuild the exterior identically, the interior is completely redesigned, with a rehabilitated auditorium for better acoustics. The central stage incorporates six sliding platforms capable of raising and lowering independently using a hydraulic system. A machine that allows you to change the scenery in just forty-five seconds.

Sold out

Rarely, the Opera has its own troupe of singers, attached to the place and to the audience, a curious mix of passionate Austrians and tourists from all over the world. The institution can boast a record occupancy rate of 99%. That is 600,000 spectators per year, attracted by the atmosphere, the chic outfits and the perfectly polished shows.

Outdoor shows

During the end-of-year celebrations in spring and September, operas and ballets are broadcast live outside the building on a giant screen, free of charge. Chairs are even set up in Karajan Square, whatever the weather (it is often 0 ° C in Vienna in winter!)

Article published in the issue Femme Actuelle Jeux Voyage n ° 39 December-January 2020

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