in this series dedicated to intangible asset of classical music institutions (See former posts dedicated to Berliner Philarmoniker and Sydney Opera houses), today, I will be talking about Vienna State Opera House (in German Wiener-Staatsoper) and more precisely about its famous Stehplätze (standing area).
Standing area is quite unique in Vienna State Opera
In the Staatsoper, there are 1709 seating room tickets and
standing area tickets (Stehplätze in German) plus 22 spots dedicated to people in wheelchairs. What’s the point to stand during a performance ? The main advantage is the price. There standing areas ticket costs 3 or 4 euros for an opera (it is still less expensive for a recital !). In comparison, imagine that a seating room ticket in the parterre or better in the “parkett” costs between than 100 and 200 euros !
The Wiener-Staatsoper is not the only theatre to propose standing tickets. In Vienna the Volksoper, the Theater an der Wien or the MusikVerein) and abroad the Metropolitan Opera or Opera de Paris offer also such places. However in all this theaters there are only a few standing tickets. In the Volksoper for instance, there are 1261 seats and 72 standing room places. In Opera de Paris, there are a ridiculous number of standing tickets : 32 places out of a total seating capacity of around 2700 !
This large amount of standing tickets in the Vienna State Opera is thus unique and is clearly sustained by Government. Annual operating budget of the Staatsoper is around 100 million euro with about more than 50% coming from a state subsidy.
The Standing area known all over the world is part of the Staatsoper’s DNA
There standing area has become really known all over the world and is clearly a fabulous differentiation tool. When arriving in Wien, many a tourist already knows than he or she can experience a nice opera performance in the Wiener-StaatsOper. It is indicated in all the guide books for 4 euros or 3 euros respectively in the parterre and both balcony and gallery, you can attend a performance in this top-of-the-notch international opera House. This offer of accessible tickets fosters strongly position of Vienna as World Classical music Capitale. In Vienna, Music does matter! It is everywhere and you can afford it.
I have become a frequent traveler to Vienna to enjoy incredible casts and programing of the Staatsoper. Often I explained to some of those tourists what the rules are for lining to get standing tickets. For having discussing with them I noticed very frequently that most often they queued for what would be their first operatic experience.
Sure it is better to stand on first rows and thus to have a good ranking in the queue to get the better sound and sight conditions. But even in the scrum of last rows in parterre newbies are most of time delighted by their experience.
Unsurprisingly, the Staatsoper is one of the opera house that has the most high occupation rate.
A experience that also develops loyalty beyond boundaries
If Stehpläzte are a formidable magnet to attract newcomers it is also an incredible loyalty tool. For me Wiener Staatsoper standing room is one of the best opera experiences you can get. The Stehplätze are a fascinating sociological experience. It has energy quite different from seeing a performance sit on a velvet seat. Therefore I get used to travelling from Lille (North of France, there is also a nice opera in my city by the way) to Vienna several times a year from Paris. When you take into account the flight price and accommodation costs, you end up paying roughly 45 euros for a top of the notch production with an incredible sound and sight conditions. It does worth it!
On top of that the very queuing is also a nice experience. The Stehplätze attract all the generations: from the tattooed young girl to the oldies and a true solidarity and even strong friendship can emerge from all these hours spent to get a ticket. I regularly meet a guy coming from New York every year in May (Hi Casey !), friends from Vienna of course (GrüssGott Nicolas !), operamates from UK (Hello Andrew !) and a lot of old ladies from Germany or Austria with whom by a by I am learning German language !
Standing room is also good memories. I remember that some early birds from Slovakia offered to warm me up in their car. It was in February, the weather was particularly cold (-12 °L), I was waiting outside very early to be sure to get the first row of standing area to listen to Jonas Kaufmann as Faust.
I will always remember for instance that queuing for Eugene Oneguin in April 2013, after 3 hours of wait, around 9 AM the early birds were offered a coffee by the Opera administration of the behalf of the so much-liked Mister Dominique Meyer (the director of the StaatsOpera). This kinf of little attention for the loyal public of standing area shows the respect this institution has for those crazy ones, who continue to foster the legend and the magic of the Stehplätze.
For opera nuts like me, Vienna is just a paradise. I hope Government and opera administration will continue to lever this incredible asset to ensure that opera spirit won’t never die in Vienna !
“Standing area : a part of the wordwide notoriety of the Vienna State Opera” by Ramzi SAIDANI in under terms and conditions of the licence Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 France.
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GREAT info! As an opera-lover, living in an Asian country which has NO music, I am excited about my trip to Europe in December and am keen to get a standing ticket in Vienna… any idea how long in advance of opening I should start queuing? I read that the standing tickets go on sale 6o minutes before the performance starts? Thanks for any help on the timing! And thanks for your blog info! Lisa
It’s a nice trip ! In december there is the magics of X-mas period on top of that.
It really depends on the performance. If there are opera stars, there can be a lot a people and if you arrive only 60 minutes before the performance, there is a risk you cannot get tickets or poor-located tickets. If is a premiere, it can also be crowdy for instance. It is a saturday or a sunday, there are more people also! What is the performance you want to see ? If you want to be not to badly located (on top balconies), I advise you to go 2 or 3 hours before. You can also go sooner and will not have to stand all the time in the line. You can mark your place in the line and go around for a walk come to show you every 1or 2 hours. You can do thant until 2 hours before the performance. From this time, you wouldn’t be allowed by the other people waiting to leave the line if you want to keep your rank in the line!!
There is another tip you. There is another opera house in Vienna which is less known but there are very nice performance of operettas or operas (www.volksoper.at). On the volksoper website, you can book in advance the standing tickets and print them.If you come 30 minutes before , it will be OK to be well-located because it’s free location regarding standing ticket (you have to bring a lace or a scarf to mark you place :).
Hope it will be helpful
I’m going to Vienna for Rheingold and Walkure (yeah, I know the Walkure lasts 5 hours… but it’s Wagner 🙂 and I wonder, how early should I line up for the standing room ticket. Will 3hrs be enough to get parterre or at least gallerie?
thanx for your reading opera-digital.com !
You’re lucky :). Rheingold is short and Walkürie is so good !
Walkyrie s a very long opera (more than 5 hours as you sais). I think there will be many people as it’s conducted by Simon Rattle and the cast is nice. It will start at 17 pm. Be carefull! The Sundays are always more crowdy because workers are also free to wait 🙂 3 hours before should be fine if you want to be on parterre ! Let me know how great this Walkyrie will be 🙂 !
Thanks for the info! I’ll surely write here about the Walkyrie once I see it. Can’t wait! 🙂
I’ve been on both Rheingold and Walkure, so here is the “report” I’ve promised 🙂
I’ve managed to get parterre for both performances. For the Rheingold I’ve been 2.5 hour before performance and with some luck I get 3rd row. For Walkure I’ve wait 4 hours and I was the first person to enter second row. The acoustics in second row are a bit better than in third, but the difference is not very big. The temperature in second row was MUCH lower, which made a huge difference for such a long performance. Personally, standing during Walkure was easier for me, as it has 2 intermissions.
Both performances were splendid musically, Simon Rattle started the Rheingold very slowly, but the prelude was extremely beautiful. Then the music was more vigorous, quite harsh at moments (entrance of giants was quite brutal). Strings played very important role during both performances, more than usually. Unfortunately Loge was disappointing for me, his role was much overacted.
The Walkure was quite brutal at moments, yet also fine detailed (something between Bohms and Barenboims interpretations). I found that a very good compromise between those two options. Unfortunately the acoustics spoiled the introduction to 2nd act, it was very fast and at the top moment all sounds “clumped” together (sorry, I can’t find better word for that in English – hopefully you’ll understand :).
Tomasz Konieczny was a splendid Wotan. Wotan’s farewell at the end of the opera was fine detailed yet so heavy that I was palsied. Then the magic fire music wonderfully ended the performance and brought rest for my legs 🙂
Overall, those were wonderful evenings. For the future though I’ll choose shorter operas for the standing room 🙂
thanx you so much for your return of experience of Stehplätze. You did it and For Die Walkure. Despite its two intermissions, it’s was a challenge !
Thank you for your very informative tips. You just got me more worked up to see a performance in Vienna State Opera. This is my second time to visit the country but will be my first to line up for the “Stehplatz-Kasse”. I have always wanted to get to see a performance over there but wasn’t excited about the prices of the ticket till I accidentally came upon this idea of the standing room then I read your piece and we’ll, I was blown away. I’m going to Vienna next month and for sure, I will be lining up and will hope to get a ticket:-)
Thanx Marlot ! I hope you will enjoy it. Don’t hesitate to call us your feeling and experience ! Regards. Ramzi