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.