This “people's opera house” spends 300 nights a year wowing audiences with its world-class opera company.
The Vienna State Opera is a must-see. For the Viennese, opera is in the blood. In the 17th century, the imperial court was one of the most enthusiastic embracers of this new Italian art form. Later, the musical genius of Mozart was played out here in Vienna, breathing new life into German opera. So it's no surprise that the capital city has four major opera houses – foremost among them is the Vienna State Opera.
A grand and impressive Neo-Renaissance building, it was raised up here on the Ringstraße in 1869. While it took a while for the Viennese to fall in love with the building (comparing it to a “sunken treasure chest”), they warmed to the performances straight away. The Second World War bought its long golden age to a shuddering halt, though, with most of the building destroyed in 1945.
But the Vienna State Opera literally rose from the ashes, famously raising restoration funds thanks to public generosity, which makes the people of this city feel that this opera house is truly theirs. The commitment to keeping opera popular is reflected in the standing room only tickets which are sold for a few euros just before each performance.
To explore the history and beauty of this building, join one of the hour-long guided tours that happen every day, giving you access to parts of the building not open during performances. The lobby is famed for its splendid ceilings, with the central staircase sweeping up to the first-floor veranda. From here you can enter the Tea Salon, a room once reserved only for the emperor and his guests. The room literally shines – its walls and ceilings heavy with 22-carat gold-leaf.
And if you want to learn more about Vienna's intimate relationship with the art of opera, it's worth visiting the State Opera Museum. It's just across the road, and delves deep into the world of opera, its history, costumes, music and influence. Though of course the ultimate opera experience has to be sensing the hush, as the lights go down, here in Vienna, the City of Music.