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Going to the Opera – A Night Out in Vienna

The Wiener Staatsoper / Vienna State Opera House.

The Wiener Staatsoper / Vienna State Opera House.


Each of my visits to Vienna, I’ve been fortunate enough to snag tickets to the Saturday night opera.  The first time we saw Elektra.  While I didn’t really dig the story or production of Elektra, I did enjoy the experience of going to the opera.  This year, we were able to see Carmen, interestingly enough, Carmen was on the docket for our first trip, but last minute changes in our plans meant our only opera option was Elektra.

Tickets to the Vienna Opera can be quite expensive, coming in at several hundred Euros a ticket.   You can get standing room only tickets for select shows too – these tickets are only 4€.  Some friends did this a few years ago and loved it.  They aren’t big opera fans, but taking in a show whilst in Vienna seemed like one of those once in a lifetime experiences, so they pulled the trigger.  You can only get these standing room only tickets the day of the performance – you should line up 2.5-3 hours before the show and plan on going right to your area.  Be sure to eat before hand.

We struggled getting tickets for Carmen and even had calls in to ticket brokers, the AmEx Platinum Concierge and through the opera house’s ticket office.  We didn’t actually get confirmed tickets until three days before the show – the day before I left for Vienna.

Both times we’ve gone to the opera in Vienna we decided to wear tuxedos.  Like many experiences in the modern world, your can get by with quite a wide range of attire.  Just like us at Steirereck, you can easily feel comfortable at the opera in jeans and a polo shirt, but you won’t be the odd man if you are in full black tie.  I would say most men ended up wearing a jacket and slacks and most women were either in pant suits or nice dresses.  Not many women were wearing evening gowns, but there were a few.

I’m all ready for the opera

The opera isn’t an every day experience, so I say dress up and make a night of it.  That being said, it’s not the most efficient thing in the world to pack formal wear on a trip. I abhor packing items that can only be used once on a trip, but I will make an exception for a night out in this glorious city in this fabulous building.

Carmen had two intermissions and at each one, we popped out and grabbed a glass of champagne.   The intermissions were about 25 minutes each and allows us plenty of time to stretch our legs, use the washroom and grab a glass of bubbles.  This was also the perfect time to grab some action photos of the opera house and people watch.

At the end of the show the building empties very quickly, which allows you some extra time to take pictures of the amazing interiors.  You can’t spend a ton of time after the show, but you’ll have at least 15-20 minutes with a relatively empty opera house.

The Beautiful Staircase in the Central Hall

The View Across the Atrium with Classical Sculptures Make a Perfect Photo Op.

The whole experience at the Vienna Opera House was great.  The performance and seating area isn’t huge, so you’ve got really good views of the stage.  Our first visit had a Marge Simpson look-a-like sitting in front of me, so it was a bit hard to see the stage.  Each seat is outfitted with a small screen that displays transcripts of the performance.  For Carmen you could read it in English, German, French, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Korean.  I only remember English and German when we watched Elektra.  I watched the second act of Carmen with French subtitles (the woman in front of my had English subs, so I could practice my listening and reading skills while cheating and looking at her screen if needed).

Stunning Paintings Adorn the Walls of the Vienna State Opera House

No matter what opera is playing when you visit, you should plan on visiting the opera house – take a few hours out of your trip to experience the high art and stunning architecture.  If the ticket price is outside of your budget, try for the standing room only tickets – if it is meant to be, you’ll get your tickets, if not – head out and grab a coffee and a lovely pastry.

Have you visited the Vienna Opera House? What show did you see?  If you had the standing room only tickets, how was the process and did you enjoy seeing a show like this?

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