By Jen and Katie
Opera is often seen as a bit elitist and la-dee-da. Not in Vienna. 500 STANDING TICKETS are snapped up, per performance, for a tiny 4€ or even tinier 3€ each, the idea being that anyone can try/enjoy it.
Katie and I went to see Traviata this week. Apart from standing tickets, it was a sellout performance.
HOW DO YOU GET STANDING TICKETS?
“Fancy” is not something we could even hope to pull off in the campervan, but so long as you are a bit smart and not wearing shorts, you’ll get in. Best to part with the Crocs for the evening too. TAKE A SCARF. Not a woolly one. See later for why.
To the left of and round the corner from the main entrance, there’s a door which opens 3 hours before a performance. For a popular ballet or opera, people will start arriving then. The closer you get to the performance time, the less likely you are to get tickets. Roughly, if you make it inside, or are not too far along the queue outside, you’re within the first 500.
We started to queue 2 hours beforehand. We were about 70th in the queue. Base your arrival time on how much you want to get in. Fridays and Saturdays are also busier. Vienna State Opera House is one of the busiest in the world with 300 performances a year.
Katie took her homework, I took mine, and the time flew by. I also had time to explain the story of Traviata and poor Violetta to Katie. That’s important – turning up not knowing the story will spoil your visit.
The process is EXACTLY the same every night. A steward with the beady eyes of a hawk makes sure there are no queue jumpers. There is no way, no matter how much you plead, of jumping up the queue to join your friends. If you’re not IN the queue, in person, then you start at the end.
A little more than an hour before the start of the performance, the ticket desk opens. You have the choice of PARTERRE (ground) 4€, BALKON (middle) 3€, or GALERIE (top) 3€. A kindly and knowledgable old man next to me, during one of my first times in the queue, explained that Parterre is good for ballet because you are eye level with the stage, and the Galerie is best for opera because the sound rises. Don’t bother with the middle – mainly because the available areas there are to the sides and views are restricted.
Things get a bit exciting at this point as you are led to “waiting stage 2”. Don’t stop to drop off your coat or bag, or professional standing ticket buffs will whisk past you and bag the better spots. They have mastered a “walking-as-fast-as-is-humanly-possible-without-running” sort of trot.
45 minutes before the performance, you walk-as-fast-as-is-humanly-possible-without-running to the theatre door, show your tickets and make you way to a standing spot. It’s ideal if you have made friends with a kindly, knowledgable soul in the queue by now, but just go with the flow and you’ll work out where best to stand ie as near to the centre as you can.
You now wind your SCARF round the lower of the two railings to mark your spot. Again a kindly pro will keep you right. You won’t often witness a greater demonstration of the enforcement of justice than if you try to squeeze into an already bagsied standing spot.
Each standing space has a SCREEN TO TRANSLATE the opera into the language you want, a velvet cushioned armrest, and if you choose the right spot, you can sit on the step behind and not actually “stand”. It gets hot in the theatre, wear something cool. But not Crocs.
Once your space has been secured, you are free to wander round the foyer, outside balcony and other public areas of the building as you please until just before the performance starts. This is where it’s a bit of a privilege to have standing tickets. The “seated” visitors won’t have arrived yet, and the “standing ticket virgins” will be too scared to leave their spot, so you are likely to have the corridors and halls pretty much to yourself.
Before you start to wander and appreciate what a beautiful building it is, do two things:
1. Put you bag/coat in the CLOAKROOM (2€). It’s safe now!
2. Make your way to one of the bars and RESERVE A DRINK for the interval. It’s no pricier than a standard Vienna bar, and it’s quite nice to make your way to your reserved, white linen table-clothed table where your drinks will be waiting for you. It also saves the rush of queueing at the bar for ages for a drink before the warning bell for the next Act.
Then….. ENJOY THE BUILDING.
Another time, a kindly pro took me on tour and explained which parts of the building were destroyed in 1945 by WW2 bombings and rebuilt, and which parts were original. 150,000 costumes were also destroyed. He was an architect and it was fascinating.
The bell will sound for the start of the performance. Go back to your spot, and decide for yourself whether or not you enjoy a night at the opera.
This is the first time I’ve been to an opera. It was very exciting. Traviata is about a lady called Violetta who has an illness, and she falls in love with Alfredo. But his dad doesn’t want them to be together and Violetta doesn’t want to make the family sad so she leaves him. Then they fall in love again but she dies. It was sad especially when Violetta died at the end.
The music changed a lot, like it was really loud and then went very slow and quiet. I loved the orchestra and the conductor came on the stage at the end and bowed.
I had a tiny blob of caviar on a mini toast. It was salty but lovely. It’s just fish eggs. I would love to go to an opera again. Even the same one.