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Keep it classical: A tour of the stunning Vienna Opera House

Nearly 150 years old, the Vienna State Opera House is one of oldest and grandest in the world. Here's what it looks like inside.

Geoffrey Morrison Contributor
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
3 min read
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In German, it's called the Wiener Staatsoper. In English, it's Vienna State Opera. This is one of world's most legendary opera houses. and with 1,709 seats, and room for 567 more standing, it's also one of the largest. It houses 350 performances every year, making it one of the busiest too.

Fabled composers such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss have been conductors during the Staatsoper's long history. When the former was running the big show, it was called the Vienna Court Opera, or more accurately, the Wiener Hofoper, and the country at the time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, ruled by Emperor Franz Joseph I.  

Despite vising this incredible city several times, I only recently toured this famous building. It was well worth it. Here's how it looks.

Behold the grandeur of the Vienna State Opera House

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The Magic Flute

Construction started in 1861 and took eight years. As you'd expect of such a now-famous building, it was instantly beloved by the Viennese. Except, it wasn't. That adoration came over time.

It was under the tenure of Mahler at the turn of the last century that the Hofoper came into its own, transforming into a more modern performance venue.

Die Fledermaus

The Staatsoper was heavily damaged during WWII. The entrance, stairway and frescos remained intact, but the auditorium and stage, along with thousands of props and costumes, were all destroyed. For the next 10 years the opera performed elsewhere in Vienna while the auditorium was rebuilt. It reopened in 1955, looking largely as it did before the war. The first performance in the rebuilt Staatsoper was Beethoven's "Fidelio," which was also broadcast on this new thing called television.

Today, 350 performances every year attract over 600,000 people. Sixty operas and ballets are in the repertoire, sung and danced by 220 singers and 100 dancers. Thirty different conductors drive the show. Behind the scenes, some 200 stage hands make sure everything goes off without a hitch.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Many performances are streamed live, and there are apps for iOS, Android and Amazon Fire. Certain productions are even in Ultra HD 4K resolution, but only on Samsung TVs .

Standing room

Though tickets can be expensive, the Staatsoper actively encourages attendance by everyone. Shortly before each performance you can buy tickets to one of the standing areas. Yes, you'll need to stand during the entire performance, but these tickets are just a few euros.

All of the standing areas, and all the seats, have LCD screens that display subtitles in multiple languages, since each opera is performed in its original language.  

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Don Giovanni

Whether you're seated, standing or even just on a tour, the Staatsoper is an incredible building with a legendary musical history. Really, Vienna itself is delightful. OK, less so in the winter if you're not a fan of cold. But in the summer it's amazing. Year-round the people are incredible too, just a bit more bundled up this time of year.

Seat prices vary per performance. The best seats for the most popular shows and nights can run 273 euros (about $325, £240 or AU£420) but can also be as low as 6 euros. Seats with "sichteinschränkung," or obstructed view, are on the cheaper side, of course.

Tours run nearly every afternoon and cost 9 euros (about $11, £8 or AU$14). So even if you don't take in a show, definitely take a tour. If Vienna isn't in your plans, check out the photos above.

As well as covering audio and display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000-mile road trips and more.

Also check out Budget Travel for Dummies, his travel book, and his bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines. You can follow him on Instagram and YouTube