• Austria's news in English

Opera for Beginners (Part 1)

Staff reporter · 17 May 2014, 11:34

Published: 17 May 2014 11:34 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
Living in Vienna, think you should try some opera, but don’t know your Brünnhilde from your Bradamante? (Who? Exactly.) Dip your toe into the swirling waters of opera and you’ll soon be pulling on a pair of goggles, lathering yourself in lard and attempting your first channel crossing. Come on in, the water’s fine. 
In his relatively short life (he died at 35), Mozart composed a staggering amount of music including concertos, symphonies, string quartets, songs and operas. Along with Verdi and Puccini, his operas are among the most performed around the world today. (See Part 2 for Mozart’s Top 5.)
So, where can you see opera in Vienna? The most obvious choice is the Vienna State Opera, on the corner of Kärntner Straße and the Opera Ring, at Karlsplatz. You know, the building surrounded by flocks of men in cloaks, tricorne hats and long boots, in an apparent nod to Mozart, but who look more like highwaymen, and certainly have the same imperative – to part you from your money. Ignore them and head inside.
The Vienna State Opera is one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world and is worth entering to admire the foyer alone. The company presents 50-60 different operas a year (more than any other opera house) and hosts a regular roster of the world’s most acclaimed singers, conductors and directors. A recently retired member of the Vienna State Opera Chorus told me that while working there she had 65 complete productions in her head at any one time. Amazeballs.
Walk into the foyer and pick up a free monthly “Spielplan” (or check out their schedule online), to see what’s coming up, cast lists, ticket prices, etc. Operas are performed in the original language, but you’ll find a screen at every seat offering a line-by-line translation into German or English.
Ticket prices are quite reasonable. A premium seat will set you back €100 - €250, but you can buy a decent seat in the balcony or gallery for €30 - €70. The cheap seats (under €30) sell out quickly, but are at the sides of the balcony/gallery or at the back of a box, so you have a restricted view of the stage.
If you prefer a bargain basement price, have time on your hands and no current injuries, your best option is to queue for Stehplatz (standing) tickets. These tickets are super cheap (€4 / €3) and afford a great view, but remember, some operas are rather long (we’re looking at you, Mr Wagner), and standing for the duration may test your good humour for the art form.
The running time of each opera (including intervals) is stated clearly in the schedule, so choose wisely and wear comfortable shoes.
The entry to the Stehplatz ticket counter is around the back of the opera house on Operngasse. Tickets go on sale 80 minutes before the performance, but the queue forms much earlier, especially if there’s a superstar in the cast. If you’re not sure, Google them and you’ll soon see via their online presence - hits on YouTube, glossy/sexy publicity photos, recording deals, entries on lists like “Bari-hunks”, I kid you not - whether they’re a big name or not. You can only buy one Stehplatz ticket per person, so your party must all arrive and queue together. There are 3 sections of Stehplätz: Parterre (orchestra level), Balkon (1st level) and Galerie (2nd level.)  Take a scarf with you to mark your place inside, then head out for a drink (a very good idea) before the performance.
Wear layers (the cloakroom is free, and checking your coat in is compulsory), as it gets rather hot in the Parterre section of the Stehplatz with so many bodies in close proximity. If you have staying power you will be rewarded however, as 20-25% of the standing crowd won’t return after interval (and more again if there is a second intermission).
So, what opera should you see? Here’s a guide. Extra points for entertainment value, comedy, brevity and instantly recognizable tunes (did I hear you say Carmen?)
Opera Beginner’s Top 10:
1. Carmen - Bizet
2. La bohème - Puccini
3. Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) - Mozart
4. Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) - Rossini
5. L’elisir d’amor (The Elixir of Love) – Donizetti
6. Die Fledermaus - Johann Strauss II
Story continues below…
7. Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) - Mozart
8. La Fille du régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment) - Donizetti
9. Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci – Mascagni / Leoncavallo (two one-act operas, usually performed as a double bill)
10. Così fan tutte - Mozart
Enjoy. And remember, opera is full of hotties these days, so it may well be over before the fat lady sings. ;)

Staff reporter (news@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Brunnenmarkt murder 'could have been prevented'
Locals remember the murdered woman. Photo: Wien Caritas

The random murder of a woman in Vienna could have been prevented if the homeless and mentally disturbed man who killed her had been admitted to a psychiatric institution.

Iraqi family ask ECJ to help them stay in Austria
Kumberg locals hold a vigil for the family. Photo: ORF

A group of people from Kumberg in Styria have asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for help in trying to stop the deportation of an Iraqi family.

The Local List
Five things you need to know about winter tyres
Photo: carmagazine.co.uk

It’s that time of year when temperatures start to plunge and drivers are advised to switch to winter tyres to avoid being caught out by snow and ice on the roads.

Radioactive uranium rocks on display in Austrian schools
Uraninite crystals. Photo: Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com/Wikimedia

Education officials have carried out urgent checks in schools across the country after one of the stones on display in a classroom turned out to be radioactive.

Austrian churches slam far-right's 'God' slogan
Campaign poster for Norbert Hofer. Photo: Paul Gillingwater

Austrian church officials have denounced far-right presidential candidate Norbert Hofer for "instrumentalising" God in a new slogan.

'Scary clown' pushes 14-year-old off his bike in Salzburg
Generic photo: Graeme Maclean/Flick

A 14-year-old boy in Salzburg has been injured after being pushed off his bike by an individual dressed as a scary clown.

Police puzzled by random stabbing of teenager in Vienna
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

A 15-year-old boy who was stabbed near his home in the Vienna district of Liesing on Friday morning by a complete stranger has spoken to the police.

'Sensational' 300-year-old Madonna found in Burgenland
The head of the statue was found beside the body. Photo: ORF

A 300-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary has been found hidden in a chapel next to a Catholic church in Loretto, Burgenland.

Baumgartner 'failed to mention Red Bull' before jumping to Earth
Felix Baumgartner. Photo: Red Bull Stratos

Felix Baumgartner has been accused of cheating his Red Bull sponsors after he failed to mention the energy drink just before he jumped to Earth.

Verdict on swimming pool rape case overturned
The Theresienbad swimming pool in Vienna. Photo: Wikimedia

An Iraqi refugee who was jailed after claiming it was a sexual emergency when he raped a boy in a swimming pool has had the sentence overturned.

12 brilliant German words you won't find in English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Five films which will change your mind about Austrian cinema
Those surprising Austrians!
100 years since the last emperor's death
Afghani family's new home in Austria
Der you learn Deutsch?
Delighted by the light
Beware these passport scams
Of course we skipped Oarsch
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Travel & Tourism
10 years after her escape from captivity
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
Europe's ice cream capital
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
How to make friends in Austria
jobs available