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Austrian traditions For Members

High prices and famous guests: What is it like at Austria's most traditional and opulent ball?

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
High prices and famous guests: What is it like at Austria's most traditional and opulent ball?
Dancers of State Opera Ballet perform during the opening ceremony at the Vienna State Opera during the annual Opera Ball in Vienna, Austria on February 20, 2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

While ball season is in full swing in Austria, the country is waiting for one of the main events of the year, Vienna's luxurious Opera Ball.

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The Opera Ball in Vienna is coming up this Thursday, and tickets have long sold out - not that many people would be able to afford them, that is. Vienna's opulent ball is also one of the most expensive events of the year, with ticket prices costing around €385, with €35 of the ticket cost donated to a notable cause, of course.

If you want to be in more exclusive areas, such as a stage box or a tiered box, prices rise accordingly, to €14,000 and €24,500, respectively. 

Once you get to the main event, the prices are also not cheap. This year, 272 employees are responsible for 139 boxes, 267 tables and 11 buffets, serving thousands of guests. A pint of beer (0.33 litres) will cost €14.50 this year, compared to €9 in 2021. A 1/8th glass of wine, which costs €13.50, is now priced at €16.

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Even water in the city with the best tap water in the world can set back guests €9.90. Food is also pricey, with sausages costing €16 - more than four times the prices that can be found in the Viennese sausage stands. 

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Expenses before the ball

Before even entering the Opera House, guests will also have to account for costs in attire, jewellery and other production items and services such as makeup and hair-do. 

The ball season heats up the market for florists, make-up artists and fashion designers, according to Vienna's Chamber of Commerce (WKO). Particularly with the debutantes, prices for makeup and hair can reach hundreds of euros. 

Also, unless you have a black tailcoat (with a white bowtie) and a floor-length evening dress at home, you can also expect to spend hundreds on an evening dress. And if you do have an evening dress, it's not uncommon for people to also spend money on adjustments and changes - the WKO also says the season is a big one for tailors in Austria.

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Famous guests

Vienna's opulent Opera ball is also an event attended by the country's main figures, from famous people to politicians and traditional families. One guest, however, always causes a commotion.

Every year, Austrian entrepreneur and "Viennese society figure" Richard Lugner (don't tell your Austrian friends, but he's sort of like an Austrian Hugh Hefner - although perhaps nicer and more eccentric than a playboy) makes a big deal of the famous international celebrity he will bring to the party. This year, Lugner announced at his press conference that Priscilla Presley would be his 2024 guest.

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Previously, he has brought women such as Ivana Trump, the ex-wife of former US president Donald Trump, actress Sophia Loren, Farrah Fawcett, Pamela Anderson and Kim Kardashian. 

US actress Jane Fonda (C) arrives with her host Austrian entrepreneur Richard "Moertel" Lugner (R) for a press conference at Lugner Cinema on the eve of the annual Vienna Opera Ball on February 15, 2023 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Besides paying for their tickets, drinks and food (like a gentleman), Lugner is said to have spent thousands of euros to attract guests to the Viennese event - the exact amount is never revealed.

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Vienna Opera Ball in numbers

Vienna's Opera Ball is one of the largest in the country, with more than 5,000 guests and 150 debutante couples. There are 150 musicians present, and it takes 30 hours of work to transform the beautiful opera house into an enormous ballroom. 

Additionally, hundreds of flower arrangements and more than 52,000 glasses (and 1,000 champagne coolers) are spread out. To serve all the drinks (and food), there are around 320 people on the catering staff, according to the Staatsoper.

The ball also follows strict procedure: at 8:40 pm, admission starts, and at 10 pm, there is the opera ball opening, with the Austrian and European anthem played, entry of the debutantes, artistic performances and the opening waltz (An der schönen blauen Donau). There are more dances at midnight, 2 am and 4 am, and the ball ends at 5 am. 

Ticket sales for the Vienna Opera Ball 2025 will start on June 3rd, 10 am. 

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