There are more than 500 standing room spaces at the Vienna State Opera available for every performance and only sold on the day of the performance:
The standing room spaces are located at three levels:
1) The floor level – parterre just behind the 18th row (prize: 3,50 Euro) – with presumably the best view of the entire house. Photo here of the floor level standing room area:
The view from the floor/parterre standing room row 1 is seen below (it is worth noting that people on the floor just in front of you have significantly poorer view than you have due to the almost negligible slope of the floor and in addition they have payed 120-80 Euros for their tickets):
2) Further standing room spaces are located at the balcony and gallery level (which due to 3 levels of boxes between the floor level and the balcony constitute levels 4 and 5 in the house), which have the best acoustics in the house. Prize: 2,50 Euro. Photo of the balcony and gallery level standing areas here:
View from balcony standing room row 1:
The concept: You start queuing for the standing room tickets outside the opera house on the left side at the area marked ”standing room” (see photo below). Exactly at what time the queue starts obviously depends on the popularity of the performance. Most people start queuing 3-3,5 hours before the performance. I started queuing 3,5 hours before the performance of the new production of Forza del Destino and got ticket number 11 = a space on the first row in the parterre standing area. People arriving 80 minutes before the performance also got tickets. I got an equally high number queuing 3,5 hours in advance for the new Arabella production (with Adrianne Pieczonka and Thomas Hampson) last year.
Exactly 3 hours before the performance starts, they let you inside the building (see photo below). As long as you are queuing outside the theatre, you may mark your space with a bag, small stool etc. and wander around in the city. Once you are inside, there is no mercy. You are not allowed to leave your space. And believe me, this is serious business. At least 5 ”veteran” Viennese queuers seem to be present in the queue constantly vigilant that nobody cheats. If thus suspected, the traditionally uniformed queue attendant will be called immediately. Last time I was there, a Japanese-looking lady was trying to get her friend in beside her (without the friend having queued for the spot, obviously), but this was immediately spotted by the ”guardians” and the woman was almost forcibly taken away from her place. On the other hand you may be certain, that nobody cheats you or takes your space as long as you play by the rules.
Exactly 80 minutes before the performance begins, the tickets are sold – STRICTLY one per person. You then go from the ticket area directly inside the house, where you queue up (strictly in pairs) just in front of the entrance to your designated area. When there are enough people in the queue, you are let in the auditorium – so that exactly the same number of people are let in from each side at the time (see the parallel organization of the parterre standing room). Then you find your spot, which you mark with a scarf. When the parterre standing room has filled up an official will make a short speech ”Welcome to the Vienna State Opera” etc. in both German and English. You may then leave the theater and return at the start of the performance. You may be virtually 100 % sure that nobody steals you space, since you will be a known face in the queue by now, and fellow queue members will help expose the "offender".
At the Forza performance this Wednesday a 10-year old child had secured a very good place in the queue (number 8) and then tried to persuade the guards to let her be accompanied by her parents (with queuing numbers around 100) at the first row, which of course meant pushing some legitimate queuers away. Needless to say, it didn´t work. The guards initially gave way, but the people protested so vehemently, that in the end she was allowed to be accompanied by one parent in a total of one space….
I have personally never had any problems with the Vienna State Opera standing room tickets, and indeed they are excellent value. The only downside is that you actually have to stand up…
Photo below of the outside and inside queuing area:
All photographs in this post are taken before the performance or during the intermissions at the performance of Parsifal at the Vienna State Opera, March 20th 2008.