Sunday, 23 March 2008

Standing room tickets at the Vienna State Opera

Opera is serious business in Vienna (and in Germany as well for that case). And one of the most positive consequence of taking opera very seriously must be the extremely well-organized standing room ticket sales at the Vienna State Opera: - an experience in itself:

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.

35 comments:

Geoduck said...

Thank you for this. I'm planning a trip to Vienna this winter, and this should be most helpful.

Lauren said...

Likewise - I'll be there in mid-April, and was wondering about tickets. Thanks!

Mei said...

Great tip...! Thanks

Parsifal said...

Wow! great report! I wouldnt mind standing 3,5 hours if i were to watch some of the marvels of the Staatsoper...And for 3,5 euros???

Carlos said...

Thanks so much for this very useful report! I have never been at the WSO and I found it very useful.

Dr Yiapud said...

Hallo.really your easter holidays were wondeful and to be honest this is what i would be very pleased to do someday!!!although you are a little bit out of my interest(purely wagnerian!!!)...my passion is Verdi..anyway ..i would like to ask you if you know something about tickets in dresden oper.i want to travel from Greece to see Florez in rigoletto june 2008 and icannot find tickets to buy from the site of dresden.you know if there is any other way?or if there are standing seats?

Parsifal said...

Dear compatriot, tickets to this are already sold-out. Try calling the box office for more info +49 (0)351 4911 705 or use the email bestellung@semperoper.de. Sometimes you can find tickets at ebay but you ll get a standing room ticket for sure if you decide to get there...

Dr Yiapud said...

Thanx parsifal..i'll try it...

Gonzalo Tello said...

Does it work for sold out or new production premieres? or there are some restrictions? Thx for this info!! is extremely helpful!

mostly opera... said...

It works for every production - sold out shows, premieres, everything.....

Markus said...

I just wanted to note that standing room tickets at the balcony and gallery level cost €2.

Anonymous said...

Could you please tell us if the same system exists at the Berlin Opera (Staatsoper, Deutsche, Komische)?
I understand that in Paris (at Bastille), they sell but only 62 tickets to stand. They call them "debout" seats.

Thanks for your great info!

mostly opera... said...

No standing room in any of the Berlin houses.

Yes, in Paris they sell the tickets 90 minutes before the performance starts, I believe. They are placed at the rear of the parterre, with OK view.

Anonymous said...

When do performances generally begin? There is no mention on their website.

mostly opera... said...

Start of performances vary. It IS mentioned on the website, on the first line if you look at the monthly schedule: http://www.staatsoper.at/Content.Node2/en/spielplan/saisonvorschau.php?month=

Anonymous said...

Pity for Berlin opera - i am just about to go to Berlin and the events are sold out, I was trying to find out whether there is this brilliant wieneese system available - thanks for letting me know.

I am also about to go to Leipzig - but I guess there the tickets are OK with price..22 Euro.

Cardiff Traviata said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cardiff Traviata said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cardiff Traviata said...

Thanks for sharing your experience - it's given me some hope for a trip I'm planning!

I do have one question - I'm looking to queue for the May 4th La Traviata and I've seen it written in other blogs that numbered tickets are given out as early as 6.00am for popular performances that allow people to return and queue three hours before the performance - do you know if this is true? I'll be taking a day out of a holiday in Budapest and won't arrive in Vienna until 8.30am at the earliest and am considering hiring a local penniless student to stand out all night for me for the price of a cheap bottle of schnapps if this is true...

mostly opera... said...

Cardiff Traviata: I don´t know about this, but would appreciate info if anyone has it. I know that for some of the highest profile performances of last year, such as the Renée Fleming Capriccio, it was just queuing as usual.

Cardiff Traviata said...

I'll hold my hands up and admit that I may have not followed up my research as I should have done (it's the hysterical primo uomo in me) - this is the webpage that I found the information on...it may be a year (or five) out of date...

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/europe/512355-vienna-opera-standing-room-tickets.html

Bogda said...

Cardiff Traviata: Traviata with Netrebko is probably going to be one of the most popular shows this year and one very difficult to get tickets for. I've bought standing room tickets several times for the top shows there before. The numbers might be issued as early as 6am, but I've personally not been aware of it. I would usually come between noon and 3pm, and still manage to get a decent number. Any number below 100 is still fine, since, surprizingly, many in the line are buying tickets for the balcony.
Things might have changed over the last two years since I've not bought tickets to the standing room area, but since this being Vienna,things tend not to change fast. Usually nowadays, I would get one hour before the show and get a ticket at the "Abendkassa", or from someone selling the in the hall, I've never had a problem finding one so far. However, usually these are pricier ones.

Cardiff Traviata said...

Thanks Bogda for your advice! I'm probably going to head over to the opera house once I get into Vienna to check out the queuing situation, because as you said - it will be a popular ticket. Unfortunately I get the feeling that I won't be able to afford an "Abendkassa" so I'll be employing my well worn London queuing experience and preparing to have a long, long day!

Bogda said...

Cardiff Traviata: It will acctually not be such a "long" wait. Since once you get the number, you are free to go. You should however return some 3 hrs before the show begins, when they let you get inside the building and queue inside for another 90 minutes before they open the box office. Anyway the person issuing the number will probably advise you on that. As an advice, try bringing a cushion or a foldable chair to sit on once inside the theatre, many do, and it helps:)

Cardiff Traviata said...

Thanks for the advice Bogda! It looks as though I'm on the first train out of Budapest on the Monday morning...uggh...does anyone know of any students in need of a free bottle of schnapps*?

*see my first post in this thread for any sense to be made)

Cardiff Traviata said...

I contacted Vienna and they told me that they don't hand out any numbers - it's just straight queuing...so I'll take a copy of the email with me and if anyone dares to jump the queue I'll wave the email like a demented haddock until peace is restored...

mostly opera... said...

Aha- excellent detective work Cardiff Traviata!
I wouldn´t worry about cheaters in the queue as I have queued for more than 20 performances in Vienna and cheaters are simply expelled.
A group of veteran local queuers keep a vigilant eye as there are always some people (invariably tourists) trying to bring in friends, who haven´t queued etc. Then an official is summoned and the people are asked to leave. Once somebody moved in front of me, by mistake I believe, and were told by some others to move back before I even noticed, what happened!
Once you have put in some time at the queue, you may safely leave to do shopping etc. as some of the others will watch your position. You may then return the favour.

Bogda said...

Cardiff I could only second this what Mostly has written. I've had exactly the same experience with the queuers in Vienna.

Cardiff Traviata said...

Thank you Mostly & Bogda for your advice - it really makes a big difference knowing in advance what to expect.

It sounds like queuing in Vienna is very much like queuing for tickets to London plays, but thankfully without having to queue from 6.00am in the morning!

Irina said...

@Cardiff Traviata. I'll be there too. I couldn't get a ticket at the box office. Not even an expensive one. But as Mostly Opera said, expensive doesn't really mean good. I had an 169 euro ticket for Faust with Gheorghiu&Alagna last year. 11th row. And it was a struggle to see what happens on stage. Better ticket on the parket ar those of 124 euro, rows 14-18. These rows go slightly up.
Thanks everybody for information!

marcillac said...

Mostly and Vera make excellent points. The standing room in in Vienna absolutely offers a better view than most of the very expensive seats in the parterre and and other parts of the House. There is no question that it is more comfortable to sit and people may not wish to devote the time to standing in line but even if you are can afford to and are able to pay the high ticket price one should evaluate whether one is willing to pay the price and so badly needs the time as to pay a high premium for what is in so many respects an inferior product.

This is the even more so the case because the better seats in each price category are almost always gone not only on the day of the performance but often even on the first day they become available on the internet. This applies even for some of the less "hot" shows, much less something with a Netrebko or a JDF (for those who are particularly interested in such things, of whom there are apparently many).

Thus Mostly provides yet another invaluable service with this information and the response would seem to confirm this reality.

I might only add that for those who are willing to pay and who can plan their trip 30 days in advance the beter 100 Euro tickets in the A price category probably offer the best combination of view, acoustics and (obviously relative) value. Even then it cannot be stressed enough that if buying online one should do so as early in the morning as possible. Otherwise standing room is a particularly sensible option.

Cardiff Traviata said...

Just thought I'd drop a big thank you for this post. I made it to the May 4th Traviata and can honestly say I hope to repeat the experience at some point in the future.

Rambler said...

do you recommend an arrival time on the line for a sold out performance of tannhauser on thursday which starts at 6?

Tretha said...

Thanks a lot!! I am going to Vienna in June this year and was wondering if I should buy the 80/120 Euro Tickets!

Great post, thanks again!

Olga said...

After reading your report on getting a standing ticket to the Opera I felt like very well prepared and informed. Your tips helped me a lot last Friday, there's no problem to get the tickets, though we came just 5 minutes before the beggining of the show (Tosca). There was no queue, we didn't wait to purchase the tickets. Of course, the places were not perfect (balcony, nr 95-97) and the view from there was rather limited, but we enjoyed being inside the Opera house. It was worth it!

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