The Vienna State Opera (Staatsoper) has been at the centre of musical life in Vienna for over a century.
The process of getting tickets to one of these magical performances can seemed daunting, but it’s actually quite easy if you’re content with buying standing room tickets on the day of the performance. Standing room tickets are cheap (€ 3-4 as of Feb 2014) and relatively comfortable for shorter performances.
Here’s how to get those tickets:
How many standing room tickets are available?
Standing room ticket availability varies. People can subscribe to buy standing room tickets before the day of the performance, and if they do so, fewer standing room tickets will be available on the day of the performance. That being said, there is a lot of standing room space in the opera house, so for a non-premiere performance you should be able to get tickets.
What do I need to get tickets?
You will need 3 or 4 Euros per ticket (as of February 2014) and a scarf. More on the scarf later. Opera glasses or binoculars if you have them. It's one ticket per person, so all the members of your party must be in line with you.
Ok! I’m ready! How do I get tickets?
Standing room tickets have their own box office at the Staatsoper building (U1, U2, U4 Karlsplatz). This box office is located on the Operngasse side of the building, under the arcade. Look for the sign that says “Stehplatz-Kasse | Standing Area”.
Tickets go on sale 80 minutes before each performance. They are general admission (i.e. there are no assigned places) so your position in line to some extent determines where you will be standing (more on this later). I would recommend getting in line 2 hours before the start of the performance. If you are queuing inside the building or are one of the first twenty or so people queuing outside, you have a good chance of getting tickets. They try to fit as many people into standing room as possible (e.g. they let you stand in the aisles).
Parterre, balcony or gallery—which should I choose?
Parterre standing room (4E, Feb 2014):
The closest you can get to the performance, this section is located behind the last row of orchestra seats. The opera house isn’t that big, so this is quite close. This section is a good choice for shorter (around 110-minute) performances.
Balcony and Gallery standing room (3E, Feb 2014):
The Gallery level is the highest level, and thus the furthest from the stage. Balcony is one level down. These sections are a good choice for longer performances, because the rows are staggered steeply enough that you can sit on the edge of the row behind you. Some people also feel these sections have better acoustics than the Parterre. You have a nice view of the huge chandelier as it slowly dims before the performance, and a view of the spectators. Try to get a place in the centre section. Places to the far left and right have particularly poor visibility.
Got my ticket! What now?
This is the important part!
When you have your ticket, go straight to an usher and ask for guidance to your section. You will have to queue there again while waiting for the theatre doors to open, and your place in this queue determines where you will stand. When the doors open, go in and pick your place.
You are entitled to the whole space in front of a monitor, i.e. you don’t have to share monitors (the monitor will show the text of the opera in your choice of English or German during the show).
Wind that scarf you brought around the railing and tie it — you are hereby marking your place. You can now go and check your coat and bags (this is compulsory for standing room ticket holders, but it’s free and very efficient), go to the washroom, grab a coffee or snack, or explore the opera house (staff seem very happy to let you explore, just keep your ticket with you).
That’s it! Enjoy the opera!
If you decide you like standing room, the Burgtheater and Akademietheater offer reserved standing room seats (i.e. you can buy them online before the performance date like a regular ticket) for around €3.