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The history of the Vienna Opera Ball

Tuesday February 21st, 2017

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Wiener Staatsoper

Wiener Staatsoper

“Alles Walzer”, this is the motto for  the Opera Ball. Just like no other event, the traditions night throws their light on the “Music City Vienna” and the bright Vienna Ring. On February 23, 2017 the Opera Ball will take place for the 61st time. According to Lotte Tobisch and Desirée Treichl-Stürgkh, Marie Großbauer is the new event manager this year. Until the Opera Ball became the highlight of the ball season, it was a long journey.

Debut as a dance party event

The history of the Opera Ball goes back to the year 1814/15, the time of the Vienna Congress. The artists of the “Hofoper” at that time organized a dance event as a counterpoint to the political talks. The new cultural event was not yet considered a “ball” and was not held until 1877 in the Vienna State Opera. The Emperor feared that the event would take on similar proportions as the opera balls in Paris, which were known for their turmoil and unrest.

But he quickly changed his mind: the orchestra of the first Opera Ball was directed by Johann Strauss Sohn. The opening melody, the opera-soirée-polka, inspired the audience so much that it pushed away its chairs and spontaneously began to dance. This event is considered to be the birth time of the Opera Ball.

The Opera Ball today

After the end of the monarchy, the opera ball took place for the first time on 26 January 1935 again. Its program has always been a tradition: every year, 180 dance couples, consisting of a ladies’ and gentlemen’s committee, join the fan pole, composed by Carl Michael Ziehrer, into the ballroom. The traditional diadem of the debutists from 394 clear and sapphire blue Swarovski crystals was designed this year by Karl Lagerfeld. After the arrival of the Federal President in his lodge and the sound of the Austrian National Anthem, the dancefloor will be released for all other ball guests. After the two quadrilles at midnight and at 3 o’clock in the morning, the ball is completed by 5 o’clock.

In addition to the splendid event in the Vienna State Opera, it is worth taking a look behind the scenes – Pardon – before the doors. Vienna’s most beautiful boulevard is right in front of the “Staatsoper”: the Vienna Ring! This year for the first time, Lightgates from Stubenring to Opernring, create a ball-like atmosphere, on the initiative of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce. In harmony with the most beautiful and historical buildings of the country, the illumination gives the evening an extraordinary flair.

Good to know: The opera ball is internationally known to hold similar events in New York, Dubai, Zagreb and Kuala Lumpur as “Vienna Opera Ball”. However, our Viennese Opera Ball remains unique in its splendor and liveliness.