Immersed in the rich legacy of Mozart, Strauss, Haydn, Mahler, Schubert and Beethoven, Vienna has music as an integral part of its history. Music resides in the heart of every Austrian. Vienna boasts of a rich historical culture that can be experienced when you visit this fascinating and intriguing city. You would be captivated by the glorious palaces, museums and cathedrals in Vienna. For an architectural and musical buff, Vienna is the place to be in.
Vienna’s Opera can be dated back to the early 18th century and is Vienna’s oldest theatrical institution. Emperor Leopold I, who ruled for 47 years had a number of new operas during his rule. He greatly appreciated and promoted them as he was a composer as well as a ruler. Later in 1857, the then emperor Franz Josef sent a handwritten letter to the Minister of Interiors about his initiative to develop the city of Vienna and construct more public structures. 30th January 1858 saw an international contest on the expansion plans of the city of Vienna and had a huge number of participants from all over the world. It was then decided to open a new opera house near Kärntnertore to keep it close by to the original opera house that it was to replace. The key element of the contest was that each architectural entry had to be led by a basic motto.
The award was won by the architects August Sicard von Sicardsburg and Eduard van der whose motto was: “Fais ce que dois, advient que pourra”. They built the building in Neo-Renaissance style. They specially used stones like Wollersdorfer Stein, Kelheimerstein, Breitenbrunner etc that had not been used in Vienna for a long time. The interiors were beautifully decorated in marble. The magnitude of the architectural expanse of the building had not been witnessed by Vienna earlier and finally the foundation stone was laid on May 20, 1863.
Unfortunately, in spite of the grandeur the public did not appreciate the building much and it came under a lot of criticism. The first reason was that it fell short in its grandeur when compared to Heinrichshorf, which was a private residence. Secondly, the building was given the epithet “the sunken box” after the Ringstraße was raised by a meter right in front of the opera house. All this public discontent and backlash caused Van der Nüll to commit suicide and Sicardsburg died following a fatal heart attack and none of the architects could witness the completion and opening of the building they had created. Finally the opening of the opera house was on May 25, 1869 and had a grand premier by Mozart and was honored by the presence of the Emperor Franz Josef and the Empress Elisabeth.
During World War II the building caught fire and had only the front section intact. Temporarily the State Opera was housed at Vienna Volksoper and Theatre an der Wien. Eventually it was reconstructed with the assistance of restoration experts Udo Illig and Ernst Kolb. Finally, another international competition was organized that was won by Erich Boltenstern.