The Vienna State Opera House
is surely one of the grandest and most beloved structures in the entire world, but it wasn't always so well appreciated.
Architects Eduard van der Nüll (1812-1868) and August Sicard von Sicardsburg (1813-1868) were the winners of the contest to design the new Opera House on "The Ring" (Ringstrasse) in 1858 with the motto "Fais ce que dois, advient que pourra," which is French for "Do what you must, come what may." Unfortunately, the Viennese were not very impressed with what they did. Many thought the staircase wasn't grand enough (or high enough) or that the style was too romantic. Also, the Ringstrasse was raised by a meter right in front of the House during its construction, leading naysayers to liken it to a "sunken box." Van der Nüll reportedly killed himself due to the criticism, and Von Sicardsburg, who had lived with him, died shortly after of a heart attack. Neither lived to see its opening day in 1869 -- which was the premiere of Mozart's Don Giovanni
Over a hundred years later, following wars and restorations, ballets and operas are still performed nightly in the astonishing space to sold-out houses, and the Opera Ball is the most important ball of the Vienna Ball Season
. I cannot imagine a better home for the ornate and awe-inspiring building than Vienna, where culture is king. In May, June, September and October, about 120 live performances are actually projected onto an enormous wall in the square outside the opera house -- free for everyone to enjoy.
Van der Nüll and Von Sicardsburg were woefully under-appreciated in their own time, so let's take a moment to appreciate their work now:
My visit to Vienna was sponsored by the Vienna Tourist Board, but the opinions expressed in the article are 100% my own.