If you are visiting Vienna, make sure you find time to visit the city’s grand opera house, which hosts one of Europe’s most glittering social events each year.
In February, the internationally-renowned Vienna Opera Ball is staged – an event that attracts visitors from around the world, notably prominent names in business, show-business and politics.
The red carpet event, which is deemed the epitome of Ball culture, is now 61 years old.
However, you don’t need to attend the annual Ball to appreciate the magnificent Weiner Staatsoper, a 146-year-old building located on Vienna’s Ringstrasse Boulevard.
We toured the building on our last visit – and were enthralled by the stately stone exterior and the neo-renaissance style inside.
A highlight of the interior is an area known as the Tea Salon, which was formerly the Emperor’s Salon.
The ceiling and walls of the former Imperial Box are decorated with 22 carat gold leaf.
We were also shown sculptures, magnificent wall embroideries from the Giani studio, and tapestries bearing the initials of former Emperor Franz Joseph I.
The 120-metre intermission halls are also particularly striking and connect to frame the sweeping main staircase.
Originally called the Weiner Hofopen or Vienna Court Opera, the building was renamed in 1920 when the Hapsburg Monarchy gave way to the First Republic of Austria.
Damaged by World War II bombing, the Staatsoper was rebuilt to its former glory by 1955.
We were told that the opera house is one of the busiest in the world, producing about 300 performances a year – broken down into 50 to 60 operas and 10 ballet shows.
The main performance hall holds 2,100 and there is a giant screen on an outside wall designed to bring opera to the masses outside. Weiner Staatsoper is also known for its emphasis on providing music theatre and training for children.
Naturally, such a prestigious opera house has featured many big named, including appearances by Maria Callas, Christa Ludwig, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti.