When you enter through one of the main front doors of the lobby, which has been preserved in its original form, you get an immediate impression of the interior of the old opera house. Unaffected by the bombing were the whole main front, the main lobby, the central staircase, the Schwind Foyer and attached veranda, and the Tea Salon on the first floor. These have been preserved in their original state.
In the first section of the staircase, from the central entrance to the side boxes, hang two medallions designed by sculptor Josef Cesar, bearing the portraits of the designers, August Sicard von Sicardsburg and Eduard van der Nüll. Above these, hang two paintings by Johann Preleuthner, symbolizing the ballet and the opera. Adorning the staircase is the ceiling painting "Fortuna, ihre Gaben streuend" ("Fortune, scattering her gifts"), from a design by Franz Dobiaschofsky. Also representing his work are the canvas paintings in the three arches, depicting the ballet, comic opera, and tragic opera. The allegorical statues designed by Josef Gasser embody the seven liberal arts: architecture, sculpture, poetry, dance, musical art, drama, and painting.
The historical highlight of the opera house is the Tea Salon, formerly the Emperor’s Salon, located between the staircase and the central boxes. The former Imperial box had been previously reserved for Vienna’s royalty and their guests. The freshly colored ceiling painting, "Die Musik auf Adlerschwingen" ("The Music on Eagles’ Wings"), by Karl Madjera, represents both lyrical and tragic music. The ceiling and walls are decorated with 22 carat gold leaf. One can also find sculptures by August La Ligne, wall embroideries from the Giani studio, and tapestries bearing the initials of Franz Joseph I.
The 120-meter long intermission halls of the State Opera connect to frame the main staircase. To the right of the stairs lies the Gustav Mahler Hall, which was, until May of 1997, called the Tapestry Hall. It was named because of the tapestries which adorn its wall, designed by Rudolf Eisenmenger, with motifs from Mozart's "Zauberflöte" ("Magic Flute"). Up to 1944, this room had been the director’s office, where all the directors, from Franz von Dingelstedt to Karl Böhm, presided. The room was named after Gustav Mahler on May 11, 1997 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his conducting debut at the opera house, which ultimately led to his appointment as director. Since then, a portrait by the artist R.B. Kitaj decorates the area where Mahler once worked.
A wall opening directly connects the Gustav Mahler Hall and the original entrance hall, formerly called the Promenade Hall. Today this magnificent hall is called the “Schwind Foyer” because of the sixteen sketched oil paintings by Moritz von Schwind decorating the hall. The paintings represent operas that were previously well known, but are rarely performed today.