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History of the Vienna Opera Ball

The first ball festivities may not have been at the Royal and Imperial Court Opera Theater next to the Kärntner gate. Legend has it that the artists that worked on this stage organized a celebration in honor of the Vienna Congress (1814 – 1815).

Various balls, in both small and large establishments, were held in the Imperial City on the Danube in the 1820’s and 1830’s. The artists, however, wanted a more intimate context for their celebrations. They found the ideal solution in the »Redoutensäle«, the refined yet cozy ballrooms of the Hofburg Imperial Palace.

There was a time in Vienna when the Viennese people were not in the mood for dancing: after the bloody and inglorious exit of the 1848 revolution. It was a number of years before the joy of life again reached its previous intensity, and the balls and celebrations in the »Viennese style« were again made possible.

In the year 1862, the famous Theater an der Wien was again given the highest honor – to be allowed to organize the Ball festivities. At that time it naturally modeled its spectacular events after the extravagant Paris Opera Ball.

When, in the year 1869, the staff of the Royal and Imperial Court Opera could finally move into their magnificent new home on the ring, Emperor Franz Joseph I refused permission to hold dance celebrations in his theater. Therefore, the first ball was called the »Ball in the Hofoper« and was not held in the opera house on the ring, but instead in the equally new and impressive building of the »Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien«.

In 1877, the Emperor finally gave his consent to a »soiree« in his opera house. However, dancing was not officially allowed at this celebration on the night of the 11th to 12th of December. However, the Vienna Tourist Journal stated the following day: »…it was initially quite difficult, but Viennese blood and Viennese courage withstood... after midnight there was the first proper dance in the ballroom of our opera house.«

After the fall of the Empire in 1918, it took a surprisingly short time for the young republic to remember the imperial celebrations in the opera house. On January 21, 1921, the Republic of Austria held the first »Opernredoute«, the predecessor to the official Ball. In January 1935, the event was designated for the first time, the »Vienna Opera Ball« – a magical name, whose effect did not fail in the pale light of the thirties.

In 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, by order of the »Reichsregierung« of German occupied Austria, last Opera Ball was held. After the reestablishment of the Republic of Austria in 1945, and after overcoming of the first years of adversity in a war-torn Vienna, the grand reopening of the Opera House was celebrated in November 1955.

On February 9, 1956, for the first time in the second republic, the beautiful opera house was transformed into the brilliant opera ballroom.

Gallery: The Vienna Opera Ball in the 1970s