VIENNA STATE OPERA GALA
A parade of stars to celebrate the jubilee
Europe, early 1945: with only weeks to go, “total war” was ravaging the Continent. In February the whole of Dresden was engulfed in a sea of flames, and a month later, on the night of 12 March 1945, Allied bombers discharged their deadly cargo over Vienna. The Opera House was destroyed in the flames of a veritable “Götterdämmerung”, leaving only a handful of areas intact: The façade, the main entrance and the great staircase, together with the magnificent foyer with its frescos by Moritz von Schwind and the “Teesalon” – formerly the Royal Retiring Room.
By 24 May 1945 the decision was made, that the State Opera would be rebuilt. But what was destroyed in a single night took ten years to reopen. The Vienna State Opera finally reopened its doors on 5 November 1955. “I was there at the reopening in 1955”, recalls Zubin Mehta with a laugh. “In the standing area. I no longer remember how I got a ticket. Later I tried to get in without a ticket – it was possible to do so at the Musikverein but not at the Opera. The usher in charge of the standing area at the back of the stalls kept throwing me out.”
Exactly fifty years later Mehta returned to the house and, together with four illustrious colleagues, conducted the gala concert in celebration of the reopening. He oversaw excerpts from ”Don Giovanni”, while Seiji Ozawa, Christian Thielemann, Daniele Gatti and Franz Welser-Möst conducted highlights from all but one of the seven operas premiered in November 1955: ”Fidelio”, ”Der Rosenkavalier”, ”Aida”, ”Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” and ”Die Frau ohne Schatten”. Among the prominent singers who came to mark the occasion were Plácido Domingo, Bryn Terfel and Edita Gruberova.