Protocol for the event is, of course, strict: women must wear floor-length evening gowns and men tuxedo and tails. Then scenery, dress and music all combine to ensure that, year after year, the Opera Ball is the undisputed pinnacle of the Vienna ball season and one of the most important social events in all Europe. Tickets are now on sale for next year's gala, which will take place on February 7th, 2013, the last Thursday before Lent begins.
Surprisingly, tickets for a glimpse of the action start from as little as 15€ - around £12. That obviously won't get you in as a guest, but it will get you a spectator's ticket for the dress rehearsal the evening before. Prices for the actual event rise to 250€, or even higher if you book a table for dinner.
Through the year, Vienna hosts other stunning gala events adding up to a total of over 2,000 hours of dancing: the New Year is seen in at the Emperor's Ball at the magnificent Imperial Palace, the same setting as the Hunters', the Doctors' and the Lawyers' Balls later in the season. The Palace is also the setting of the Coffee-house Owners' Ball which is renowned for its atmosphere and the fact that guests often head on to Cafe Landtmann to end the night. The less formal Bonbon Ball is held at the Konzerthaus, while the Flower Ball, in its 90th year and dedicated to Viennese city gardens, takes place in City Hall.
It sounds, then as if just about everything in the Austrian capital is celebrated in dance, and as if there is a ball for everyone. None, though, is quite so fine as the lavish event held at the Vienna State Opera, an event that has its roots in the dance evenings held at the aristocratic palaces in Vienna during the eighteenth century.
With its dazzling mix of ballet, polonaise and waltz, the Opera Ball gives a glimpse of the greatness of the former Habsburg Empire and has become one of the biggest events of the European social calendar, attended by an eclectic assortment of aristocrats, bourgeoisie and bohemians. The evening begins with the approximately 5,000 guests – including the President in his box – standing to sing the Austrian national anthem. Then comes the parade of the debutantes, as, dressed in their finest, over a hundred young couples aged between 17 and 24 who have made their debut in Viennese high society open the ball of balls. The evening continues long into the night, and includes performances by renowned opera singers before drawing to a close at 5am with the slow waltz Bruderlein fein, which traditionally closes all balls in the city.