We were lucky to be able to get the last two seats in the last row for the very last performance of The Magic Flute for St. Margarethen’s Opera Festival…one wouldn’t know it by the total lack of information available in English, but it’s actually the largest open-air opera festival in the world with over 200,000 visitors, and takes place on a pretty dramatic stage set against the backdrop of an old Roman rock quarry.
The performance was excellent from start to finish, and the venue surprisingly accomodating – lots of choices for catering and handicapped accessibility. Because it’s open air, the production itself takes on a very classic dramatic aura, complete with fire-breathing dragons, live animals, and moving sets that reveal even more sets behind them – all while the show is still set to a live orchestra, and the vocals of the stars carry across the night, and a grand finale of fireworks set to music from the opera. Our only complaint would be that as it’s traditional opera, the shows are long, and there is a lengthy introduction (in German – and yet another fine example of why microphones should be distributed to Austrians selectively) and long intermission, which while required in a venue of this size, does make for a long evening so make sure you sleep in the morning of.
If you plan on an outing next year, here are a couple of helpful tips:
1. Information regarding the festival is on their website at http://www.ofs.at/ – however there is no translation on their site. I couldn’t figure out their online purchasing system but you can buy tickets for the festival once their available through http://www.oeticket.at/ (available in English). Get started early as there are some aficionados at these functions, and most shows I looked into were sold out well in advance. The following video provides a good orientation to the festival and venue, click the third option for the English version.
2. When you book your ticket, you can also book a “busfahrt” for transportation to and from the venue, but note that you’ll arrive very early and leave very late. The easiest is to come by car and it’s roughly 45 minutes to an hour outside of Vienna.
3. Austrians love their outdoor festivals so for the most local – and also least stressful – experience. While the shows are typically at 8:30, the doors will open about 6. Arrive before seven, get a good parking space (back in so that you’ll be in good position to make a quick getaway), and then slowly make your way to the food stands – enjoy some dinner and wine and goodies. You can take a visit of the sets and get situated in the seats.
4. This is an outdoor venue to pack accordingly – this is no show to get dolled up for but you will see some very nicely dressed people. Depending on the weather, pack layers accordingly and don’t forget a seat cushion for the cold metal chairs, blankets, scarves, and fleece. The temperature will drop as the night goes on and you’ll enjoy the performance a lot more if you’re not shivering.
5. Last but not least, enjoy the fireworks!