Austria Overview

Schönbrunn Palace

Emperor Leopold I gave architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach the order to design a new palace. His first draft was a very utopian one, dealing with different antique and contemporary ideals and trying to top its role model Versailles. His second draft showed a smaller and more realistic building. Construction began 1696 and after three years the first festivities were held in the newly built middle part of the palace.Few parts of the first palace survived that century, because especially Maria Theresa of Austria to whom the estate was made as a present by her father (who, himself, had shown but little interest in it) had decided to make it the imperial summer residence, after she was crowned. She ordered her architect-of-the-court Nicolò Pacassi to reshape the palace and garden in a way of the style of the Rococo era. At the end of the so-called Theresianian epoch, Schönbrunn Palace was a vigorous centre of Austria's empire and the imperial family, and stayed their summer residence until the more-or-less "abdication" of Charles I of Austria, in 1918.In the 19th century one name is closely connected with Schönbrunn's, Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria. He was born there, spent the majority of his life there and died there on November 21, 1916 in his sleeping room. Through the course of his 68-years reign, Schönbrunn Palace was seen as a Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) and remodelled in accordance with its history.


Vienna State Opera

The building was the first major building on the Wiener Ringstraße commissioned by the controversial Viennese "city expansion fund". Work commenced on the building in 1861 and was completed in 1869, following plans drawn up by architects August Sicard von Sicardsburg and Eduard van der Nüll, who lived together in the 6. Bezirk. It was built in the Neo-Renaissance style. This was the first opera built in Vienna.The Ministry of the Interior had commissioned a number of reports into the availability of certain building materials, with the result that stones long not seen in Vienna were used, such as Wöllersdorfer Stein, for plinths and free-standing, simply-divided buttresses, the famously hard Kaiserstein, whose colour was more appropriate then Kelheimerstein, for more lushly decorated parts. The somewhat coarser-grained Kelheimerstein (also known as Solnhof Plattenstein) was intened as the main stone to be used in the building of the opera house, but the necessary quantity was not deliverable. Breitenbrunner stone was suggested as a substitute for the Kelheimer stone, and stone from Jois was used as a cheaper alternative to the Kaiserstein. The staircases were constructed from polished Kaiserstein, while most of the rest of the interior was decorated with varieties of marble.The Vienna State Opera is closely linked to the Vienna Philharmonic, which is an incorporated society of its own, but whose members are recruited from the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera.The Wiener Staatsoper is one of the busiest opera houses in the world producing 50 to 60 operas per year in approximately 200 performances. It is quite common to find a different opera being produced each day of a week. As such, the Staatsoper employs over 1000 people. As of 2008, the annual operating budget of the Staatsoper was 100 million Euros with slightly more than 50% coming in the form of a state subsidy.

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