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Livestream and Opera

Livestream and opera – how do they fit?

Reading time: 4 min

Opera lives from the tradition, the singers, the orchestra and, not least, the venue. In a nutshell: Opera lives from the live atmosphere on site. And yet, the Vienna State Opera and OMV are bringing this experience to the living room. With the livestream of Puccini’s “Tosca” on 8 May, it’s also completely free of charge. In the run-up to the event, the Vienna State Opera’s “Mr. Livestream” let us peek behind the curtains.


The Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) is one of the world’s most acclaimed opera houses. First-class singers, the Vienna Philharmonic in the orchestra pit and the atmosphere of an exceptional building – that’s what you enjoy when you attend a performance in the Wiener Staatsoper.  The building on Vienna’s Ringstraße has a superlative reputation worldwide. And what could be a better reason for making the atmosphere available to everyone who is not lucky enough to be there for a live performance in Vienna?

Opera in your living room – via livestream

This is how the livestream "Wiener Staatsoper live at home” was born. “Dance, concerts, and especially opera are naturally made for the moment and for the venue. We are well aware of the fact that we can’t replace the live experience – we don’t even want to – and yet we want to make our opera house available to people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy live opera”, explained Christopher Widauer, “Mr. Livestream” of Wiener Staatsoper. This not only includes the international audience, but also people who can’t make it to the opera in person as they are not mobile enough or live too far away. Or because they simply couldn’t get their hands on a ticket. After all, the Wiener Staatsoper enjoys exceptional capacity utilization of around 99%. This means it’s sometimes simply impossible to get hold of a ticket.

So, the logical move was to broadcast the opera across the world via livestream. An idea that quickly garnered support and OMV, the general sponsor of Wiener Staatsoper for many years, has been on board right from the start. Today 45 opera and ballet performances per season are streamed live, in the highest quality. This is a service that also makes Wiener Staatsoper a leader in the digital world.

Christopher Widauer Head of Digital Development, Wiener Staatsoper
Dance, concerts, and especially opera are naturally made for the moment and for the venue. And yet we want to make our opera house available to people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy live opera.
Christopher Widauer, Head of Digital Development, Wiener Staatsoper

From the premiere to opera parties

While you sit back comfortably on the sofa to watch the opera, Christopher Widauer and his team will all have their hands full. For every livestream there are seven people working on site to coordinate the complex processes of the different systems: Camera crew, directors, score assistants, video and sound engineers. With more than 150 streams under their belts, they are a well-coordinated team and a livestream broadcast is now practically routine. But that wasn’t always the case.


Christopher Widauer still remembers 26 October 2013 as if it were yesterday, when the livestream premiered with the “Rosenkavalier”. “With hindsight, it wasn’t the best decision to start with a five-hour opera, and one that was on a holiday”, he grins. “We spent weeks preparing: We had agreed the internal work processes, we had directors in Vienna for training, we carried out test streams on non-public platforms, we even had engineers flown in from the USA to help us out – but then it still all had to come together in the right moment. That was really exciting and a huge challenge.”

Ultimately, there were more than 400 viewers for the first livestream. Today there are over 4,000 for popular performances. And those are only the individual streams. “We estimated that at least two people per TV set are following the livestream. Our customers have told us about opera parties, where they invite friends round to watch together. We support that, as we believe that opera is first and foremost a social experience. And the more people become passionate about opera, the brighter the future.”

Experience the energy of passion: “Tosca” livestream free of charge!


OMV and Wiener Staatsoper are offering a very special treat on 8 May 2017: Opera lovers from across the world can be part of a season highlight via free livestream: Giacomo Puccinis “Tosca” with star tenor Jonas Kaufmann and Austrian soprano Martina Serafin as the leads. A final fact: The most successful livestream to date also happened to be “Tosca” and for good reason!

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