The Vienna Opera Ball will not take place in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. It would be “irresponsible” to hold the ball in the usual way, the government said yesterday. Various other Viennese balls had already been canceled, including the Concordia ball and the Jäger ball.
Austria – Vienna – In a joint statement, Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) and Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) said that the government had not made the decision to cancel the Opera Ball easy. The Opera Ball is “a big showcase” for Vienna and Austria as a cultural nation, said Kurz. Especially at parties and celebrations, there are many contagions, so the decision was made to cancel. The government will decide the cancellation in the Council of Ministers meeting on Wednesday.
The government also knows “about the economic and social importance of these events beyond Austria’s borders,” said Kogler. In view of the “worrying increase” in Covid 19 diseases, health protection must have priority. The State Opera and the other cultural institutions had “put enormous energy into their security concepts”, the Vice Chancellor added. The government is concentrating all efforts to support them and to keep the cultural operations as good as possible, he assured.
It is only the second cancellation since the opera ball resumed after World War II in 1956. In 1991, the Gulf War in Iraq was the reason.
As a kind of state act, the holding was “unseemly”, said the then Mayor of Vienna, Helmut Zilk, after the “Operation Desert Storm” for the liberation of Kuwait began on January 17, 1991 with heavy air strikes on military targets in Iraq. As a result, further events were canceled and numerous hoteliers protested against the decision.
Downsizing would be a “poor signal”
The opera ball has a very long lead time, and one cannot currently assume that an event with 7,000 people – 5,000 of them as guests – in the house, with music, dance and a lively atmosphere, will be feasible on February 11, according to Grünen- State Secretary for Culture Andrea Mayer. The current situation is a limitation, you just have to do without some things, said Mayer on Wednesday in the run-up to the Council of Ministers. A limited version of the opera ball would have been a “poor signal” – “that is not wanted,” Mayer said when asked.
She also announced an alternative concept for the time of the opera ball, opera director Bogdan Roscic is already working on a program around the ball date, which is aimed specifically at children and young people. In a written statement, Roscic regretted the cancellation of the opera ball: “We are all very sorry.” There are now four days off that they want to use for alternatives.
Current game operations not affected
The current operations of the State Opera and other houses have nothing to do with this step, Mayer assured. The security and prevention concepts of the cultural institutions are “exemplary” and she is convinced that the risk at cultural events with appropriate concepts and fixed seating plans is “an acceptable one”. The cultural scene in the country is limited, but it still exists.
After all, culture also shapes the mood in the country, and it is important that it make a positive contribution, said the State Secretary. When asked, she could not rule out whether further major cultural events would be canceled. However, she is responsible for the fact that cultural activities are possible even under difficult conditions.
Economics Minister Margarete Schramböck (ÖVP) said before the Council of Ministers that it was important not to endanger people and thus also companies and jobs. The opera ball is an important economic factor and many businesses depend on it. Regular guest Richard Lugner also showed understanding for the cancellation: “That is already clever.” He now plans to bring his 2021 guest.
Other Viennese balls already canceled
Last week the committee of the Viennese Nobel and Traditional Balls decided that the planned balls could not be held under the given circumstances. Affected by the cancellation are the doctors’ ball, the lawyers’ ball, the officers’ ball, the concordia ball and the pharmaceutical ball. The hunter’s ball had already been canceled. The implementation of the balls was “not responsible” given the high number of cases.
The implementation is also almost impossible due to the current restrictions, it said. For example, only people who live in the same household are allowed to dance with each other, and a distance of at least one meter must be maintained from all other ball visitors. “This goes against the basic idea of a ball, and it’s hard to imagine. The decision was of course very difficult for us, ”said a spokeswoman.
The Vienna ball season is an important economic factor. According to calculations by the Chamber of Commerce, the 520,000 ball goers generated sales of 151 million euros last year.