The first time I learned about Viennese Ball culture, I was rehearsing for an opera that takes place at one. My university produced “Die Fledermaus” during my sophomore year. “Die Fledermaus” is a traditional Viennese operetta, and after living in Vienna for a month, I can say it is also culturally iconic for the city. The composer, Johann Strauss, was majorly important in the development of Viennese Waltz music, and to this day Viennese youth learn to dance so they can attend balls in the city.
In “Die Fledermaus,” the characters attend an elaborate masked ball hosted by Prince Orlofsky, the role I sang. I played the party host with very little knowledge about or experience with Viennese ball culture, but after going to the Rudolfina Redoute, I know just how amazing these events truly are.
Getting ready for the ball took quite a bit of planning. There are very serious dress codes that need to be followed, and each ball is slightly different. For the Rudolfina, women are asked to wear masks. The masked ladies are the only people allowed to ask for a dance until the midnight unmasking, after which everyone is allowed to ask. I brought a floor length gown with me from the US, but went shopping in Vienna for a matching mask, gloves and jewelry.
When we arrived at the ball, it was very crowded. There are many rooms in the Hofburg Palace, and we tried desperately to find the opening ceremony. A man stopped us and asked if we would like to join the procession of masked women. We weren’t really sure what that meant, but he asked us to join a long line of women and told us we would process in before the cotillion. I had no idea that this meant walking down the stairs in front of the whole assembly, and taking places in the front row. Suddenly I became very aware of my balance, and hoped that I would not trip in my heels in front of so many people. I had to laugh at myself. Walking without tripping is hard enough! How would I handle dancing?
The ball had many rooms, each with its own style of music. If Viennese waltz isn’t your jam, you can go party in any of the other rooms. I had the most fun in the Salsa room, which was much less crowded. There are smaller rooms dedicated to disco, jazz, and even American country music. There really is something for everyone, so if you find yourself at a ball, you can dance in whatever style suits you best!
Many people stay out partying and dancing until dawn, but I had German class the next day, and needed to go home and sleep! Five hours and many cups of coffee later, I go to class, still thinking about the magical Rudolfina ball….
More Blogs From This Author
My name is Isabella Daltoso, and I am a senior at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU). I am a vocal performance major and a dance minor. I love all things music and opera, and I am so happy to be spending my spring semester in Vienna as part of the IES Vienna Music Program. I love to write and am a consultant at the PLU Writing Center. I have also been a newswriter for PLU’s Marketing and Communications department. When I am not singing, studying, or writing, I love to spend time with my friends and family, especially my younger siblings.