Police chase through the Vienna Opera

Police chase through the Vienna Opera


norman lebrecht

February 06, 2015

A persistent audience pest was arrested on Wednesday night at the Vienna Opera after a police chase through the most expensive boxes. The man, 63, was finally cornered and handcuffed in the Gustav Mahlersaal.

The intruder had a habit of attending the opera on a ticket to the standing places before sneaking into one of the boxes and enjoying the show in comfort. Spotted by ushers, he would nip from one box to the next, evading expulsion until the final curtain.

Despite an alert on all doors, during Josephslegende on Wednesday he invaded the presidential box where he was spotted by audience members, who called the cops. When stopped in the Mahler Room, he claimed to be a journalist.

He is presently immersed in Fidelio.




  • SDReader says:

    Good one, Norman!

  • Mathieu says:

    In my penniless youth, I used to buy cheap tickets and then moved to the better seats of the hall. Nobody ever arrested me for doing that.

  • Frank says:

    It is standard activity in France and everyone in the Met’s standing room are on the lookout for empty seats down front.

  • Liz says:

    Quite so. Why waste a good seat that no one is using? This man was sensible, not a ‘pest’. Presumably the presidential box was a move too far and he angered the gods of security. I’ve moved seats at most venues, though I’m too much of a coward to migrate to the stalls at Covent Garden. I know someone who does, but he’s an elderly priest and probably claims protection from the almighty if anyone complains.

  • Alexander says:

    What exactly is the correct etiquette? When I have asked about this before some people have told me that moving to a different seat is essentially theft. I have done it, but have usually felt uncomfortable. I did move recently, with the agreement of the staff on duty, because I had found myself sitting right in front of a mother and son (I should explain that the son must have been in his 30s, if not 40s) who kept up a conversation throughout the first half, and would not stop when asked to.

  • Susan B says:

    “Correct etiquette” depends on the venue. At the Met the ushers contain standees with a rope preventing them from leaving the section, and ushers who spot seat poachers are supposed to make them return to standing room. At the Paris opera, ushers often help standees find seats, if there are a lot of empty seats (or they used to when standing room was at the back of the stalls). German audiences are more reluctant to move at all, even if only to fill in a couple of empty seats more central in their row.

  • PGynt says:

    I find it intensely annoying if I have paid a small fortune for a prime seat suddenly in the first break to find myself surrounded by people who have paid a fraction of what I have. If you pay top dollar it’s also so that you have a chance of being surrounded by empty seats.

  • Brian says:

    A friend of mine used to do that at the Met and Carnegie Hall. Always got away with it because he befriended the ushers. One of those people who can charm the birds off the trees. I’m told greasing their palms can also work and it’s still cheaper than a seat.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    For years, ostensibly sold-out Dallas Symphony concerts would have numerous empty seats that I could spy from my cheap seat in the choral terrace and move to at intermission.

    I understand the desire of expensive seat-buyers to not be seated next to riff-raff who only paid $17 for a seat but now that I buy the better seats I’m still not dressing any better so maybe it’s all for naught.

  • Martin Locher says:

    Maybe I should have only bought a standing ticket when I was at the dreadful Cunning Vixen at Vienna too.

    The expensive seats were out of my budget, the cheap one I got was virtually a “listening” seat. Obstructive view to this Opera House means, I could see roughly 0% of the stage when being seated. That is not obstructed view, it is no view. Should sue them 🙂

    I actually thought of moving into the standing area, pretty sure much more could be seen from there. But I couldn’t be bothered as the staging didn’t seem to offer much whenever I stood up. At the beginning a lot, then less and less.

    Congratulations though to the theatres in Bern and St. Gallen who 100% statisfied me with their Cunning Vixens last season.

  • Martin Locher says:

    In some concert halls some cheap seats seem to be much better than the expensive ones anyway.

    Last week I attended 3 concerts at City Halls Glasgow. Two of them in the stalls, one in a cheap seat on the side of the balcony.

    The cheap seat was almost perfect.* One could see Ticciati’s face at the sound his SCO produced in Haydn 70 and Mahler’s Lied. An unforgettable experience for roughly £15.

    *the singers could not be heared properly. So you might not want to buy “my” seat.

  • Leon says:

    The ushers in Vienna are really mean. Even at a dress rehearsal they shunted people back to their own seats if they dared to move. When I was a student in London years ago we had access routes into both the opera houses where we would stand. The poorer audience are often so much better behaved. At the Volksoper in Vienna the Viennese friend I was with said ‘oh, ignore the box office’. A tip at the stage door produced splendid seats at a fraction of the price. And another Viennese friend would gate crash the Opera Ball, dance all night, then head home out the front door.