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December 2024



Silla, Palestrina's young pupil, has turned to the new direction in music coming from Florence and wants to leave his master.

Palestrina's son Ighino does not feel like singing. He is worried about his father, who has not written any music since the death of his wife Lukrezia and is sadly facing old age. Cardinal Borromeo sends his friend Palestrina a commission to compose a mass. This should convince the Pope that the tradition of polyphony can be combined with the clarity of the divine word. Otherwise, polyphonic music would be banned from the divine service by council decree. Palestrina does not see himself in a position to fulfill the cardinal's demand. Borromeo leaves him angrily. The masters of the art of music from the past appear to Palestrina and urge him to write the mass. In deep despair, he remains alone. Then he hears the voices of angels, among them the voice of his wife Lucretia. As if under duress, he writes down what these voices tell him. In the morning, Ighino and Silla find the sleeping master. Ighino collects the scattered sheets of music: it is the completed mass composition that Palestrina wrote in one night.



The final session of the council does not go as the papal legates Morone and Novagerio would like.

They are commissioned by Rome to bring the meeting to an end, but the clash of political interests between church dignitaries, princes and nations prevents unified resolutions. Borromeo had Palestrina sent to prison. He put off the Council as far as the new mass composition was concerned. When a dispute arises between the Cardinal of Lorraine and Count Luna, Luna is provoked into making a provocative statement. Chaos descends on the council and the meeting is adjourned. Infected by their masters' agitation, the servants clash. Prince Archbishop Madruscht has the quarrellers shot and the survivors tortured.



Palestrina has returned home from prison broken. He is no longer involved in what is happening around him.

Ighino explains to him what has happened: in order to save his father, Ighino has handed in the loose sheet music to the college. Mass is now being sung in the papal chapel.

Singers in the chapel announce the joyful news that the mass has made a deep impression on the Pope and the cardinals. The Pope visits Palestrina personally to honor him. Borromeo, overwhelmed by the feeling of his guilt, begs Palestrina's forgiveness.

The master remains alone, lost in thought. He is barely touched by Ighino's joy and the news of Silla's final departure: Palestrina has completed his life's work.


ACT 1 - 100 MIN


ACT 2 - 70 MIN


ACT 3 - 30 MIN

Program and cast

Papst Pius IV.: Günther Groissböck
Giovanni Morone: Michael Nagy
Bernardo Novagerio: Michael Laurenz
Kardinal Christoph Madruscht: Wolfgang Bankl
Carlo Borromeo, römischer Kardinal: Wolfgang Koch
Abdisu, Patriarch von Assyrien: Hiroshi Amako
Graf Luna, Orator des Königs von Spanien: Adrian Eröd
Bischof von Budoja: Norbert Ernst
Theophilus, Bischof von Imola: Michael Gniffke
Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina, Kapellmeister an der Kirche St. Maria Maggiore in Rom: Michael Spyres
Ighino, sein Sohn: Florina Ilie
Silla, sein Schüler: Patricia Nolz


Conductor: Christian Thielemann
Direction: Herbert Wernicke
Stage Design, Costumes, and Lighting: Herbert Wernicke

Vienna State Opera

Public Transport

Subway lines: U1, U2, U4
Trams: 1, 2, D, J, 62, 65
Buses: 59A
Local Railway: Badner Bahn
Stops: Karlsplatz / Opera

Taxi stands are available nearby.


Parking is only € 6, - for eight hours!

The Wiener Staatsoper and the ÖPARK Kärntner Ring Garage on Mahlerstraße 8, under the “Ringstraßengalerien”, offer the patrons of the Vienna State Opera a new, reduced parking fee. You can park in the Kärntner Ring Garage for up to 8 hours and pay only a flat fee of € 6, -. Just validate your ticket at one of the discount machines inside the Wiener Staatsoper. The normal rate will be charged for parking time greater than 8 hours. The validation machines can be found at the following coat checks: Operngasse, Herbert von Karajan-Platz, and the right and left and balcony galleries.

Important: In order to get the discount, please draw a ticket and do not use your credit card when entering the garage!

After devaluing your ticket in the Wiener Staatsoper you can pay comfortably by credit card or cash at the vending machines.

The machines accept coins and bills up to 50.- Euro. Parking time longer than 8 hours will be charged at the normal rate.


The structure of the opera house was planned by the Viennese architect August Sicard von Sicardsburg, while the inside was designed by interior decorator Eduard van der Nüll. It was also impacted by other major artists such as Moritz von Schwind, who painted the frescoes in the foyer, and the famous "Zauberflöten" (“Magic Flute”) series of frescoes on the veranda. Neither of the architects survived to see the opening of ‘their’ opera house: the sensitive van der Nüll committed suicide, and his friend Sicardsburg died of a stroke soon afterwards.


On May 25, 1869, the opera house solemnly opened with Mozart's Don Giovanni in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth.
The popularity of the building grew under the artistic influence of the first directors: Franz von Dingelstedt, Johann Herbeck, Franz Jauner, and Wilhelm Jahn. The Vienna opera experienced its first high point under the direction of Gustav Mahler. He completely transformed the outdated performance system, increased the precision and timing of the performances, and also utilized the experience of other noteworthy artists, such as Alfred Roller, for the formation of new stage aesthetics.


The years 1938 to 1945 were a dark chapter in the history of the opera house. Under the Nazis, many members of the house were driven out, pursued, and killed, and many works were not allowed to be played.


On March 12, 1945, the opera house was devastated during a bombing, but on May 1, 1945, the “State Opera in the Volksoper” opened with a performance of Mozart's THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO. On October 6, 1945, the hastily restored “Theaters an der Wien” reopened with Beethoven's FIDELIO. For the next ten years the Vienna State Opera operated in two venues while the true headquarters was being rebuilt at a great expense.


The Secretary of State for Public Works, Julius Raab, announced on May 24, 1945, that reconstruction of the Vienna State Opera would begin immediately. Only the main facade, the grand staircase, and the Schwind Foyer had been spared from the bombs. On November 5, 1955, the Vienna State Opera reopened with a new auditorium and modernized technology. Under the direction of Karl Böhm, Beethoven’s FIDELIO was brilliantly performed, and the opening ceremonies were broadcast by Austrian television. The whole world understood that life was beginning again for this country that had just regained its independence.


Today, the Vienna State Opera is considered one of the most important opera houses in the world; in particular, it is the house with the largest repertoire. It has been under the direction of Dominique Meyer since September 1, 2010.

© Bwag/Commons
© Peter Mayr
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