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The Rudolfina-Redoute - a fascinating masked ball

The Viennese ball tradtion is known far beyond the national borders, indeed worldwide. Sounding names like opera ball, sugar bakery ball, philharmonic ball and countless more are cultural events in Vienna during the carnival time. However, one ball is very special among all the other balls in Vienna, as it is the last big masquerade ball in Vienna: the Rudolfina-Redoute.

I will tell you more about it today and also the chairman Oliver Hödl lets us look behind the scenes of this traditional, colorful and mysterious ball.

Rudolfina Redoute

elegant masks and colourful flowers - Copyright Andreas Lepsi

Rudolfina Redoute

masked ladies invite to dance - Copyright Matthias Rüby

The Rudolfina-Redoute takes place every year on Carnival Monday (also called Rosenmontag) in 2020 on February 24th, traditionally on in all halls of the Vienna Hofburg, this time under the theme "Our Heart Beats for Europe"

This ball is the only large masked ball with a particularly colorful and mysterious flair, by the masking of the ladies and women only are allowed to invite the men for a dance until midnight. This and the exuberant mood make the Rudolfina-Redoute the ball with the highest flirting factor of the season. The Rudolfina- Redoute looks back on more than a century of tradition, with its origins in 1899, when there were still numerous Redoutes in the Viennese ball scene.

The Rudolfina-Redoute has always been organized on an honorary basis by members of the Catholic fraternity Rudolfina Wien. As a result, the ball committee consits mainly of young people, and many students and academics are to be found on the Redoute itself. The ball audience spans all generations and connects Viennese with visitors from all over the world.

Rudolfina Redoute

grand finale of the opening dance - Copyright Foto Sulzer

Rudolfina Redoute

ladies of the opening comittee - Copyright Andreas Lepsi

The gentlemen of the opening committee of the Rudolfina-Redoute are all members of the fraternity Rudolfina. The chairman of the Rudolfina Gesellschaftskomitee, which is responsible for the organisation of the ball, Oliver Hödl will tell you more about his task, the ball and how everything started for him a bit later.

As in previous years, in the year 2020 the Symphony Orchestra of the Klangvereinigung will take you on a musical journey and enchant you with waltzes and classical dances. Other highlights include the Dance Orchestra of Military Music Lower Austria, the Carla Natascha Band, The Cadillacs, Peter Sax in the disco and this year for the first time the trio The Men.

In addition to the mysterious and fascinating masks of the ladies, there is another, well-kept secret, which is only aired on the ball itself: the gift for the ladies. What makes this gift 2020 so special Oliver will tell you later.

Rudolfina Redoute

Tanzmeister Thomas Kraml - Copyright Andreas Lepsi

Rudolfina Redoute

festive ballroom - opening ceremony - Copyright Matthias Rüby

What makes the Rudolfina-Redoute so unique in the Viennese ball scene?

The uniqueness of Rudolfina-Redoute summarized in a few words: Catholic and Christian, student and young, colorful and mysterious, European and international, and traditional and familiar. This was true in its beginnings in 1899 and also today, 121 years later.

Catholic, as probably no other big Viennese ball mixes so much clergy among the 3,500 ball guests.

Students - traditionally, more than half of the visitors have been students since the first event.

Colorful and mysterious. Ladies and gentlemen alike care for the colorful flair. The ladies are mysterious with their elaborate and beautifully made masks. Many gentlemen proudly show the colors of their fraternity.

European, as visitors from all over the world, but mainly from Europe arrive to experience this very special ball. Therefore there is also a diverse social program around the ball, from guided city tours to dance lessons to familiar evening programs.

Now you are certainly curious how to get tickets. All information can be found at www.rudolfina-redoute.at/karten-und-vorverkauf/.

Rudolfina Redoute

masks as far as you can see - Copyright Andreas Lepsi

Rudolfina Redoute

the ball comittee - Copyright Thomas Blazina

Chairman Oliver Hödl in conversation...

How did it all began...

Everything started with my last school ball after my graduation from high school in Mürzzuschlag where I was born, which was traditionally always organized by the graduating class. Each class sends a representative to the ball committee, I simply registered, because dancing and ball events were very important to me already in my youth.

When I came to Vienna, I came to the Rudolfina as a young student. As it is customary in a student fraternity, one seeks for all possible committees members who help and get involved. At the time I was 21, I joined the Gesellschaftskomitee, which organizes the Rudolfina-Redoute. The committee itself is composed of members of all generations. From a student to a working family father. Everything started in 2003 and I just stayed. First with smaller things. Later, as a computer scientist, I programmed the first online reservation system, which was in use until 2014/2015. In 2003 we were a pioneer among the balls, because such a system hardly existed before.

In 2017, I had the opportunity to take over the job as a chairman and decided to accept it. I had already gained experience, but this was a big step further. Much of what was coming was already well known to me, and everyone on the committee has its agendas. It's like a small company, but run by a lot of volunteers. I have then brought good, capable friends to my side with me so that now we are four who act as the ball executive board. And we are still supported by numerous volunteers. 

What makes the Rudolfina-Redout so special for you? What does it mean to organise it?

2020 is our third Redout. After the Redoute is before the Redoute we always say, because as soon as the Redoute is over, the planning of the next one is already starts.

This year in 2019 we had 120 years of Rudolfina-Redoute, because in 1899 the first May Festival, the first dance event of the Rudolfina, took place.

The ball itself somehow always takes place in the same way, that is also the basic idea of the Viennese ball. A ball follows certain rules, from the dress code, to the grand opening, dancing in different halls to different music and much more. Each ball has its own characteristic. And there the Redoute is something very special, being the only remaining masked ball. This means that the ladies are masked, wearing an eye mask and associated with it also comes the right to invite the men to dance, not vice versa which is it at other balls. At the Redoute, the only ones who are allowed to invite the gentlemen to dance are the masked ladies, until at midnight the masks fall at the bat quadrille. From then on there is everyone can invite the other for a dance.

All of this must be organized, which starts right after the Redoute. In March / April, we are already thinking about the topic of the upcoming Redoute, because this has a decisive influence on the marketing measures, accents that are set, program items, decoration, ... and the women's donation must be organized.

The women's donation is also an essential aspect of a traditional ball. It goes back to the high season of balls in the 19th century, where the women's donation was a gift to the lady, usually a beautifully decorated dance card. This dance card was a little booklet where dances are inside and each lady just entered the dances there or they were entered by the man and the dance was thus confirmed. Sometimes the gentlemen have left very nice short compliments or a personal message, sometimes also the contact details. A ball was a big marriage exchange.

The ladies' donations have evolved and each ball has tried to emphasize the character of the ball with the women's donation and to make the ladies a very elaborate gift.

That's something you have to think about early on, because if we assume about 3,500 participants, half of them women, then that's what wee need to produce.

Rudolfina Redoute

chairman Hödl - Copyright Foto Sulzer

Rudolfina Redoute

opening waltz of the comittee - Copyright Thomas Blazina

What can you tell us about the Rudolfina-Redoute 2020?

This year, for the Redoute 2020, we have a nice cooperation for the women’s donation with Missio Austria (papal missionary work), to move away from the typical mass production. Together with Missio, we are now producing for us in a project they are looking after in India. Each piece is handmade and Missio provides the fair framework that fits our Christian value corset.

What the donation is, now this is a secret that will be revealed only at the Rudolfina-Redoute 2020 on February 24th.

What I am particularly happy that Missio informed us that with our order for the families producing it at least half a year, the livelihood is assured.

That's it, too, which I find so great that we have so many options to create. Just like the topic, 2020 is all about "Our heart beats for Europe". We are a very European ball because the many Christian student fraternities that come to us, especially from Germany and Switzerland, but also from other countries like Estonia or Belgium, make it very European. 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of EU membership in Austria. Even though things are not always running smoothly in the EU, the basic idea is great and we want to celebrate this with the Redoute in 2020. The theme will be reflected in the entire ball events. From the opening, over the music to the supporting program on the ball.

About fifteen years ago, there was the idea for an official text on the European anthem, the melody of Beethoven's "Freude schöner Götterfunken". The EU Commission wanted to decide on a text for the anthem. There was a competition and numerous submissions, but ultimately nothing came out of it.

However, one of our members wrote a text at that time, which was also submitted, in a variety of languages. And the first line of the German text is "Our heart beats for Europe". So we use this as a theme for the Redoute 2020. You can hear the full version of his text on the Redoute itself, because it is performed by the choir of the only Catholic singer fraternity.

It is important, we do not celebrate the EU, we celebrate Europe, because we also have a lot of guests coming from Switzerland to us and from other countries that are not in the EU. Therefore "Our heart beats for Europe" and you can look forward to a musical journey through the European countries. 

In the end, something that you remember in special ...

A personal experience that mirrors so wonderfully the basic essence of the Redoute, namely the masking. Many years ago I was asked by a masked lady for a dance, she obviously knew me. But unfortunately, I had no idea who she was at the moment, but of course I accepted the dance. Only in the course of the dance I remembered who the lady was. The masking offers as you really see the ladies the opportunity to play with this lack of awareness and continue to carry on the mysterious magic of the ball until midnight.