Staatsoper – Vienna State Opera
Attending an opera at the Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) can be an adventure if you purchase a standing room ticket, as I did one evening.
There were approximately 400 standing room tickets (price US$12) available the night I attended the opera of Salome by Richard Strauss. My evening’s adventure started when I got in line two hours before the performance, which was suggested. I struck up a conversation with Carol, an independent traveler from South Africa, who was in line next to me. She was in town for only one day and was determined to acquire a standing room ticket for the opera that evening.
Once we acquired a ticket, we were escorted to a specific standing place in the theatre. Much to my delight, I was in the middle of the second of numerous standing rows directly behind the orchestra seats. People of all ages and nationalities, who were around me, were clearly delighted they got in. In order to reserve our spot, should we need to take a break, we were instructed to tie a scarf or piece of clothing to the bar in front of where we were standing. The theatre was packed that night. The opera was superb.
Whenever I attended an event at the Staatsoper or a concert at the neighboring Musikverein (Vienna’s traditional music hall), I enjoyed a tea and dessert beforehand at the nearby Cafe Schwarzenberg, part of Vienna’s old-world cafe culture.
A conversation in a foreign language other than German was often going on at a table within earshot of me. Numerous people sat leisurely reading newspapers. My favorite treat there was warm apple strudel smothered in cream, along with a pot of carefully-brewed tea.
Musikverein – Vienna Concert Hall
One evening I attended a performance of the acclaimed Vienna Klezmor Orchestra at the Musikverein. The event was on the lower level in the Magna Auditorium, a more intimate, informal performance hall than the Great Hall upstairs, which is the home of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Klezmer, a musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of the shtetls (villages) of Eastern Europe, is sung in Yiddish (high German). It was originally instrumental music for celebrations.
The lively program called Vienna Goes Kelzmor, had me almost dancing in the isles. The music was interspersed with comments and jokes spoken mostly in German. I caught the words “synagogue” and “Hanukkah”, typical words relating to Jews. During intermission I entered into a discussion with a German man, Wolfgang, who was sitting next to me in the balcony. When I commented on the scattered laughter in the audience during some commentaries, he said the people (Jews) in the audience were from all over the world, so some may have taken the jokes in different ways.
Wolfgang plays the accordion, one of the instruments played by the artists of klezmer music. After the concert was over he excused himself and rushed out to meet the members of the band.
The Ringstrasse (Ring Road) around the opera house was always humming with activity whenever I was in the area. The former 19th century mansion opposite the opera house, which had belonged to the wealthy Jewish Tadesco family before the war, had been removed from their possession soon after *Anschluss (Annexation). The street level of the building was lined with busy shops, cafes, and restaurants.
The interesting and introspective cultural experiences I had in and around the Staatsoper and the Musikverein were a memorable part of my Viennese experience.
*Anschluss (Annexation) – Uniting Austria into Nazi Germany (the German Reich) on March 12, 1938
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