During our trip to Vienna in September 2011, we decided to go to the Vienna State Opera (Staatsoper) to see Don Giovanni. We try to visit the grand opera houses in the European cities we visit, if not for a performance at least for a peek inside. We were in Vienna for a few days. Don Giovanni was playing. So, we decided we’d go.
For expediency sake we ordered our last-minute tickets through the very obliging hotel concierge. He assured us he’d be able to secure our coveted tickets for that evening’s performance so we left the task in his capable hands. Later that day we picked them up and, in his broken English, the young concierge expressed his hope that we would enjoy our evening at the opera.
We were thrilled. After all, who couldn’t enjoy Don Giovanni — considered one of Mozart’s greatest operas — in the composer’s old stomping grounds, Vienna?
Psyched for our impending operatic experience, we dressed in our finest travelling duds, enjoyed a tasty repast in the hotel’s five-star restaurant and walked the 10 minutes along Wiedner Hauptstrasse to the impressive Staatsoper.
Like many of the grand opera houses of Europe, the Staatsoper is a legend unto itself.
This Neo-Renaissance State Opera House opened in May 1869 with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. However, the Emperor Franz Joseph, not finding the edifice that appealing, dismissed it as akin to “a railway station.” This snub ultimately lead to one of the building’s architects, Eduard van der Null, committing suicide.
And then, during World War II, the opera house was bombed and, but for the original loggia dominating the building’s front, was virtually destroyed. It reopened in 1955, complete with all the latest in theatre technology.
Getting back to our date with Don Giovanni, we arrived early so we could take a look around and revel in the pre-performance atmosphere. The Staatsoper’s foyer and grand marble staircase complete with frescoes, mirrors, chandeliers and statues were such a feast for the eyes it was a challenge to know where to look next.
Eventually we made our way to our seats in the ground floor stalls — we didn’t skimp — and parked ourselves to people watch.
What kinds of people attended the opera in Vienna? (All kinds) How did they dress? (From diamonds to denim.) Where did they come from? (Everywhere, I imagined.) It was all part of the exciting experience of going to the opera in Vienna.
And then I realized we didn’t have a performance program. So, I headed over to a friendly young female usher, gave her the requisite Euros (10, I think — I bought two programs) and practically skipped back to our wonderful seats six rows from the stage.
I could almost feel the roar of the grease paint. I could definitely smell the crowd (they love their fragrance in Vienna). I’ve been to more than 100 opera performances in my life and anticipating the rising curtain, the set design, costumes, and director’s interpretation is part of the thrill. What kind of experience were we in for this evening?
After giving Lloyd his copy of the program I sunk back into my plush red velvet seat and began to flip through the substantial book’s shiny pages, looking for the story outline.
But I couldn’t find it.
I flipped through it back to front. Perhaps I’d missed it somehow. Still no sign of it.
And then my mind started to race. What are all these pictures of …? What’s this Balanchine and Robbins business? No, it couldn’t be. Perhaps, like the programs at home, this was showcasing other performances during the upcoming season.
I continued my search for a Don Giovanni summary in vain. I turned to Lloyd. He, too, seemed perplexed.
“Did you buy the right program?” he asked, his voice haunted with impending disappointment.
“Yes … I’m sure of it … it’s what the usher gave me.” I replied, feeling equally doomed.
We looked at our ticket stubs. And there it was, the final stab of defeat … what we’d thought was advertising for another event turned out to be the performance we were attending.
We went to the opera … and the Vienna State Ballet broke out — the premier performance of Balanchine and Robbins. We’d missed the final performance of Don Giovanni by one night. 😦
I wonder what the concierge was thinking?
Oh well, we put our disappointment in our pocket and, with an open mind, enjoyed an unexpected foray into ballet.
I guess we’ll just have to go back to Vienna for the opera some day …
I can take it.
Thanks for visiting …
Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012