Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Theater Experiences in Wien (Vienna)

DSCN0643 _ Star of Schubert in front of Musikverein, Wien
Franz Schubert star near Musikverein, Wien
Wien (Vienna) means music and style.  In Vienna, the stars are given to composers and musicians - Schubert, Bach, Brahms, Berg, von Einem and von Karajan, etc., instead of film stars and starlets in Hollywood.

When I visited Vienna last month, my second trip to Vienna, I attended three different theatrical performances, all in renown venues, within a brief span of six nights.

DSCN9467 _ Volksoper, Wien, 2 October
Volksoper Wien
The first performance we attended was a night of three modern ballets at Volksoper.  The options then included Viennese operettas, such as Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow), a quintessential Viennese confection, but it was vetoed by my partner and we chose the ballet night instead, for its modernity and daring (see the preview video below).  It turned out to be a wonderful night of theater.  The three modern ballets were, in the order of performance and ascending scale of the pieces, Claude Debussy's "Nachmittag eines Fauns", Maurice Ravel's "Bolero" and Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana", performed by Wiener Staatsballett.

The first piece was intimate and small, with only two dancers, and the last was ambitious, set to a full orchestra, several choruses and multiple couples and corps, while the middle one was, in the middle of everything.  The first piece was lovely but just a tad underwhelming and the last one, hour long, had some muddy moments and sagging energy amongst generally very satisfying presentation and poignant choreographed dances; it was the middle piece made the strongest impact through its glorious choreography by Boris Nebyla, incredibly beautiful costume, and unflagging energy of the music.  It was one of the most satisfying theatrical pieces I have ever enjoyed.

DSCN9465 _ Volksoper, Wien, 2 October

DSCN9499 _ Volksoper, Wien, 2 October

DSCN9491 _ Volksoper, Wien, 2 October

DSCN9497 _ Volksoper, Wien, 2 October

Volksoper is the "second" or "third" opera house in Vienna.  The top one was the most exulted Wiener Staatsoper, and the other one might be "Theater an der Wien", where Beethoven's Fidelio premiered.  There were only Puccinis in those houses in the week I was in Vienna so I had to pass them over.  In 2002, I did enjoy a performance of Bellini's La Sonnambula at Wiener Staatsoper.  Standing section.  Cost 3 euros.  At that time, a guided tour of that house was 5 euros.  The house was much more grandiose and glamorous.  Formal too.  In the cafe inside the house, a server wore a name tag identifying her as Frau XXX.  Volksoper, in contrast, was a little smaller, more intimate and more down to earth.  After all, it was called "Folks' Opera".  Yet, it was in that "people's house" that my partner was made to check his quite nice-looking and almost formal black windbreaker, where in Staatsoper, a similar but more casual windbreaker cost no concern, and was also in the presence of Present Havel in Prague.  At Volksoper, My blazer was sanctioned by the usher.

For comparison, below are a group picture of Wiener Staatsoper I took during this trip:

DSCN1654 _ Wiener Staatsoper, Wien, 6 October

DSCN9026 _ Wiener Staatsoper, 2 October - 500

DSCN1793 _ Winer Staatsoper, Wien, 7 October

DSCN1779 _ near Staatsoper and Albertina Museum, Wien, 7 October

The second performance we attended was a play in one of the most prestigious theaters in German speaking world - Burgtheater in Vienna.

DSCN9424 _ Burgtheater, Wien, 2 October

DSCN9433 _ Burgtheater, Wien, 2 October

DSCN9436 _ Burgtheater, Wien, 2 October

The play we chose to see was Prinz Priedrich von Homburg by Heinrich von Kleist.  It was a seminal play on discipline, militarism and reason. It was a co-production with Salzburg Festival and in the title role, starred the wonderful young German actor August Diehl.  There were many young people in audience, perhaps high school students - the tickets were as low as 2.5 euros.  I didn't know if the high percentage of young people was the norm or not, or they were particularly lured by the heartthrob Diehl.

DSCN9224 _ Burgtheater Poster, Wien, 2 October- 500

It was a sparse, modern and fiercely intelligent production, yet emotional raw and wrenching - two and half hours without intermission breezed through.  I did my homework by reading both original German texts and English translation in advance, plus listening to a radio play produced in 1950s.   

DSCN9790 _ Burgtheater, Wien, 3 October

DSCN9796 _ August Diehl as Prince von Homburg, Burgtheater, Wien, 3 October

DSCN9794 _ Burgtheater, Wien, 3 October

The most venerated musical venue in Vienna for symphonic performances was the Großer Saal (Great Hall), sometimes called Golden Hall, of Musikverein (Music Association).  It was the venue for annual Vienna New Year's Concert, televised all over the world.  The building was an ornate classical structure, with elaborate decorations inside the hall, centering around Apollo and nine muses gracing the golden-trimmed ceiling.

DSCN0640 _ Musikverein, Wien, 5 October

DSCN1617 _ Musikverein, Wien, 6 October

DSCN1562 _ Musikverein, Wien, 6 October

Wikipedia described the Großer Saal thus:
The Großer Musikvereinssaal, or Goldener Saal (Golden Hall), is about 49 m (161 ft) long, 19 m (62 ft) wide, and 18 m (59 ft) high. It has 1,744 seats and standing room for 300. The annual Vienna New Year's Concert is held here. Its lively acoustics are primarily based on Hansen's intuition as he could not rely on any studies on architectural acoustics. The room's rectangular shape and proportions, its boxes and sculptures allow early and numerous sound reflections. The original equipment comprised a historic pipe organ built by Friedrich Ladegast, the first organ recital was held by Anton Bruckner in 1872. The present–day organ was originally installed by the Austrian firm Rieger Orgelbau in 1907, highly esteemed by musicians such as Franz Schmidt or Marcel Dupré, and rebuilt in 2011.
DSCN1548 _ Musikverein, Wien, 6 October

DSCN1555 _ Musikverein, Wien, 6 October

DSCN1541 _ Musikverein, Wien, 6 October

The program we enjoyed was performed by Wiener Symphoniker, conducted by Vladimir Fedosejev, Dirigent, with Edgar Krapp as organ soloist.  The pieces they performed were:
  • Werner Egk: Französische Suite nach Rameau für großes Orchester
  • Alexandre Guilmant: Symphonie für Orgel und Orchester Nr. 1 d - Moll, op. 42
    -------- Pause ----------
  • Modest Petrowitsch Mussorgskij: "Bilder einer Ausstellung" für Orchester bearbeitet von Maurice Ravel
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: Ouverture Nr. 3 D - Dur, BWV 1068 - 2. Satz (Air)
DSCN1588 _ Großer Saal, Musikverein, Wien, 6 October

DSCN1556 _ Großer Saal, Musikverein, Wien, 6 October

DSCN1585 _ Großer Saal, Musikverein, Wien, 6 October

It was glorious performance in a glorious hall.  I enjoyed the Egk and Mussorgky pieces very much.  Guilmant's organ symphony was not very engaging but it did allow the organ to go full blast and it was very impressive indeed.  For that experience's sake, I was glad for its inclusion.

The Wiener Symphoniker was a great symphonic orchestra, though overshadowed by the higher-profiled Wiener Philharmoniker.  Unfortunately, Wiener Philharmoniker was not performing both time I was in Vienna.  Therefore, a return to Vienna is a must.

We enjoyed the concert with our hosting friends, who were inspired and attempted to subscribe to the Wiener Philharmoniker's concerts but was told that they ought to wait for 13 years.  

Indeed, Vienna does mean music.

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- Teatro La Fenice di Venezia (La Fenice Theatre in Venice)
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- Bus Ride From Graz, Austria to Venice, Italy
- Magnificent Churches in Vienna
- Christopher Wheeldon's Brilliant Cinderella at San Francisco Ballet
- Theater Experiences in Wien (Vienna)

Label: Austria, Austria and Italy Trip 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Guest Blog - "Amateur food porn from Austria and Italy"

Last month, my partner Steve and I traveled to Austria and Italy, the lands of bountiful.  There, we were able to sample some incredible food - local dishes, coffee and cakes and gelati!  We also saw many beautiful food in markets, though we didn't sample all of them, they were feasts to the eyes.  Yesterday, Steve posted an entry on his "One Finger Typing" blog and he graciously agreed to guest post this blog.  We share the credits to these photos.

Amateur food porn from Austria and Italy

When you tell people you've just been to Austria and Italy most people want to know one thing and one thing only: what did you eat?

In October I had the good fortune to take a jaunt through those two countries and thought I'd answer that question with a sampling, in photos. It's Thanksgiving weekend here in the U.S., after all. Though some of these are mine, many thanks to Matthew for the best of the images included in this post...

First up, the unsurpassed cafés of Vienna, starting with my favorite café in all the world. We visited Café Central twice in six days:

DSCN0264 _ Cafe Central, Wien, 4 October

DSCN0262 _ Cafe Central, Wien, 4 October

Café Demel was our first café visit this trip:

DSCN9134 _ Cafe Demel, Wien, 2 October - 500

DSCN9126 _ Cafe Demel, Wien, 2 October - 500

And there was also Café Landtmann, an old hangout of a certain Viennese shrink, fellow by the name of Sigmund Freud:

DSCN9722 _ Cafe Landtmann, Wien, 3 October

Vienna's not all cakes and coffee, though. The city loves its cured meat too, in endless varieties, as in this supermarket near where we stayed with friends, just outside the Ring:

Cured meat, cheeses, exotic fruits, olives, and prepared seafood is a fraction of what's on offer at the outdoor stalls of the old Naschmarkt, near the Secession Building:

Venice's Rialto market on that city's Grand Canal is legendary, a visual feast from the produce sellers to the fish market. We didn't sample the horsemeat...

In Bologna we stayed in the heart of a district packed with produce sellers, bakeries, fish sellers, butchers, and cheese shops.

But what we'll always remember about Bologna, our last stop before heading home, was the best gelato of our entire trip, right in the shadow of the city's most identifiable landmarks, the adjacent, 12th century Asinelli and Garisenda Towers.

The most intense flavor? A cherry and white-chocolate concoction called Inferno (what else?), which drew us back to the gelateria that sold it over, and over, and over again. One has to wonder whether this infernally tempting gelato is named as it is because the Garisenda Tower that looms over this fine gelateria is cited in Dante's Inferno:
As when one sees the tower called Garisenda
from underneath its leaning side, and then a cloud
passes over and it seems to lean the more,
thus did Antaeus seem to my fixed gaze
as I watched him bend -- that was indeed a time
I wished that I had gone another road.

 --- Divine Comedy, Inferno, XXXI, 136-141 ---

While staying in Bologna we took a train to Ferrara for the day. On the city's central square we ordered a regional specialty, a pumpkin-filled pasta called cappellacci di zucca, cooked in butter and sage.

Satiated? Or are you salivating?
Buon viaggio!
Related posts on One Finger Typing:

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- Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele in Wien (Vienna)