Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Visiting Vienna: An Afternoon at the Opera
I want to be the sort of person who loves theater in general and opera in particular, but I have to confess that both leave me cold. Theater going experiences are so variable- sometimes wonderful, but oftentimes I feel lukewarm about the performances, costumes, singing, plot or all of the above. And it's invariably an expensive proposition going to the theater, while comparatively (and in more ways than one), most movies are cheap.
I'd been to see three operas before- all in Eric's company and all in German. I slept through one, but I blame extreme jet lag and no subtitles. In Vienna, I couldn't wait to give it another go since it's The Opera Capital of the World.
Due to a minor ticketing snafu and one very kind box office agent, we ended up sitting in a box for an afternoon performance of Strauss's Die Fledermaus at The Volkstheater for around $17 USD. I felt so queenly walking into that sumptuous little box all done up in thickly padded red velvet chairs, red damask wall paper and pretty crystal light fixtures. (And glad I decided to dress up for a matinee!)
The audience was mostly school children, which surprised us given the sexual innuendo in this opera. However, the objective seemed to be exposing children to a high culture experience rather than getting them to understand the intricacies of plot and double entendres. Even though the wiggled and whispered through the performance, most of these kids will grow up to be Vienese people who can't get enough Opera. In fact, as adults, they will spend summer evenings down at the Rathaus eating Indian curries or Thai noodles on porcelain plates with a big glass of wine or beer on a folding chair, raptly watching opera on a vast outdoor screen. That's what tradition and culture mean to Vienna and it was lovely to see the adults helping to facilitate this life long love affair with culture for their students.
The subtitles and wonderful acting made it easy to follow this Opera which certainly adds enjoyment. The farce kept building to a chaotic and climactic final scene that made us laugh out loud. I may have to give theater a second chance. Have you ever been to an Opera? What did you love? What did you hate?