A couple of years ago, six friends and I decided to expand our cultural horizons and attend the opera. We bought season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. Four Fridays after lab, we dressed up, took the train to Manhattan, ate dinner, and enjoyed a world-class production of classic opera in box seats. One of my first blog posts described such an evening. We saw La Traviata, Tristan und Isolde, La Sonnambula, and Il Trovatore. It was a wonderful experience! A couple of us bonded with a researcher at lab over opera. He stated, however, that he "only attends the opera in VIENNA."
So naturally, while in Vienna, I HAD to go!
Vienna has a couple opera houses, but I couldn't wait to see the inside of the Vienna State Opera.
I was willing to spring for an actual seat. A little personal splurge. How often is one in Europe?? No price is too small!
Until one realizes that the cheapest seat left is 100 euros, and one can get standing-room only tickets for three euros.
What kind of grad student can't do THAT math? Standing it was!
April 8, 2011
Three Oxford friends joined me: physicists Edmund and Joseph and archaeologist Amber. My poor Princeton self was outnumbered. It's okay. They are fabulous.
Good thing, too, because after dressing up (natch) and D-traming it down to the Opernring, we chilled in line for over an hour:
I mean, we queued.
Finally we were allowed inside! We were there to see Anna Bolena by Donizetti:
The premium four euro standing-room tickets for the Parterre (main floor) were sold out, but we successfully purchased three euro tickets for the Balkon (balcony). Next, we ran to the queue for choosing "seats", enjoying the architecture while waiting:
The Met is beautiful, in a posh, modern way. Die Staatsoper was extravagantly, elegantly gorgeous.
Once we climbed the stairs and waited in line (queued) for about twenty minutes, we frantically tied our scarves around almost chest-high rails to reserve our spots. We briefly pondered whether the scarves would be there upon our return, but concluded that the opera crowd should be fairly trustworthy and honorable.
We then FLEW out of the opera house to find dinner. It was, oh, about 6:30pm, and the doors were going to close promptly at 7:00pm. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how we ended up eating hot dogs and pizza from a street vendor before our night at the Vienna State Opera:
(Please excuse my crazy black-and-white printed shirt matched with different-crazy black-and-white printed purse. One can only pack so much when one wants to travel "lightly".)
Amber and I were yawning and truly craving coffee to power us through three hours of standing, but alas, none was quickly found. We skipped up to our "seats", at which point I realized I needed to change my shoes. Yes. I packed a classy black
convertible dress (worn as a skirt here), cute heels, and thank GOODNESS fast flats. In the restroom, I stuffed the heels in my purse and padded back to my spot at the rail in my "hopefully don't look too much like slippers from afar" flats.
Apparently, they had to chase a couple of people off, but no one took our scarves! We were in the back row of official standing spots, elevated slightly above the first row of standers, who were slightly above the stadium seating in the far right side of the balcony. There were screens with the text in English, German, or French for about every two people. Thankfully, I was surrounded by Brits and an Australian. I can't read German quickly enough.
The lights dimmed, the audience applauded as the conductor walked to his place, and the orchestra played. For half of the first scene, we couldn't see a THING. Anna Netrebko began singing beautifully as a despairing Anne Boleyn, who just realized that Henry VIII lost interest in her, but she was standing out of view. We worried. Deeply.
Thankfully, she moved eventually. The choreography was excellent in that respect--we saw something interesting at least half the time! ;)
The costumes! Ooooh the costumes were brilliant! Beautiful, rich, velvety Tudor dresses and poofy man-sleeves. Purples and reds and blues. Long, silky, brunette hair on Anna and blond hair on Giovanna (i.e. Jane) Seymour.
Giovanna was played by Elina Garanca. She and Anna Netrebko were absolutely amazing. Their parts were both so full of emotion (um, hello, it's a tragic opera) and their voices gave me chills (that's a good thing). They are both coming to the Met this fall for its production of Anna Bolena; I might go see it again. Not even joking. They were that good.
By intermission, my feet hurt. But I was doing all right! Surviving! Yes! We wandered about and got drinks. My champagne was six euros: twice the price of my ticket.
I found the evening's composer:
We were so glad we dressed up. We'd be quite out of place otherwise. I did see one or two women in jeans, but for the most part, they were all in lovely dresses.
During the second half, my feet complained. Everyone began a subtle, uncoordinated dance, shifting back and forth between feet, leaning on the rail, stretching calves, balancing on one foot... Occasionally, someone sat on the floor and just listened for a while. It was ideal when someone in front of me did this--then I saw so MUCH!
The opera ended as history predicted. Quite dramatically and tragically.
We gave it a standing ovation. ;)
But no seriously, everyone did.
Anna Nebtreko is blurrily in purple, Elina Garanca blurrily in blue:
I must say, overall, three euros was a steal and standing through the pain was well worth it.
We caught the U-Bahn back uptown and found some delicious gelato. Ein Kugel Ferrero Rocher und ein Kugel Baileys Eis, bitte! Finally, we returned to our hotel and called it a pretty much perfect Friday. :)
***If you are interested in getting standing-room tickets at the Wiener Staatsoper, this is a good description on how to do it.***