Monday, November 7, 2011

Opera in Vienna

The Viennese treasure opera and Vienna's Staatsoper is one of the centerpieces of the city.  It was the first large public building rebuilt after World War II. The world's top singers and conductors perform there on a regular basis.

I had some free nights during our stay this time, but ended up not seeing any performances this time.  In the past I've enjoyed seeing Billy Budd, Magic Flute and the Viennese premiere of the complete version of Alban Berg's Lulu (in 1983).

Das Rheingold and The Barber of Seville were showing on consecutive nights, but Rheingold was sold out and Barber had tickets starting at $160 and up and featured a less-than-stellar cast, so I opted out.

I did, however, find some interesting opera-related things to do on those days.  For lunch I met with Eric Halfvarson, the Hunding and Hagen in the Staatsoper's Der Ring des Nibelungen.  His father was the director of the high school choir in my hometown of Aurora, Illinois.

We didn't know each other, however, as he was out of high school by the time I started there.  We met for the first time over lunch last week at Maredo, an Argentinian-style steak house across the street from the Staatsoper.

I brought along our contrabassoonist, Jonathan Sherwin and Eric brought along Katarina Dalayman, the Brünnhilde for the Staatsoper Ring Cycle. It was fun to talk shop with them and peek inside the world of opera for a while!

That night I went with a friend to a lecture on Die Walküre, the Ring opera that was to be premiered that Sunday.  The lecture took place in the home of a former Episcopal priest who lives in Vienna.  He served us wine and finger food and then presented a lecture on the opera.  He does this on a regular basis, providing a preview to operas that are about to premiere at the Staatsoper.

The group at the lecture consisted of mostly English speaking visitors and ex-pats.  The lecture was very informative.  Our host used the Boulez/Chereau DVD of Die Walküre, stopping the opera when he wanted to elaborate on something.  By necessity, he left out large sections of the nearly 5-hour opera, but I would guess we watched about 2 hours of it.

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