Der Besuch der Alten Damen (The Visit of the Old Lady): Das Musical
Based on the play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Book by Christian Struppeck
Music by Moritz Schneider and Michael Read
Lyrics by Wolfgang Hofer
Director Andreas Gergen
Choreography by Simon Eichenberger
Wanting to experience local theatre, I was concerned that the language barrier might be a problem but thought it would be less so for a musical. As it turned out at the Ronacher the production had English surtitles but even without these translations, this production woud have blown me away. I had seen a production of Swiss playwright Friederich Dürrenmatt’s 1956 play Der Besuch der Alten Damen years ago and been struck by the power of the story. Add a new powerful music score, sharp choreography danced with impeccable precision by the ensemble, some lyrical songs with powerful acting, and the impact of the story is magnified many times over.
As I studied the web-sites and brochures listing the myriad cultural events that were taking place in Vienna during the week that I would be there, I had to keep reminding myself that the reason I was going to Vienna was to join the Waltz Week in Vienna group for a week-long dance camp and to have the experience of waltzing at one of the fabulous Viennese Balls. The well-planned schedule for Waltz Week allowed for time to explore the city in between dance activities and I figured that I would wait till I got to Vienna, to decide what I wanted to do.
Communication is so important and yet it is impossible to be able to speak the language of every country one visits. Here is my story about my duvet dilemma - and how the inability of me and the housekeeping staff to communicate in either German or English caused some funny moments and nearly cleared out the Hilton linen supplies. Well- not quite.Well- not quite.
My home from home for 11 nights was the Hilton Vienna at Am Stadtpark 1. I managed to find a reasonable room price through Orbitz. Overall I liked almost everything about it - location, comfort and the staff. My room was large and very comfortable- perfect for a stay of 11 nights. The desk was spacious and there was lots of storage space.
Having made the spontaneous decision to join the group for Waltz Week in Vienna, I now had to figure out the best way to travel there. I went through a number of options on the Air Canada and Aeroplan web sites hoping to use points for the air travel, checked out Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak ... and realized that in February with the risk of winter storms, I did not want to be booked on any routes that involved transfers through the North American mid-west or East Coast hubs, nor did I want to find myself traveling through Western Europe airports. So in the end I booked a route that has worked well on two previous occasions; Turkish Airlines from Los Angeles to Istanbul. This is the flight I took when heading off on my Aegean and Adriatic Dance Odyssey and also on the Black Sea Cruise; on both previous trips I found the service excellent. For this trip after a two-hour layover in the fabulous Turkish Airlines lounge at Istanbul airport it’s about another hour or so flight to Vienna.
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On this Black Sea journey on the MV Aegean Odyssey, the big treat of the stop in Odessa, Ukraine was a private ballet performance by the State Academical Opera and Ballet Theatre for the travelers of the MV Aegean Odyssey, at the Odessa National Opera House. The two-part show consisted of a classical ballet – Les Sylphides (Chopiniana) and The Carmen Suite, a ballet set to a modern adaptation of Bizet’s music.
Les Sylphides is described as a short non-narrative ballet choreographed by Michael Fokine to music of Frederic Chopin. It premiered in St. Petersburg in 1908 as Chopiniana or Reverie Romantique: Ballet sur la musique de Chopin. In 1909, named Les Sylphides it was first presented at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. For this production, the backdrop of the stage was black with a white circle depicting the forest glade where white–clad sylphs dance with the poet in the moonlight.
Before dinner on the previous evening Professor David Tompkins of Carleton College gave a talk on Odessa, the Multicultural Jewel of the Black Sea. As he told us, Odessa is one of the youngest of the great European cities, having been founded by Catherine the Great in 1794, after the Russians pushed south into the northern Black Sea coastal areas that was under the control of the Ottoman Empire.
The cumulative effect of much less than my usual 7 hours of sleep and two half-day, group excursions yesterday left me really tired and less than enthusiastic about the prospect of the two half-day excursions in Sevastopol. As well it was grey, chilly and raining. So while most of the passengers went off on the morning excursion, I opted for a Swedish massage in the Athena Spa to ease my hard-worked muscles.
Though I find the plays of Anton Chekhov very heavy going and depressing I have to acknowledge that he is regarded as one of the giants of Russian Literature, both as a playwright, but especially as a master of the short story genre. And actually I quite enjoyed a production of Ivanov that I saw a few years ago in Vancouver.
I am also fascinated that he was a practicing physician, ill with tuberculosis for much of his later life, and yet published several hundred short stories, one-act plays and his full-length plays, two of which (Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard) were written while he lived in Yalta. He is often quoted as saying " Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress." For my part I could say that I divorced my lawful "wife", (Medicine - when I retired), but though I have been pursuing the creation of literature ever since, like a willful mistress, it continues to elude me. Hmmm... so if men have mistresses so women have masters? Doesn't sound right, does it. Well back to Chekhov.
He was born in 1860, in Taganrog in Russia. It is a port city on the Sea of Azov, just near the dot on the map that marks Rostov-on- Don. The other unlabeled dot just between Kerch and Yalta indicates the previous stop on this Black Sea cruise: Feodosiya.