Waltzing in Vienna: The Cultural Scene
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. But the one event I knew I had to plan in advance was to experience a ballet or opera at the Vienna State Opera House.
Having recently seen a ballet performance in the beautiful Baroque style Odessa National Opera and Ballet House in the Ukraine, a visit to Vienna for me would not have been complete without seeing a performance at the Vienna State Opera house, regularly ranked as one of the top opera houses of the world. As it happened, the Vienna State Ballet was performing "Dornröschen" as we know the ballet, “The Sleeping Beauty”.
By going on-line from Vancouver, I was able to purchase what appeared to be the last two available tickets in the upper orchestra area for the Thursday night of our visit. I was pleased that I had booked in advance, because when friends tried to get tickets during the week, the performance was sold out. I was very happy with the seats and seeing the ballet in this magnificent building was a quite wonderful experience.
I can't remember when I last saw a production of The Sleeping Beauty but it's many years ago. The ballet is structured as a prologue and three acts. In the Prologue, the nasty fairy Carabosse casts her spell on the baby princess, condemning her to prick her finger on a spindle and die. Intermission follows. In Act I at the now grown-up Aurora’s birthday party, the disguised Carabosse manages to ensure that her spell works, by presenting the princess with flowers in which a spindle is hidden. Of course she promptly pricks her finger. The Lilac fairy moderates the spell by casting a sleep spell over everyone – until a handsome prince will waken Aurora with a kiss. In Act II the Lilac Fairy entrances the prince with a vision of the sleeping princess, and of course ultimately he wakes her and the rest of the palace folk. Intermission 2. Act three is the wedding scene. For the performance that we saw the role of Princess Aurora was danced by Russian ballerina, Olga Esina, and Prince Florimund, by Matthew Golding in his debut with the Wiener Staatsopera. I was interested to read later that Golding is a Canadian, having been born in Saskatchewan and trained at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
The following evening I hesitated between attending a Strauss concert or seeing local theatre. I thought language might be a barrier for seeing theatre. But it turned out that a musical adaptation of Swiss playwright Friederich Dürrenmatt's powerful play, The Visit or Der Besuch der Alten Damen was playing at a theatre about ten minutes walk from our hotel. Although it was almost sold out, by going to the box office at the Ronacher Theatre we were able to obtain single seats to see Der Besuch der Alten Damen: Das Musical. Great choice. This was a well written and powerfully performed musical.
There are so many palaces, museums, art galleries and historical sites and buildings in Vienna that I couldn't even scratch the surface. I just ran out of time. But I did make it to the house where Mozart lived while he wrote "The Marriage of Figaro".
I also visited the two locations of the Jewish Museum of Vienna. The picture on the left shows the archeological excavation of the synagogue that stood in the Judenplatz area and was destroyed when the local Jewish community were attacked in pogroms in 1421. The picture on the right is of the memorial by British artist Rachel Whitbread, to the 65000 Austrian Jews killed during the Nazi regime, almost 500 years later.
Then I went to see the exhibit called "Euphoria and Unease" - about Richard Wagner and his attack on Jewish Vienna. A very sobering and thought-provoking exhibit.