A Day Without Music is Also Impossible in Wien

I had planned for Friday to be a very active day, but I had little idea how very active it would actually turn out to be. After surveying the outer bits yesterday, this was the day to focus on the inner part of the city, the Old Town. And I was trying to see the things I don’t expect to see when I return in November: churches etc.

So I started with the main cathedral, the StephensDom. Very interesting carvings inside, and you can actually tell where the altar is (unlike Westminster). Next up: the Peterskirche, where I paused long enough to realize they were too far into the daily Mass for me to see much without disturbing the congregation. Later in the day I found the Augustinerkirche (parish church of the Hapsburgs, attached to the winter palace and has one dramatic feature, the tomb of Maria Christina) and the Karlskirche (which I did not get inside, due to the 6 euro entry fee for the 15 minutes I was trying to squeeze it in; so, Steph, it’s on the list for November, I’m afraid).

Lunch at an outdoor cafe (lovely sunny spring day) on the Graben (pedestrian shopping street) for people-watching. Picked up the Lippizaner tickets for later since I was right there anyhow. Gee, I wonder if there’s room in the first afternoon Opera House tour? Yes, there was! Got to know a nice NZ couple while we waited. I was really surprised at the comparisons with Seattle’s McCaw Hall: Vienna has 1000 fewer seats (the audience area struck me as really small – it’s quite shallow along the long axis, they called it “horseshoe-shaped”), with SRO for 500. The stage(s) were huge … you can almost fit the Prater ferris wheel on the main stage, it’s so tall. And I think 50 meters deep … the four stage platforms slide around and can be interchanged: main stage, back stage, (under?) stage 30 feet down, and a lateral stage. Over 300 performances a year, and no two operas are repeated on consecutive evenings. They were busily setting up for Lucia that night … over 300 workers on stage.

After the operahouse tour, I went over to pick up my Boys Choir tickets. This performance was at the Brahms Hall at the Musik Verein (I think the Philharmonic performs in the main hall here). This hall seated perhaps 300, under a glittering gilded Baroque ceiling. I was anticipating something with just the boys, light and frothy. And so indeed the first half of the concert was (about 16 boys). Then, after the interval, was added about 16-piece chamber orchestra and a dozen adult male vocalists. They performed the entire Verdi Gloria (all 12 movements) and several portions of one of the Haydn masses. Splendid stuff!

I just had time after the concert to grab yet another Wurtzelstand on my way to the Lippizaners. They started with the youngest horses, doing basic steps. Then they brought out the pros … goodness there’s a huge difference in the musculature (several hundred pounds worth!). Very nice show, I really enjoyed it.

As it happens, on my way back afterwards, my timing it extraordinarly good. This is the one night of the year … the “Long Night of the Churches” (and you can paste that address line into translate.google.com)… every Christian church in town, in fact most in the whole country, participate. So, in Vienna, over 130 churches: music until midnight. It’s a little like “First Night Goes to Church” except there’s no entry fee. I had been seeing the banners on almost every church I passed, all week long. In Vienna, where this started, it’s been an annual event for five years running, with crowds over 120,000. So I got back to the Peterskirche, and found a seat, and let all that carved and gilded Rococco splendor just sink in. And back to the StephansDom too. And I would have also made it to Saint Ruperts, but I just gave out of gas at that point. What a night! What a day!


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