Monday, October 16, 2006

Vienna Opera House

We didn't stand a chance to see The Magic Flute at the Vienna State Opera House -- even standing room only tickets were sold out in this Temple to Music. Ah, again I'm seeing some advantages to a little planning before I travel.

This opera house regularly sells out nearly 97 percent of its seats to subscribers. That's more than any place in the world, including Italy and by way of comparison, the Met in NYC sells some 34 percent of its seat through subscription. They are serious about their opera here.

The least we could do was que up for a tour of the sumptuous opera house, which was heavily damaged by US bombing during World War II but rebuilt. Our guide was a Ronnie Reagan Jr. lookalike, a former dancer who went through a spiel that was rather wooden. "He hates his job," Karen summed him up. My goal was to warm him up and we got our chance when he seated us all in the beautiful concerthall, whipped through his lines and challenged us in a bored way, "Any questions?"

"What's the best opera you ever heard in this room?" I asked. He looked startled. "Me?" "Yes," I said, "Don't you get to listen to a lot of music for free?" And he began to open up about how when you can see any opera you begin to come in and out for just the arias or the performers who are the best -- like lawyers who gather in a courtroom when the best orators are giving summations. Karen asked if he was a full-time guide and he snapped back before thinking, "No, that's the most boring part..." Then he stopped, laughed a little, and said oh tours were interesting but he ws a former dancer now working on development. Others in the group got the idea and began barraging him with questions. That's when he began telling us about the subscriptions and about disasters behind stage and how there are usually mistakes, but the audience doesn't realize it.

Good tour.

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