On the way back to the States from Ukraine, I had a 48 hour layover in Vienna. Now, layovers are always gross, but 48 hours in a city where Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Mahler & Strauss all lived and worked? How can I pass that up?
I got a hotel near the airport and took the train into town. First off, if you ever go to Vienna stay close to a railway station if you’re outside of town. It’s not like the underground in London, I walked (through a refinery) for quite some time before I reached one. It’s also very confusing for someone who doesn’t speak English. It’s probably the same in London for those who don’t speak English.
Vienna is quite the city. I’m not sure if this is the right way to say this, but for a European town, Vienna seems remarkably intact. You can always tell how extensive a town was damaged during the war by how many modern buildings there are. There are a lot in London and Frankfurt. Vienna however, is quite old still. There are modern buildings, but they are the minority. The result provides an atmosphere of glory still present. The old is still with us.
I walked down to the opera house (somehow) put on by the Staatsoper and caught Tannhäuser by Wagner. Now, I’m not much a fan of Wagner, but I enjoyed The Flying Dutchman and the music for Tristan und Isolde and Die Walküre. I decided to give it a try. Why not? Big mistake. Standing room + Wagner = Misery. A long time standing while listening to Wagner’s excruciatingly slow drama to develop (or not) is way harder than I thought. The acting was extremely wooden and contrived as well, but I guess that’s typical of all opera. I also found the staging to be strange and the blocking very dull. The staging might have worked if you knew the opera already, but it wasn’t easy to follow for a first timer. The blocking however is unforgivable. When you have people standing around not doing any sort of action for long periods of time it becomes a staged oratorio, not an opera. The singing wasn’t good enough to make up for all the letdowns. I must confess, I did the unthinkable: I left after the 2nd act.
I spent the rest of the evening walking around Vienna and admiring all it had to offer before catching a train back to my hotel. Despite the really poor experience at the opera, I highly recommend Vienna. The people are hospitable and generous. The architecture is amazing. I definitely want to come back here.
In honor of a great town, here’s some great music: “I Love Vienna,” by Dave Brubeck.