Andrew Lombardi

How To Experience The Vienna Opera

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Vienna Opera

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.

How do you get to Staatsoper Wien? Either you pay over 100€, or you pay with your time, and a bit of comfort, by standing in line four separate times, the last being paired up before finally walking into the performance space.

The most magical thing about Vienna so far, was my introduction to the world of opera by way of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”. An Italian sung opera, with translations in German and English being streamed just below where my scarf lay in wait, to be reapplied to the neck after serving its spot-saving task for the night. The hours spent in line were shortened considerably by the Icelandic girl who travels and lives longer in most places other than her home, her sister the classical singer who loves Mozart, and the Indian girl who lives in London, from Bombay, and is traveling Europe for the next 45 days. Entertaining even was the Austrian man in front of me who spoke briefly to answer the question of “when does the performance start?” and then chose to never speak again. And even the Moby look-alike who I was paired up with to enter the theatre, but kept his nose firmly planted in a German-written book, which apparently was quite hilarious.

Standing next to me during the performance was a lovely Austrian woman who had seen the performance a few years ago, before they changed it, and a Chilean flute player who had performed this particular opera, studied under one of the players in the production, and hoped one day to perform at the Staatsoper in Wien. Adding color for the evening was a 40-year veteran performer of opera from Philadelphia who pegged me as a singer or musician of some kind because of a voice that he remarked held lots of resonance. We talked several times during intermission, before, after, and he proved to be a handy guide.

Don Giovanni was simply a breathtaking performance. At times I was left feeling like I should watch the translations while eagerly paying attention to the stage, and the beautiful music. When I learned enough in the intermission to read a synopsis of the opera on the internet, I leaned head in hands and reveled at the voices and instruments that echoed deep into my heart. It was a lovely night with only the mildest discomfort at standing for hours, and the large payoff of an experience I’ll never forget. At times you felt a kinship, then a disgust, and finally perhaps a bit of sadness for Don Giovanni. He was a man who gave no apology for his wanton desire, and left many in heartbreak and distraught throughout his reign. Such a powerful opera for my first, looking forward to more.

I may be inclined to repeat this voyage on Friday as well, for the experience proved more than worthy of my time. On a train to Salzburg for the day, and I may be found frolicking up a hilly slope singing songs no Austrian has heard for a thousand years, but have become inundated with over what probably seems long enough since that movie.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen goodnight…


Written by Andrew Lombardi who lives and works in Orange County, CA.