Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wien ist anders

Staatsoper snapshot, first of March, cold air and bright sunshine. We'll take the top down approach, literally. Up in the tent, on top of the house, we are about to begin rehearsals for the hour-long kiddie version of the Ring Cycle. The Eberhard Waechter rehearsal stage houses the new production of Anna Bolena in its first days of work. Down to the 6th floor: in the Orgelsaal with our poor old organ and the maestro monitor for whoever is playing in the evening, we are rehearsing the hour-long version of the Magic Flute, in which Papageno introduces children to everything about opera - singers, costumes, lights, orchestra. 4th floor, Carlos Kleiber rehearsal stage: Ariadne auf Naxos is in the third of its six total rehearsal days (a strong and stable ensemble makes many amazing feats possible). The babel of the coaching studios echoes from down the hall (where is Elektra/The sacred soil of Egypt/Oh, what a face!).

The second floor, administration, looks normal except for the red bunting hanging from the ceiling, the first clue before you hear the hammering that something is up. Stage level: the transformation of the Opera Ball has begun, workers and tents and gear and fabric and refrigerators and dollies carrying boxes of who knows what. Bacchus, ironically, is about to get pushed into our smallest rehearsal room as the Carlos Kleiber stage gets transformed into a party space, and we'll lose the Orgelsaal as well. Music rehearsals for Sonnambula and Aida will take place in cramped coaching studios as the Philharmonic rehearses for the opening ceremony. And on Thursday, we all get kicked out at 2 pm. Some of us will go home and change for the ball, others will cook comfort food dinners and watch the red carpet parade on TV. The cream of Viennese society and the trashiest elements imaginable (Berlusconi's teenager, really?) will cram themselves onto the dance floor until 4 o'clock Friday morning, then pour outside to get sausage from an all-night street vendor and stumble home.

We will show up to work as usual Friday (rumor has it that there are sometimes guests left over in the opera house that morning, doing the walk of shame past the techies and early-rising music staff). Bolena, Sonnambula, Ariadne, Aida. In the theater, the dance floor still in place, hundreds of children will listen to Papageno and the Vienna Philharmonic explain to them how the house works.

My next door neighbors will go and take their daughter; almost four, she will listen to this shortened Flute for the second time. I can hear her singing in the hallway this morning as they leave for kindergarten.

"Das klinget! So herrlich! das klinget! so schoen!"

She almost remembers the tune correctly. I bet she gets it this time.


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