The Viennese Opera I almost saw

Vienna State Opera

It was hard to buy tickets for the opera in Vienna.  Purchasing the tickets was easy, but making the decision to buy tickets was excruciatingly difficult.  I have never been to an opera, and 19th century entertainment sounds unentertaining.

View from the "expensive" standing room only seats

Operas in Vienna are wonderfully accessible.  Each performance at the world-famous Vienna Opera House has several hundred standing room only (SRO) tickets at 3-4 Euros each.  All you need to do is show up early (they go on sale 80 minutes before the show) and wait.  We “splurged” on 4 Euro tickets (instead of the cheap 3 € ones), and our “box” was located behind the seats on the main floor, directly facing the stage.  Awesome!  Plus, we had access to the lobby just like everyone else, so we could take in the beauty (and take some pictures).  Vienna’s Opera House is famous, and, even though much of it was destroyed during World War II bombings, the original lobby is intact and exactly what a historic opera house should look like.

The SRO crowd was about 80% foreign tourists, dressed in everything from t-shirts to sport coats, so we were not out of place. The box itself had velvety rails to lean up against, and by the time the opera started, it was nearly sardine style and starting to get hot, and, quite frankly smelly.

But the opera itself was a bit much for us to handle.  (If you are an opera fan, please skip this paragraph, as it will just make you angry.)  We went to a performance of The Flying Dutchman, and, dude, it was boring.  After a 15-minute patience-testing overture, the opera began.  This being my first opera, I did not know what to expect.  Here is a summary.  Character sang a line in Italian very slowly, and I read the subtitle.  Character sang another line slowly, I read the subtitle, and it was the same.  Character sang third line, which was just a paraphrase of the first two lines.  Nestled in the warm and fragrant SRO zone, we were waiting to hear a diva walk out to belt out some chandelier-shattering notes, but she didn’t materialize by the 38 minute mark when we exited without hearing the fat lady sing.

I am sure it was a great opera, though.  I just don’t think that I am the target audience.

A great thing about the standing room only seats is that you can pretty much leave at any time.  (Even Rick Steves says that’s ok).  Actually, it seemed they expected us to walk out at any time, as an usher quietly opened the door without interrupting any operaphiles.  I imagine the box empties out after intermission.

Now, I have been to the opera in Vienna for about half the price of an American movie ticket.  Of course, I should mention the main reason for going to the opera in Vienna was not to check an item off my bucket list.  Instead, it provides me an arrogant joke that I hope will avail me of ever having to attend an opera in the future.  If someone asks me to attend an opera, I can respond, “Well, the last opera I saw was in the world-famous Opera House in Vienna, and after seeing an opera there, I don’t think that another opera can ever compare.”

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