A Night at the Staatsoper

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In a city known for its music, an evening trip to the opera is a must. Prior to Vienna, I’d only been to one sampling of the operatic arts for a preview show at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. That program was 90 minutes and featured selected works from all of their upcoming operas.

On our first night in Vienna, after a flight full of aspiring baby opera hopefuls, we decided to go big and see Macbeth performed by one of the preeminent opera companies in the world. 

Looking at available tickets a few weeks ago wasn’t encouraging. Opera is expensive, especially when going to see one of the best in an opulent setting. There are tickets for 20€, but those were long gone. The available tickets were in the 60-300€ range. A bit more than we intended to spend.

Have no fear; Rick Steves is here! For tourists, or those who just want a sample, there are standing room tickets known as Stehplatz. Turn up to the theater 90 minutes before curtain, wait in line and then grab standing room tickets for 3€ each. Rick’s book on Vienna has full details on where to go to get your stehplatz ticket.

Once inside, we followed the custom and roped off two spots with our scarves. The scarves serve as placeholders so you can wander around the opera house before showtime. When I travel, I often wonder if certain customs would work in the US. I can almost guarantee this polite claiming of space would result in a Macbethian death match in the US. You’d lose your scarf, space or both. For a moment, I considered swapping my scarf with someone else’s for a more advantageous view.The opera was beautiful. Alas, after a long flight, a disco nap and wandering the streets of Vienna, my ability to remain awake was tested. Without shame, I admit I fell asleep to some of the most luscious sounds. At intermission some of the tourists cleared out so Leann and I moved up a row. After my opera nap, I was ready for Act II. We lasted a bit longer before calling it a night. Upon looking at our phones for the time, we discovered we’d only been at the Staatsoper for about an hour. There were two more hours of Macbeth.

Thankfully for me, Leann’s knowledge of Shakespeare meant I could be filled in on the ending on our stroll to find dinner.

Visiting Vienna: First Thoughts and Photos

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Pro-tip for anyone traveling: if your eight-hour flight is littered with crying babies, going to the opera can be simultaneously the best and worst decision you make for things to do on day one.

Leann and I are in Vienna, Austria; the city that seems to have invented classical music and fried meat cutlets. The weather was dreary today, but far warmer than Chicago. As has become our tradition, we spent our first day wandering the city to get oriented on landmarks and get a sense of the city’s pulse. My first thoughts are Vienna loves Christmas and commerce. There are tons of stores, many clothing brands from the US, and huge Christmas decorations on most streets.

Thanks to a disco nap post-babies on a plane, we were able to wander around and see some of the attractions. The city’s layout is reminiscent of Rome, with cobblestone streets, winding roads and huge churches. The upside is there are great discoveries as you wander. The downside is it’s difficult to stay on target with your destination since the streets often are rings and angle away from where you want to go.

We did a large amount today, especially considering we got less than an hour of sleep during the flight. We checked out an impressive baroque church, got schnit-faced with a huge pork cutlet, took in “Macbeth” in Verdi’s operatic account at the Shakespearean thriller, ate sachertorte and goulash. 

Fun fact: don’t order water in restaurants. We tried unsuccessfully to request tap water and received bottles of water that cost more than our food. I told myself I’d let it go. But I can’t.

In happy news, the city is pretty and has a lot more discoveries in store for us tomorrow.