Tonight I’m happy to include something extremely European in the Vienna TV show we’re shooting. At twilight, the park in front of the city hall here is filled with thousands of people enjoying a food circus of 24 simple stalls. There’s not a paper plate of plastic cup anywhere–just real plates and glasses, as Vienna wants the quality of eating to be as high as the music that’s about to begin. A kid on a tiny green truck toddles by, reminding me this is a multi-generational scene.
A sixty foot wide TV screen up against the neo-Gothic facade of the city hall is blank, but already people are settling into the 3,000 folding chairs. Then, darkness falls, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra strikes up, and a performance of the Vienna State Opera begins (Donizetti’s Love Potion). Since 1991, the city has paid for this event for sixty summer nights each year (offering sixty different performances). Why? To promote culture. A year ago the original live performance of tonight’s film was sold out…much of the audience is people who couldn’t get tickets. Officials know the City Hall Music Festival is mostly a “meat market” where young people come to hook up. But they believe that many of these people will develop a little appreciation of classical music and high culture on the side. It’s the end of my third day in Europe. Tomorrow morning at 8:00 we’re all alone with Rubens, Durer, Raphael, and the best of the Hapsburg art collection.