Vienna opera…under the stars

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.


9 Replies to “Vienna opera…under the stars”

  1. Mr. Steves,

    I liked this particular entry. It paints a lovely picture in my mind. Speaking of which, do you have the ability to include pictures of the things you speak of?

    Thank you for the blog…it’s the closest thing to traveling with you!

  2. Great blog! My son’s in Vienna doing the Eurail thing and carrying one of your books with him. Good luck with your project there!

  3. I love the blog! I am going with a group of fellow students from Oklahoma Christian University to study abroad this fall/winter in Vienna, so it is nice to get a ‘sneak preview’ of my *almost* temporary home!

    Good luck with your Viennese travels. The OC Vienna Studies group will be keeping up with your blog! :-)

  4. It’s not only at the open-air opera screenings that they use real glasses and plates. Order a glass of champagne at an open air market (such as the ones commonly held in the Freiung) and it will be served in an actual glass flute. Wonderful!

  5. When I first visited Vienna as a smarty-pants American teen in 1970, I was glad for the training received at the hand (literally) of a German Waiter who insisted I eat my french fries with a fork.
    Vienna is one of a few places that I hoped I did not appear to be an ugly american. Stay for a week in Vienna. Slow down, soak up the culture and music and history (and manners) and enjoy!

  6. As an editor, I noticed the misspelling of Donizetti‘s name. The opera “The Love Potion” is better known under its original Italian name, “l’Elisir d’amore”.

  7. We traveled through Austria last week with the help of your books. Thank you for Melk, the nice folks at the Gasthof Goldener Stern, and the Danube cruise from Melk to Krems!

    We were in Vienna on Friday, and attended part of the production you describe here–really a class act. (As a former editor, I think you mean “meet”–not “meat”–market. Sounds nicer, especially in Vienna.)

    We also loved the Vienna Opera House Tour.

    BTW, when we arrived in Vienna July 14, a crowd was gathered outside a hotel. Our taxi driver said the Rolling Stones were there. ??

  8. This is by far one of the most wonderful European experiences.

    My husband and I lived in Vienna for four months and we have fond memories of riding the strassenbahn to the rathaus and enjoying the food, music, and in general soaking in the fabulous Viennese culture.

    We also wanted to suggest another of our favorite places, Grinzing and Seevering. The heurigers offer such memorable experiences. (Pardon the misspellings, my German is a little rusty.) Best of luck and thank you for everything.

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