Thursday, July 28, 2011

Die Sommerpause.

As my time in Vienna winds down – the last session of my German course meets tomorrow morning – I must admit that there is one downside to being here at this time of year: the Sommerpause. The regular season of musical and theatrical performances ends in late June, leaving most of the city’s major concert halls and theaters effectively closed until fall. As much as I would like to attend a concert at the Musikverein or catch a play at the Burgtheater, but I won’t be able to do either during my current stay in Vienna.

Even though the music scene here slows down considerably for the summer, it never grinds to a halt. On my second night in Vienna, I attended the very last performance of the 2010-11 season at the Wiener Staatsoper. The Staatsoper’s presentation of Leoš Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová was a mixed bag: the orchestra made a much stronger impression than the cast, and the production concept was tolerable (director André Engel transferred the setting of the opera from a nineteenth-century Russian village to a twentieth-century immigrant enclave in New York, with no harm to the story) but poorly realized (the sets looked cheap and flimsy, and the cast often acted as though they hadn’t been given stage directions). In any case, I’m very glad that I was able to get to the Staatsoper during my time here. The above photo captures a curtain call after the performance, as conductor Franz Welser-Möst and the cast file out to take their bows.

Though the Staatsoper and other opera venues like the Volksoper and the Theater an der Wien are shuttered for the summer, one can still hear opera here in July thanks to the Opernwerkstatt Wien, which annually presents a series of staged open-air opera performances during the summer. Early last week, I heard the Opernwerkstatt perform Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the courtyard of the Technische Universität Wien. The above photo offers a sense of the venue; here, the cast performs "Giovinette, che fate all'amore," the wedding song from the first act. Open-air opera has its drawbacks – the acoustics of the courtyard and ambient noise from the surrounding neighborhood sometimes made it difficult to hear the singers – but hearing great music outdoors on a pleasant summer evening was still a lot of fun.

Last Friday, I went to the Dominikanerkirche around the corner for the latest in a series of Kreuzgangkonzerte presented each summer in the historic cloister of the Dominican priory (pictured above). The concert featured a young tenor from Innsbruck, Paul Schweinester, singing Schubert’s song cycle Die schöne Müllerin accompanied by pianist David Lutz. This was my first time hearing Die schöne Müllerin, which was, well, sehr schön – beautiful enough that I plan to add a recording of the cycle to my collection (though regrettably not by Paul Schweinester, who hasn’t yet recorded this piece or much else, but really should).

As noted above, my language studies here are coming to an end. I’ll be lingering in Europe for a few more days – expect an update soon on my weekend travels – before returning to the States late next week. Prayers and good wishes for all. AMDG.


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