27 February, 2008
day three. vienna.
i spent my day off today alone. just getting my feet under me and working through my jet lag. which hasnt been all that bad, considering... vienna reminds me of alot of other european cities i have been to. copenhagen, zurich, brussels, and amsterdam. this is a good thing. it all works so well together. the subway was easy, the walks were short, the maps were right on. this morning i went over to the arnold shoenberg center. our favorite 12tone composer! the place is small but fantastic. a real working library and research organization with a little exhibit. and lots of hands on displays. shoenberg was such a physical composer. building his own pens and pencils, tape dispensers, painting many self portraits, binding his own scores. it reminded me to keep my hands busy, to connect my songs with objects, to get them out of my head. not just the words on paper, but the feelings behind them. i have always felt like my songs are little home-made brownpaper and glue beings. why not make them actual? i also had to laugh, they had a display of some home recordings shoenberg made, and to play them they had an old radio... an old radio with a tape deck on the side. hmm, where have i seen that before?
next, i went over to the natural history museum, it was created by one of the franz emperors several hundred years ago. so it was lots of big glass cabinets with stuffed animals in a hapsburg era palace. i loved it. there are obviously moral and scientific tensions with shooting animals, posing them in threatening positions and then displaying them absent of context. but there is a certain lesson in awe to be learned. you are standing next to a 3700pound sea elephant, now benignly splayed on a fake rock, but you are still aware of how huge and powerful this animal was, and its current muted state seems only to underscore the vastness of its power and beauty when it was whole and alive.
after an afternoon session of yoga, i decided to go to the opera. when in rome, or rather when in vienna... i couldnt get a ticket for a seat, but i was able to get a standingroom ticket, and therefore was innaugurated into a whole culture of opera watching. the standing room sections are a curious mix of the devoted aficionado and the dutiful tourist. i hope i fell somewhere in between.
i waited for over an hour, then found myself in the hall. it was so quiet! i had bought the closest ticket i could then had a little bite in the cafe, not knowing that the cattle call wasnt over! there is a lovely tradition of rushing to the standing areas- rows of steps with velvet railings and LCD monitors for the lyrics- and claiming your area with a scarf. so even though the hall was empty, the standing room steps were already populated by a colorful and proprietary mix of scarves. who knew? so i squeezed myself in a corner and hoped for some leeway from my fellow patrons. i ended up meeting two lovely ladies who truly adore opera. they gave me the lowdown on the do's and dont's of vienna opera standing. do stake your claim and stick to it. don't ever sit down, no matter how tired you get. 3 hours is a long time to stand wedged in a tiny corner, but i did it for madama butterfly and it was worth it. "m.butterfly" is one of my favorite plays and movies, so i was excited to see the opera its based on. i have to admit i was sad to find there was no trans-lady singer element, but the staging was beautiful. for my first opera, you cant complain about seeing puccini in the vienna staatsoper haus.