In a world of ever increasing globalization the opportunity for unique experiences and diversity in general shrinks year by year. Stores like H&M and Levi’s can be found on the high streets of cities around the globe and food from the ubiquitous McDonalds or Starbucks is rarely more than a stone’s throw away. This sad reality makes the opportunity to spend a night experiencing a unique world treasure like the Viennese opera all the more amazing.
Last night I was once again reminded of what a lucky existence I lead as I settled into my box seat at the Vienna Staatsoper, a seat made all the better by the old friends surrounding me on all sides. The opera house, while massive when viewed from the outside, actually conceals a relatively intimate theater space, especially in comparison to the Paris or Met Opera or the spaces used by modern musicals. This smaller space, combined with the red velvet interior, creates an ambiance that’s one part museum, one part concert hall and all pure decadence. A love of culture, music, history or art would be enough to make this a great evening, but if, like me, you have a passion for all four, it is an experience without equal.
After the opera it was off to a late dinner at a fine Italian restaurant where we, a group of six, feasted. The meal was authentically Italian, not only in cuisine, but in lasting for hours, an experience sadly absent from American culture. It was a far cry from my normal habit of eating for sustenance and survival and the experience was all the more enjoyable for its rarity. The food was superb and another reminder of the deep influence of Italian culture upon Austria, the opera itself being the first reminder of how indebted Austria is to Italy, or viewed another way, a reminder of how artificial political boundaries often mask closer cultural connections.
As I write this I find myself warming up in another Austrian institution, the café. Perhaps I can take some inspiration or at least comfort from the long tradition of aspiring artists, writers and composers coming to Vienna in hopes of furthering their careers. Alas, my coffee is empty and I hear the city calling. I have pictures to take and much to see. It’s time to brave the cold.