Singers, Sausages, and Schnapps

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When you think of Vienna what do you think of?  For me its 3 things:

  1. Opera
  2. Sausages
  3. Schnapps

I crossed all 3 off my list today.  And this was after swearing off eating all meat for the rest of my trip. This is how my day played out.

After doing a bit of work (I know – work doesn’t belong on vacation), we spent the afternoon on the grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace (see the above photo), we toured a tiny corner of the zoo, where we saw exotic chickens, and a rhinoceros. I am not really a believer of zoos-  but the animals were visible from our walk, so we just peeked over the fence.  This is what the chickens look like:

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Popping into the cafe at the Palace, I warmed up with some Irish coffee (Ireland has been a bit of a weird theme on this trip – a bit of a story, that I will share on another day). But after the coffee, I was invited to have a taste of schnapps, on the house. And while I kind of choked it down, it was delicious.  Thank you gentlemen for giving me my first taste of schnapps (of the non-peppermint variety).

Post schnapps, we went to the opera, where we saw Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda at the Theatre an der Wien.  I am sad to say, that we left at intermission.  While I am familiar of the story of Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart, having the opera sung in italian with german subtitles proved slightly difficult for me.  I managed to follow along for the most part- but struggled with what the chorus was doing on stage.  To me, it felt like they lacked stage direction, they were just standing around – looking at the leads like they were fuzzy russian chickens in a zoo.  They didn’t look like they had any idea of what they were doing – and not only was it distracting, but it was infuriating to watch. Paired with, what I interpreted to be a gang rape of Mary Stuart, I couldn’t escape fast enough.  Its too bad though, because the leads were fantastic, and the orchestra sounded really tight.

Although the opera was a bust, like all opera goers of Vienna, we treated ourselves to an aprés opera sausage. It is the weirdest tradition. But I like weird – and so this was dinner.

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Heartbroken

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I found a zither. I said hello. And then I said goodbye. It broke my heart.
The zither was in such a state, that my heart actually broke shattered. There was mold all over it, the strings were broken, and those that were still intact were rotting, the action was terrible (though not certain what appropriate action is for a zither), the fret board was warping, and some tuning pegs were broken. The only good thing was that the wood isn’t soft (yet). I wanted so much to take him home (yes, its a him), but I don’t know what I can do for him. I have never restored an instrument before – and I am unaware of any zither fixers in Vancouver.

His soul and his body are so broken. It kills me to see something so neglected. If I can figure out a way to restore him I might go and buy him anyway – because his life is just going to get worse, without me.

Can you even bring diseased instruments into Canada. Is mold considered to be a disease.  So many questions.  I don’t even know what this instrument is worth, since I couldn’t find a manufactures tag. It would be an interesting project.

*Photo Source (this is *not* the zither I saw in the store) – Thomas Quine via flickr

From the Cheap Seats

IMG_E0180Can you guess where I wasn’t sitting?  If you guessed in any of the seats in the photo, you would be right. I was in the standing room only section – where tickets cost 3€ each. For the most part you could see everything (except for stage right) – my view looked directly into the orchestra pit, with a focus on the oboist.

At the Staatsoper tonight, I saw Faust by Charles Gounod. What an incredible experience. Even from high up,  looking over the minimalistic set design, I marvelled at the costumes, and the staging, and the incredible voices of the cast and chorus. I was charmed by Mephistopheles and Valentine, pitied Faust, and completely related to Marguerite *spoiler alert – with the exception of her jail time (since I have never been incarcerated – nor have I ever had to plead to God for my soul…at least not yet).

The leads weren’t the only exceptional part of the production – the chorus was wonderful, that at one point I started crying. It may have been when Marguerite was dying  (again spoiler alert), but I believe that the tears happened because the chorus was flawless, and not because she perished on stage, although that probably helped.

Faust ends its run on January 28,2018. So if you aren’t already in Vienna or have plans to be here in the next couple of days – you will probably miss it. And that would be a shame.

My next and last opera in Vienna, will be Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, on Sunday. Maybe by then, I will be better at writing opera reviews.

*Not sure why I offered spoiler alerts – since the opera is almost 160 years old, and the story of Faust and Mephistopheles goes back much further.  I’ve decided to not feel guilty about spoiling the story for those of you who haven’t seen it. It’s your own fault, for waiting this long.

Now go forth, and see an opera.

Call Me Maestra

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Today, I conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Before you start calling me a liar, or asking me for great seats to the next concert, let me fill you in on the story.

I was the virtual conductor for the Vienna Philharmonic and got a chance to conduct Strauss’ Radetzky March, at the Haus der Music. Think of it as Guitar Hero with a baton and a world class orchestra. You get to pretend you are Zubin Mehta for about 3 minutes.

Interested in knowing how I did? I mostly kept up (its a workout). But I lack the passion for Strauss, to do it any real justice. I am not a conductor. I don’t have any interest in conducting. Though at one time, I longed to be on that podium. That position has too much power for me to be comfortable. I can lead the occasional guitar quartet – and group lessons. But it’s easy (or not depending on your perspective) conducting 11 year old boys, because they don’t pay any attention. The focus that professional musicians have is intense and its intimidating, and I have no desire to lead an orchestra down a musical path. I much prefer being the conductor of one (one instrument- one player – only one person gets the boos or the applause). There is much less pressure to being a classical guitarist.

And just so you know, I am a golden goddess when it comes to Guitar Hero.

Now, as for calling me “maestra”, it’s completely unnecessary. And I would prefer that you didn’t.

**Photo Source – Logofag via flickr

 

 

 

My Search For Meaning

 

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When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves – Viktor Frankl.

20 years ago, I was introduced to logotherapy and Viktor Frankl through the book, Man’s Search for Meaning.  This book was given to me by my doctor, to assist me through a particularly rough time in my life. It helped me to come to terms with some stuff that I was living with, why I was living with it, and it allowed me to find a way out, and start saying yes to life.  Today, I got to visit his museum.  His book changed my life – and today, I got a big reminder of why exactly it did.

20 years ago, I thought I was losing my mind in a big way. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t remember my own name.  When I improved enough, I slowly read (that was the only book I read that year, and it took me the entire year) Dr. Frankl’s book. I learned how he survived the holocaust, and lived a life full of meaning, and without hate. I am still learning how to live without hate – but I do live a life full of meaning.  It took me until today, to realize that I actually do have a very meaningful life.

According to Viktor Frankl, a meaningful life happens when you are a creating, experiencing, suffering person. Suffering doesn’t necessarily happen, when the first 2 are absent.  The museum shows you how to understand and apply logotherapy in a fairly easy fashion. I won’t explain it here- but its worth reading about. I have found that its a great way to explore empathy.

Today was a profoundly positive experience – one that contained some emotional moments (that I don’t quite want to get into tonight, better to just process them for awhile). But there are 2 things that I want to  mention.  The first being that when referencing anxiety, Frankl suggest that you take your anxiety out for a walk – like you are walking the dog.  This conjures up great imagery for me – and will be doing exactly that, from now on.

The next are the 10 Theses on the Human Person – these are as follows:

  1. Every person is an individual.
  2. Every person is un-summable, cannot be constructed by adding individual characteristics (the person is more than the sum of separate individual parts).
  3. Every person is a new creation.
  4. Every person is a spiritual being.
  5. Every person is real (exists in reality, is existential).
  6. Every person is self directed
  7. Every person is a united whole (of body, mind, and spirit).
  8. Every person is not a closed system, is dynamic and open to others.
  9. Every person can self-transcend the situation.
  10. Human beings understand themselves to the extent that they transcend (reach beyond themselves).

Sometimes we forget these things, especially if others are not like us.  I really enjoy #3 – Every person is a new creation. Saying it this way, gives us permission to make mistakes, to learn – to experience something differently.  It gives us an opportunity to not judge. To view in kindness.

All we can do is our best – The Viktor Frankl Museum reminded me that I often do my best – but I can still do better. But more than that, this museum helped me to realize how strong I am, and that I do have a meaningful life.