On the evening that we cruised towards Vienna, the ship’s crew put on a show for us; on our Nile cruise we’d had to provide the entertainment – both ways were fun, though. We got to see a skit about office work from the cruise director and the barman, as well as a Philipino song and dance routine from the kitchen staff – guys we’d never seen before! As the acts came to a close the event turned into a disco where even the Captain danced. It was a friendly affair, but off to one side, I got into an argument over of all things Johann Strauss. My fellow cruiser was adamant that Strauss was no artist and that his music was worthless drivel. I said, “No one’s saying he’s Brahms, but I think Strauss’s music makes you just want to get up and dance.”
|Vienna Opera House|
For the evening of our day in Vienna, Carol and I had bought tickets to the optional concert ($90/£50 each). I thought it unlikely that we’d hear the earth move, but we just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to hear live Classical music in Vienna. In truth, I didn’t want to hear an evening of the Waltz King myself. I asked our Entertainment Director if we were going to the Vienna Opera House. “Ah, no,” she said, “you’d have to book two years in advance and pay five times as much.”
|The Gates of Violence|
She said we’d be going to the Palais Lobkowitz, about 2 blocks from the Opera House and that, with 90 tickets purchased on board, the evening was almost sold-out. The concert was to be just over an hour in length and included a glass of bubbly. We left our bus, entered the palace, and milled around with our glass – our Strauss-bashing friend had joined us despite his Blue Danube Waltz being on the program.
On the way, we walked across the front of the famed Café Mozart, where Graham Green wrote the Third Man, then through Albertinaplatz. This square displays the Monument Against War and Fascism, with its depiction of the gates of a Nazi concentration camp bearing its tortured and emaciated victims. As the site of a building that took a direct hit in the war killing several hundred occupants hiding in its basement, it seems appropriate here.
We were ushered into the Eroica Hall, which at only 100 seats, was filled to capacity by our cruise party, and I realized that it was in this very room that Beethoven had conducted the premiere of his Third Symphony in 1805.
|Our Orchestra and Soloists|
The chamber orchestra, an 8-member ensemble from the Viennese Imperial Orchestra, entered and the concert commenced. The first two light pieces were by Strauss; I wasn’t surprised and told myself the setting was the thing. But then, a soprano entered and sang an Aria. We often go to the opera and had heard sopranos, but never in a 100-seat hall, not much bigger than a classroom – it was overwhelming; my hair stood on end, no really! The evening had changed into something wonderful and unique. Later, when she was joined by a tenor and the two convincingly fought their way through an operetta piece, it seemed they’d touched my soul. Mozart, Liszt and Brahms followed and then as the Blue Danube started we realized it was almost time for our own return to the Danube, and sail to our next stop.
And there was one last surprise; on our return at around 10pm, the crew served goulash – it was delicious.
|Eroica Hall Ceiling - Palais Lobkowitz|