A Travellerspoint blog

May 2011

An Opera at the Estates Theater

Attending a Mozart opera at the Estates Theater

When I first visited Prague, maybe 8 or 9 years ago, I was with my friends Dieter and Inge. We did a walking tour of the old town, Stare Mesto. This area was originally laid out in about 800a.d. and some structures are still used which were built in the 13th and 14th centuries. Now I’ve been to the Middle East and our own Mesa Verde so ancient is something I’ve experienced before but I’ll never forget the 1st time I saw the Estates Theater just a short walk from the square.

The Estates Theater was built in 1783 and is nearly all preserved in its original state, except for the wiring for electric lights and plumbing for modern flush toilets. This is the theater where Mozart opened Don Giovanni, conducting the opera himself and Paganini, Clara Schumann and Wagner performed here. The interior is mostly blue velvet with gold trim. The ceiling is very simple with a huge chandelier.

So the 1st and 2nd time I saw the Estates we could not go in as there are no tours. I determined that I did would return to Prague to see a performance in the Estates. I really wanted to see Don Giovanni but alas that was not to be as May was one of the only months in which it was not playing. We did find tickets to see the Barber of Seville and since that was a Mozart production it was going to be good enough.

Our box seat was about 3 boxes away from the stage and the 1st row up with 2 chairs and 1 high chair. We looked down to the poor saps below and looked up to the nose bleed section where some people had to stand up and we were feeling very smug indeed!

The stage is different than the one at the opera house in that stage is completely separated by the orchestra pit. This production was also different in that the costumes were period. But what a wonderful production the singing was so great and we were just above the orchestra so that we could watch the conductor closely as well as the various individuals. I went back in time and imagined Mozart conducting. We did learn some very fun sayings like: “my face lies but I do not”.

After the performance was over we took our time leaving our box, looking lovingly around. Then as we slowly walked out we stood for a very long time just admiring the theater and reflecting on what we had just experienced. It appeared that most everyone did the same.

We walked back to the square, probably like most did in the 1700’s, found a little outdoor café and had some good Czech food.

A guide book had suggested that a very romantic thing to do at night is to take a bottle of Czech bubbly out to the middle of the Charles Bridge and have a drink. We did just that along with some cream truffles. What an end to a most amazing night, standing on the Bridge in the moonlight looking that the reflections of the castle in the water.

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Posted by Miss Chris 00:21 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged bridges prague travel opera europe estates_theater Comments (0)

Prague- Our 1st Opera

Seeing the Barber of Seville in Prague

IMG_5004.jpgIMG_5019.jpgHaving spent one day on the train we were glad to be in Prague. The train ride was made much more pleasant when we met the couple behind us, newlyweds, and discussed our varied travels. We made some plans to meet after our opera at the Budweiser Pub where I wanted to buy a new tablecloth anyway.

Our room is in the historic district, right behind the Astronomical Clock and just across the walk from the St. Nicholas Church. The place use to be a tavern frequented by the executioner. We enter thru a heavy wood arched door, up a narrow wood spiral staircase and into our room with ceiling panels each hand painted. The double windows open onto the street on one side and the square on the other. We couldn’t ask for a greater room!

Our 1st opera was in the evening so after breakfast we leisurely got going. The 1st stop was a little restaurant on our side of the bridge that I’d seen on other trips, my plan was to drink coffee and enjoy the sights of the bridge and castle. We found a table right in front of the river, had coffee, lunch and I shot photos.

The “Barber of Seville” was not only our 1st opera in Prague, but also our very 1st opera even to see. I’ve not been a huge opera fan, that is no to say I don’t enjoy the music, just not all of the intense stuff. I’m more of a fluff fan.

We dressed up in our good clothes, hoped on the tube and were off to the State Opera House where we had box seats. The boxes had enough room for 4 persons and we had to share our box with 2 other people but they were nice and we really didn’t know that they were there most of the time.

The Prague State Opera House is a fun, audience friendly place. On each side of the orchestra pit is a walk way to the stage so that the cast can interact with the audience which is exactly what they did. In the opening several cast members came thru the aisles singing and carrying on. They came thru again, the old Doctor made us believe he tripped over a lady’s foot then he proceeded to sit by her and pat on her head, making facial expressions that had us howling with laughter.

The opera was so funny; the cast not only sang exceptionally well but were great actors too. What a great introduction to opera.

After the opera we walked to the beer hall but alas our new friends were not there and the atmosphere had changed. We didn’t find it a fun place to be but then the last time we were there it was mid Dec. and freezing cold. The tablecloth available appeared to be of a thin material with little print on it. We walked out and found a new restaurant for new memories.

Posted by Miss Chris 16:21 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague beer travel czech mozart prague_opera_house Comments (0)

Inside a Cathedral Dome

Standing inside the dome of a cathedral

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IMG_4875.jpgIMG_4925.jpgOne last day in Vienna.

We’d thought about going to the Shonbrunn Palace for a tour and evening concert but after the last two days of music decided against it and just did a Grand Tour 1st thing in the morning. The Grand Tour is 40 rooms or so but it is the tour that includes Maria Theresa’s apartments. One apartment was the one in which Mozart performed in when he was 6 years old for her and his music took off from there.

The Shonbrunn is a Palace which consists of about 2,000 rooms and was a summer palace for the Hapsburgs who ruled for several centuries. There are, I think, about 400 acres of gardens as well.

The Palace is really quite an interesting place but be aware that although the books say 1 hour to visit we took much longer. 40 rooms are quite a few to visit but this tour is the only one that visits the apartments of Maria Theresa, plus some ballrooms. One ballroom is being refurbished but about ½ of it is completed so a person can imagine what it will be like when completed.

The gardens are very extensive. Unfortunately it was very cold and really windy so we only sat and drank our coffee in the garden then left as we had other indoor things we wanted to do in the city. We took our Silvia’s advice but this time did the opposite, seeing the inside and the outside will wait for another trip.

We’d planned to go to the top of St. Stephens to view the city; you can do that for a fee and then go to the Mozart house. We had to change the tube at St. Charles Church and remembered, from the concert the night before, that they are refurbishing the dome and that people can ride the elevator installed for this purpose, up to the top of the dome. We decided to do this first then see what to do next.

We paid our 6 euros and went into the church where the elevator is. Since we’d been there for the concert we had no need to look around the church much.

This turned out to be the highlight of the day. First you must ride an elevator up about 8 to 10 floors (this is a guess) that will put you on a platform at the base of the dome. From the base of the dome there are stairs that go all the way to the top, into the cupola. These stairs are about another 5 to 8 stories thru the middle of the dome into the copula.

The stairs are really not for anyone who has a fear of heights as they move as people walk and you see that they are only held together by small steel posts. But if you can stand the height it is an amazing view.

The stairs put you up close to the frescos painted on the dome, so close that one could touch them. Up close the figures are huge but also appear to be distorted as they appear to be painted for viewing from the ground.

The copula is actually much larger than I had imagined; there is a walkway across, very narrow but maybe 5 people could stand on it and look out windows the entire circle.

We viewed the cathedral with new eyes when we reached the ground.

Posted by Miss Chris 21:53 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna austria cathedral tourist dome Comments (0)

A Concert in Vienna

A concert at the world class concert house in Vienna

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2011-05-15..-04_617.jpg2011-05-15..-04_617.jpg2011-05-15..-20_101.jpgThis morning was the 2nd planned concert of our trip, to hear Bach and Mahler at the Vienna Music House, one of two world class music houses supported by Vienna.

I thought that we had box seats but as it turns out we didn’t, but the seats were great anyway. The seats were along the side of the auditorium and unlike the seats in the center, each row was elevated a little higher than the one in front. We sat about 20’ from the bass instruments.

The 1st 2 pieces were Bach with a smaller ensemble that stood up to play the first one. For the 2nd piece a few more players joined and they sat, For the Mahler the full orchestra played.

We did not know what to expect for a concert in Vienna except that we had heard that the Vienna people love their music. So here we were at a concert taking place at 11a.m. on a Sunday morning to hear the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra play.

We dressed up as best we could; Dale brought a blazer with dark blue pants that we bought from llBean and a really nice long sleeve shirt, his black shoes and socks. I brought a couple of pieces that can be used as a skirt or a dress with ties that can tie around the waist or as short sleeves. I also brought a black tank and a black knit top in the event it was cold. I also brought some comfy heels and bought some fun stockings in Salzburg that I never saw in Bakersfield.

The weather was cold, windy and rainy so I chose the red piece as a skirt with the 2 black tops layered, and my cashmere sweater under my raincoat. We were glad we’d brought the clothes we had as we only saw a couple of other people in jeans, all of the men had either suits or blazers and all of the women had dresses, skirts or nice pants with a coat.

The Music house was packed, we only saw a couple of empty seats and I remembered that I’d purchased the last 2 tickets available online on the day they became available.

The music was wonderful, the conductor was great to watch. The 1st violinist had a wonderful solo which we had never heard before. She seemed to be so young next to all the grey hairs but she was very strong in her playing.

So there were our concerts in Vienna.

Posted by Miss Chris 10:47 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna austria music concert mahler vienna_concert_house bach Comments (0)

Vienna- Mozart's Requiem

A concert at the St. Charles Church

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We had reservations for an early train from Salzburg as we had tickets for the Mozart Requiem in Vienna at, what we thought, was 3pm. This time we walked the 15 minute walk to the station and got right on our train.

Arriving in Vienna we found the U line to get to our hotel, it is easy to use. Just find the map where you want to go then find the corresponding line to the color. Print your tickets and presto magic off you go to your platform and you are on your way. We found our line and came out at St. Stephens plaza. Another amazing cathedral! We reviewed our map, got our bearings and started for the hotel which was only another 5 minute walk.

The Hotel gave us our rooms within minutes along with some sparkling wine; we changed our clothes and started walking. 1st we walked down to the St. Charles cathedral in order to see if our tickets were there; I couldn’t remember if the tickets were on hold or what I’d done. Sure enough the tickets were on hold and the lady helping us said we had some of the best seats, row 2 center. But she then told us that the concert was actually at 8pm not 3pm so here we were all dressed with nowhere to go. We came back to the hotel, changed and started walking into the main old city.

At first I wasn’t impressed at all with Vienna, we’d walked up and down the street and it was nothing but cafés, shops and tons of people. Then Dale and I walked down a side street and found wonderful buildings one after the other. We just walked with our faces to the skies.

We changed then made our way down to the St. Charles again for the concert. This time we joined the line of people waiting to get inside.

The church is not as large as “The Dome” or St. Stephens but large never-the-less. The stage, or front, is in a sense set apart from the rest of the church; 3’ higher, more narrow on the sides and the ceiling higher than the sanctuary area. From where I sat the stage was about 10’ in front of me with the orchestra at the front of the stage and the choir behind them. On the wall behind the choir was a cloud with angels that extended nearly to the ceiling.

The music was played on the antique instruments and being so close we could hear each instrument that normally would get lost in the whole sound. The sound of each instrument was different than the more modern ones used today that we are used to. The sounds plus the setting put us back into Mozart’s time. The setting was so heavenly that we found the music belonged in and was made for a Cathedral.

From the moments of the 1st note the audience was enraptured and completely quiet. When the music would break for a moment the echoes would continue for several seconds. The conductor only used his hands for direction and then in such a tender way.

At the end of the concert no one moved at all as the music echoed and we sat there, almost in a stunned state, unable to move. Finally, the director signaled that the performers could bow and the audience went wild. The singers came back for an encore but we could have had several encores
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Posted by Miss Chris 00:23 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna austria concert mozart_requiem st_charles_church Comments (0)

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