Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Vienna, day 7; We shop!

Our last full day in Vienna we set aside for shopping, packing, and a little last minute exploring. We retraced steps to various interesting shops, and bought lots of chocolates, and an authentic Tyrolean hat as a gift. We walked along Fleischmarket to its far end, and explored the streets beyond, finding “Shakespeare”, a small English-language bookstore. This was our last chance to try one of the pastry cafes, so we decided to try one for lunch, which was a bit of a mistake as they were all crowded at that time. We found an Aida (a chain operation) we could crowd into, and had pieces of Esterhazy torte and another the name of which I can’t now recall, but they were good. For dinner that day, we went to Beim Czaak, around the corner in Postgasse, which was a very informal neighborhood tavern type of place. I had “hunter’s schnitzel” with the schnitzel wrapped around ham, cheese, and onions and came with the mixed salad; and Georgie had tafelspitz, which in this preparation was served in a bowl of lovely broth swimming with the vegetables, and browned potatoes on the plate. This place had some of the best bread we were served, a nice basket of white and rye rolls of various types, and real pretzel of the kind that is actual bread and not a type of cracker.

We got ourselves pretty well packed before venturing out to our last cultural event, the Ballet “Coppelia” at the Statsoper. For a Monday night performance of a ballet, we were able to obtain somewhat “better” seats, and were enchanted to find that the side parterre loge has all the features of a classical “box” seat. Loge 5 had its own separate door to the corridor, a small anteroom area with coat hooks, a mirror, and a small bench! We had a very nice view of the stage from the front row of the Loge (there are two rows of seats) and settled in to enjoy the ballet. I had wondered how a full three-act ballet could be made out of the E.T.A. Hoffman story of the mechanical doll that I chiefly knew as act one of “Tales of Hoffman.” In fact, there’s lots of material in Hoffman’s unpleasant weird tale “Der Sandmann,” but even less of it gets translated into Delibes’ ballet than in the opera. The answer, in ballet, is that it is all about the dance. So, in the first act, we learn that the dedication of the new village bell will be celebrated, by, among other things, a dance contest, and the young men and women show off their steps in anticipation of the contest. There is a town vs. garrison rivalry established as “a Hungarian officer” challenges the protagonist. We were impressed (but not surprised) that the choreography here included genuine Hungarian folkdance, rather than the thinly disguised Russian moves more commonly seen in the USA. The second act shows us the familiar part of the Coppelius story, as the village young people invade the dollmaker’s workshop and encounter his mechanical creations. The third act is the dance contest proper, which has a happy ending for all, except Coppellius, who doesn’t get much satisfaction at having had his home broken into and property damaged. There’s a love plot, but who cares? Just watch them dance! And dance they did! The Statsoper company is the equal of any we have seen for skill, vigor and precision and gave us a totally enjoyable evening. Production values were of course, high, with the set for Coppelius’ shop particularly impressive. Only one clinker: in the third act dance contest, the townsfolk dress like, well, townsfolk, including the young men. The Hungarian men and women have folk costumes, but the village girls show up in classical ballet tutus! Whose ethnic costume is that, I wondered? Oh, well—the dancing was splendid.
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