Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Vienna Day 1

Having rested the bad foot following our arrival, we are off to the Opera this evening. Vienna has a very good public transport system and there is a tram which stops very close to the hotel which will take us direct to the Opera House.

Vienna Metro and Bus System

2015 metro mao

Being Senior Citizens (i.e. over the age of 62), we qualify for discounted tickets on the metro and hence can purchase a "Seniorenfahrschein für 2 Fahrten” (a two trip ticket) for €2.80 as against

Senior Tickets

the standard €2.20 for a single trip. There are various day tickets available but our maths seems to indicate that we will not use the system enough to make it worth purchasing a day ticket.

Tickets  Tobacconist

Most tickets can be purchased on the tram / bus but for the sheer novelty of going inside, we chose to purchase ours from a type of shop which you no longer find in England - a Tobacconist. This shop sells only cigarettes and cigars (and tram tickets). We were told that many years ago, permits to sell tobacco were only given to the disabled because they could then work (and thus have both independence and a living) in a shop small enough for them not to have to move around or deal with heavy goods. Austrian are enthusiastic smokers and hence this type of shop is quite busy.

Every second tram (on average) is said to be wheel chair friendly. This means that the floor is roughly at the level of the pavement and (other than the very front door) you can wheel someone reasonably easy into it.

Tram sign disabled

Each of the tram stops has a “how many minutes to your bus or tram” indicator and if the vehicle is wheelchair friendly, then a wheelchair symbol appears next to the timing.

Not disabled friendly tram

This is not a wheelchair friendly tram - you have to climb a number of steps to get into it.

Disabled Friendly Tram

This one is a wheelchair friendly tram although we found that the front door (which leads to an area of the tram set aside for wheelchairs) was the hardest to use because due to the design of the tram, there was a larger gap there between the pavement and the tram than doors further down the tram.

Gap at front of tram

To bridge the gap, there is a ramp which the tram driver can extend to form a bridge between the tram and the pavement. You have to ask but this does mean being able to catch the driver’s eye.

U Bahn Lift

The metro is almost as easy to use. There are lifts at most stations down to the platform (sometimes finding the lift at a station takes a while because not every entrance has a lift) and the platform is level with the floor of the carriage.

Vienna State Opera House

Despite having been significantly rebuilt following damage during WWII, the Vienna State Opera is one of the classic European opera houses and the outside still looks it.

Vienna state opera at night

As a total aside, many many years ago I used to regularly go to Vienna for business reasons. One evening I was sitting in a coffee house opposite the Opera House and a son phoned me to ask for the meaning behind the phrase "Ich schlage vor”. This of course has no relevance to today’s visit but I thought I might remind him of his phone call ! 

Much of the inside has not been restored to look as grand as the outside but is pleasant never-the-less. The foyer and stairs are as they were originally:

OH FoyerOH Inside

OH Looking down on the stairs

This is the view looking down into the staircase with the foyer entrance bottom left. 

Opera Refreshments

Interval refreshments are available in this (fleshless photo) reception area. The Opera is missing a trick in that there are no ice creams available and only a restricted range of drinks and some rather nice looking snacks. 

The Auditorium is a less ornate 1950s baroque

OH Auditorium

If you were on the stage, this is the view of the auditorium which you would see.

Vienna State Opera House Inside

The Opera House is where the famous Vienna Opera Ball is held (a date in February) and for this, the whole of the auditorium is turned into a dance floor by boarding over the seats.

We are going to see / hear Jenufa by Janacek simply because it is what is being performed on the only evening we are both free to go and can also get tickets.

Jenufa Playbill

A synopsis of the opera (presumably translated by Google) is 

Act 1: Jenufa is in love with (and pregnant by) her cousin, the feckless mill owner, Steva. The latter is possibly about to be conscripted into the army. Finally this does not happen and he is about to marry Jenufa (to avoid the baby having an illegitimate birth) when Jenufa's stepmother, Kostelnicka, intervenes and says the two cannot marry until Steva has been sober for a year. Steva's stepbrother, Laca, courts Jenufa, at first affectionately. When she rejects him, he slashes her face with a knife. He is at once remorseful and apologises.

Act 2: It is winter. Kostelnicka has finally discovered that Jenufa is pregnant. She hides Jenufa away in her cottage to have the baby. Steva refuses to marry Jenufa, instead just offering her financial assistance. Laca still wishes to marry Jenufa but is dismayed to hear about the baby. Kostelnicka believes the baby would be better off dead. She gives Jenufa a sleeping draft and while the latter is asleep, she drowns the baby in the frozen river nearby. She returns and tells Jenufa that the baby died of a fever. Jenufa accepts this and sees no other way out but to marry Laca.

Act 3: It is spring. It is the wedding day of Jenufa and Laca. The ice cover of the river is beginning to thaw and news arrives that the dead body of Jenufa's baby has been discovered. The assembled crowd accuse Jenufa of murder. Kostelnicka is overcome by grief and confesses her guilt and explains that she committed the deed out of concern for Jenufa's future. Jenufa forgives Kostelnicka who is then led away. The faithful Laca says he still wants to marry Jenufa and she accepts.

In the event, the synopsis turned out to be reasonably accurate and certainly helped to understand what was going on.

The best seats we can afford are in the row above the boxes but not in the Gods.

OH Showing the levels

Photographs are not allowed during the performance. The stage set was rather grand and in itself a work of art. 

Janufa Image 1

This photograph was scraped from the Opera House Website and shows part of the flour mill within which much of the opera is set.

Pat at the Opera

Mrs Harvey did enjoy herself at the Opera. The opera was well staged and we will always remember the dramatic end to the second act.

The staff there were very helpful with the wheelchair and ensured that it was stored safely between acts and was instantly available when we need it. Lifts took us to every floor and being wheelchair bound was not a significant disadvantage.

We dressed up for the opera but many there were less finely attired and therefore we would say that the accepted dress code was "come in whatever you are wearing” rather than that in Milan which was definitely “make an effort” or you will look out of place.

When we left, it was to a reasonably warm late night Vienna

Vienna at night

State Opera House as we left

and we took the tram from a stop directly opposite the Opera House back to our hotel.

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