Tale of Two M’s

You’ve heard of 3 M?  Welcome to Austria and home of the 4Ms.  We’re not talking tape here, but rather the four ‘biggies’ in the formation and culture of Austria:  Mountains, Music, Mozart, and Maria Theresia.  Last week brought an opportunity to experience two of those M’s first hand:  Music and Mozart.

The two experiences could not have been more different:  an 18th century opera given an ultra-modern treatment in a 19th century hall, and mostly distinctly North American music from the 19th and 20th centuries performed in classical style, with a twist, in the most modern of buildings.

We had high hopes when we booked tickets for Don Giovanni.  I have loved the music of Don Giovanni ever since I played, as a child, the Minuet in G from John Thompson’s Piano Music Book 2!  We were going to an opera in a city that is filled with great musicians and culture.  We dressed up but not too much.  After all, to reach the streetcar we have to hike down the mostly dirt road which is thawing turning into a mudmire more and more every day as spring approaches.  So high heels no heels for me!    And although we are not so uncivilized to expect plays and opera to be performed in their ‘original’ version, we were not quite prepared for this über modern version!  (I have heard, by the way, that über is over-used (no pun intended) but since I am actually in a Deutsch-speaking country, it’s appropriate here!)

But first the opera house!  For an outside view, see the post of Exploring Downtown Graz.  Built in the last years of the 19th century, the house inside is a tribute to opulence grandeur!  It’s really what you might expect of a grand opera house in Europe.

 

This is what we saw as we entered the foyer

 

 

the grand staircase, up to the balcony and boxes

 

 

another view of the grand staircase

 

 

The stage awaits - sorry a little blurry, shooting without flash!

 

We were sitting in about the 9th row back, in the middle of the right side.  Great seats!

 

 

Box seats - one side of the theater. We're not at the Wilma, Dorothy.

 

 

The main chandelier in the theater. Phantom tickets? I think not!

So the orchestra was great.  The singing pretty great.  The baritone who played Don Giovanni was pretty uni-dimensional in his singing and his acting–disappointing.  The set and costuming something else—jarring even and yet very interesting conceptually.  The overall performance was just too much of the same thing (I found myself yawning!).  The designer cast the opera as a commentary on how we are prisoners of our passions: all of us, not just Don Giovanni.   Warning – some “R” rated clips! For a view into what we saw, look here but if you are under the age 16 and reading, best not to proceed.   The cast was all clad in shades of beige (women) and black (men) except for the rake himself–he had an embellished coat or wore a flower in his lapel.  The set was a table, and behind it, a prison.  Kudos to whomever put THAT together!  The biggest cheers came for the bass who played the Commandant, who spent at least 2/3 of the opera with his face in a soup plate.

Contrast that with our visit the next night to the Music and Music Theater’s ultra modern hall, the MUMUTH, for a performance of Witness, a narrated dance and choral music performance on slavery – yesterday and today.  It featured four stories of slavery: the triangular trade (US, Caribbean, Africa), the diary entries of the daughter of a plantation owner circa 1859, a 12-year old in present day India, and twins in present day Salzburg who decide to be Witnesses.   The music included pieces by Phil Collins, Billy Joel, Rhonda Polay, and spirituals (Keep Your Lamps Trimmed, Witness, Bobby McFerrin’s Psalm 23…).  The staging was exquisite – nothing fancy but the choir entered, dressed all in black, looking lost.  They were making a statement.  The completely a cappella singing was even more exquisite and not just because we understood all the words! 🙂  The dancers were high school age from the Youth Ballet of Graz .  As good as the performance was, the other star of the night was the MUMUTH building itself.

It was finished in 2009, designed by a Dutch architect.

 

MUMUTH being built - twisted steel and concrete, later add glass!

The inside is breathtaking.  We sat in the very back, almost right in front of the people doing the sound and lights.  Never heard a word from them! So professional!  The hall floor can be transformed at the touch into a flat row seating in an arena-style.
Controlled electronics can tailor the acoustics of the room for that performance – from jazz to opera.

the stage and walls

 

Here is MUMUTH’s ‘grand’ staircase.

grand staircase - to the right

 

 

other staircase - not sure what this was for, the singers and dancers were using it!

 

As at most musical functions we have been to, wine and other drinks are available at intermission (if there is one) or before the performance itself.

 

 

wine cart waiting for customers; ushers waiting to open the doors

 

 

the performers and narrator, receiving much deserved applause

 

 

But here is the coolest thing, bar none.  The whole building changes colors!  Watch, and see.  I’ve shot from both the inside and the outside.

 

green

red

 

 

blue

 

The designs on the windows  (above)  mirror the sound-changing designs on the interior walls of the concert hall.

Here is the outside:

 

 

Outside - red

 

outside - purple

outside blue

outside green

Honestly, I could have stood here forever watching the changes, but I was afraid of being run over by a BMW or Volkswagen.

And that was our night at the

 

This latter concert cost a fraction of the cost of the opera and we enjoyed it so much more!   Tonight we are invited by the folks we met along the trail to a concert in their church.  “Dress warm,” she said.  We know.

Until later and thanks for reading!  Grüss Gott!

 

 

3 thoughts on “Tale of Two M’s

  1. I am so impressed Jean with all you are doing! You’re definitely taking advantage of
    all the opportunities.
    Quick question? How are you finding the cost of living? More than here???
    Also are you using only streetcars and trains for transportation? I know it is very efficient.
    I’m enjoying so much your pictures and the background information you give!
    Angie

    • Hi Ang,
      Cost of living: yes, more expensive than in MT, I think, but it’s hard to tell. The apt is expensive but we are not paying any utilities, they are included. Fruit and veggies are about the same, or maybe just slightly higher. But we don’t have much choice!
      There are different costs!
      We are using only feet, trams, buses, trains (like to Vienna) right now,to get around. Bill has been lent two bikes – one a mountain bike with gears that will make it up our hill and the other an English style bike with 3 gears that definitely won’t! We haven’t started using them because it has been muddy on our road and also because we are a little intimidated by all the tram tracks!

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