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.
We were sitting in about the 9th row back, in the middle of the right side. Great seats!
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.
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.
Here is MUMUTH’s ‘grand’ staircase.
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.
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.
The designs on the windows (above) mirror the sound-changing designs on the interior walls of the concert hall.
Here is the outside:
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!