We experienced two of the most publicized Vienna events today, accompanied by more tourists (Italian, American, German...) than we had imagined would be spending September in Vienna. In fact, one gentleman from Florida, whom we met on the sidewalk, commented that he couldn't get used to the weather here. At that moment the weather was cloudy and about 60 degrees; we wondered later what he had been expecting.
No tickets were available for the Lippizaner Horse Show Performance, but one could, for a small fee, watch the rehearsals which take place most weekday mornings. With thoughts of Sara and Emily in mind, Elsa queued up about an hour early and found herself between a Denton, Texas horseman and a Long Island veterinarian with her husband and friends; this was fortunate because both provided some details of what to expect; the vet had been looking forward to this since she was six.
As the line grew larger, the enterprising vendors moved up and down. For about twice the ticket price, you could get the ticket, a guided tour of the outside of the buildings afterwards, and the privilege of going directly to the ticket gate as soon as the doors opened. So many people took advantage of this offer that their queue was soon much larger, so Elsa, buying her ticket inside, soon beat the crowd.
We ascended thirty or so feet to a gallery and found seats overlooking the bark-filled rectangle. The building was filled with statuary and plaster ceiling decorations. Two elaborate chandeliers lit the performance area.
For the next ninety minutes, we watched men on horses practice various movements. The horses seem smaller than the thoroughbreds and Arabians we see in the States; a few are grey but most are pure white with long silky manes and tails. It was silent; even the riders never spoke. The horses appeared to ignore the flashing camera lights. To Elsa, it mostly appeared that the horses were walking around fairly aimlessly, but to the cognoscenti the horses practiced a variety of difficult technical movements: a diagonal walk with left legs crossing right, and the reverse; a prance performed in slow motion; turning in a tight circle; moving forward then back.
While Elsa enjoyed the Lippizaner horses, Bob tried various experiments to get our reports flowing across the internet more rapidly. These experiments advanced our knowledge, but did not improve our internet results.
In the afternoon we attended the second signature event: the Vienna Boys' Choir, or Sangerknaben. We reserved our tickets at the hotel, with a twenty percent deposit by credit card, but had to appear at the Music Hall and pay the balance in cash. Don't ask us why; this is Vienna! As it happened, it was a good thing we set out early for a walk in the neighborhood of the Music Hall, because the line to pay the balance in cash strung out forever and moved very slowly. Every now and then some out of sorts tourist insisted on paying by credit card; this caused the staff great agony and slowed things down more, but they cooperated. Finally we got our tickets, climbed up to the Brahms Hall, where the concert was held, and sat down.
There were about 20 boys in the choir, ranging in age from 7 to 13, we'd guess. The first part of the program was a capella and with piano accompaniment; after the intermission the choir was accompanied by a small band.
Unlike most of the audience, we preferred the first half of the program to the second, which consisted of words set to pieces like The Emperor Waltz or The Blue Danube. In the first half there were some Schubert lieder (the choir was in fact created by Schubert.) It was a nice concert, but the audience was not very knowledgeable, talked during the performance, and, worst of all, stood up fairly frequently between (and occasionally during) numbers to take flash photographs. So let's just say it could have been better.
Somewhat chastened by the overhyped tourist activities, we have avoided the people in eighteenth century dress in town who are handing out flyers to some other concerts, featuring less well-known orchestras and singers playing period music in period costumes.