Hero of the Day: The Usher at the Volksoper

Two nights ago I went to the Wiener Volksoper for a ballet version of Carmen, which you can read about in yesterday's blog post. Although the performance was disappointing, one of the theater employees was not.

This particular gentleman was standing next to the ticket window and a sign that read "Ausverkauft" ("sold out"). I asked the woman inside the window if there really were absolutely no tickets left.

The gentleman in the red blazer and name tag replied, "Im moment nicht." ("Not at the moment.")

"Würde später viellecht ein Paar Karten verfügbar sein?" I asked.
("Might a few tickets be available later?")

"Könnte was passieren."
("It's possible that something could happen.")

I thanked him and moved off to the side to wait. The greatest thing about the conversation is that the man had a serene, omnipotent air about him. At first I thought that was because he fancied himself The Keeper of the Tickets, but I later found out he had something else in store.

After ten minutes, I heard him tell a woman that there was nothing at all left, so I inquired again: "Gibt es noch gar keine Karten?" ("Are there still no tickets at all left?")

His only response was to look at me and put his hands out in from of him, palms down, and push them slowly towards the floor, an expression I might call "hold your horses". I nodded and moved off to the side again.

Within five minutes he walked over to me and asked if my ladyfriend and I were students. I replied in the affirmative, after which the gentleman procured two tickets from a room next to the ticket window. For €10 apiece, we had very good seats in the third row of the lower balcony.

For this, you are my Hero of the Day, Mr. Volksoper Usher.


An eclectic ballet: Carmen

I spent yesterday evening at the Wiener Volksoper watching a ballet adaptation of Carmen. I've seen a bunch of ballets in Vienna, but this was only my second ballet at the Volksoper; the first was The Nutcracker back in December 2008. I've also seen one opera at the Volksoper: an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in English.

If I can say only one thing about the Wiener Volksoper and its performances, it would be that they have a knack for screwing things up in the name of modernization and/or artistic freedom.

Shakespeare as an opera--in English--was pretty bad. The Nutcracker featured a five minute break in live action while a huge projection screen was lowered from the ceiling and we could all watch some primitive digital animation of what was supposed to be a video game that one of the children received as a gift. And, the intense lighting was distracting and obnoxious. I hoped the Volksoper might do justice to an opera classic like Carmen, but my hopes were all but dashed in the first five minutes when the usually-colorful first scene was drab and sparse. I can forgive bad sets and costumes if the dancing is good, but it wasn't.

I have nothing against modern dance per se, but the dancers in Carmen strayed too far from the classical notions of beauty and expression. I constantly had the feeling that no one was able to move their bodies in the way the choreographer has intended. They were flailing their arms and legs in a series of half-extensions and staccato movements that I found neither expressive nor beautiful. They mostly looked like they were trying too hard. On the other hand, maybe the choreographer intended it this way, and I simply missed the point. That's not to say there was nothing good about the dancing; there were some genuinely impressive jumps and turns onstage, but they were too few to make the overall impression a positive one.

Furthermore, the non-orchestra music (perhaps half of the whole score) needed work, and half of the story was missing.

Lastly, Volksoper, what's with the digital animations?!? For half of the show I thought I was watching the title sequence to a James Bond film.

While I was watching, I was trying to think of who could have possibly put such a ballet together, and I think this bill would sum it up:

Carmen, the Ballet
Written by Michael Bay
Music by Ridley Scott
Visual Effects by Albert R. Broccoli
and Choreography by Mick Jagger