The Sounds of Music
Opera buff Pat Dineen tells you where to find the best operas, concerts,
There is probably only one opera house in the world which regularly
attracts visitors who know nothing about opera. That building is
the State Opera in Vienna where a night at the opera ranks right
up there with a visit to the Spanish Riding School and listening
to the Vienna Boys' Choir as a must see for visitors to the Austrian
When people think of Vienna, they almost always think music - the
waltzes of Johann Strauss Jr., the operas of Gluck and Mozart, the
symphonies of Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler and Bruckner.
Ironically, only Schubert of all the famous composers identified
with the city was actually born there. The rest made their way to
Vienna because it has been a leading, if not the leading, musical
centre in the world since the 17th century.
The Habsburg Empire has come and gone and Vienna is now capital
of a small republic but Austria remains a musical powerhouse with
festivals, operas and concerts throughout the year. Although Vienna
has the most venues- the Musikverein (home of the Vienna Philharmonic),
the State Opera, etc. - visitors to every part of the country can
enjoy great music. From the Bregenz Opera Festival in the far west
of Austria to the Haydn concerts in Burgenland, near the Hungarian
border, music is everywhere.
One of the world's great music festivals takes place each summer
in Mozart's birthplace, Salzburg.
This charming city, whose centre looks much like it did when Mozart
was born in 1756, showcases the operas and music of its native son.
You can still drink in the same tavern where Mozart's father Leopold
enjoyed a refreshment when he was deputy music director at the court
of the prince-archbishops of Salzburg. And Mozart's
birthplace at 9 Getreidegasse in the centre of Salzburg's
Old Town draws music lovers from all over the world each year.
It doesn't matter when you visit Salzburg, you can listen to music.
There are some 1,500 musical events a year including Salzburg Jazz
Autumn, Salzburg Culture Days each October and Mozart Week which
takes place at the time of Mozart's birthday at the end of each
January. From Jan. 26-Feb. 4, 2001, the emphasis will be on works
by the younger Mozart, many of them written when he lived in Salzburg.
Salzburg is also where The Sound of Music was filmed. The story
of a nun who entered the service of widowed Baron von Trapp as a
governess for his children is one of the top-grossing films of all
time and The Sound of Music tour is a hit with international visitors.
Joseph Haydn was influential in the development of the symphony
and he spent much of his career at the court of the Esterhazys in
Eisenstadt, about one hour from
Vienna. Haydn's music is still played today in the Esterhazy Palace
by musicians in period dress. A 10-day festival called International
Haydn Days is held each September.
But Vienna is the city where
music lovers can see institutions of the highest calibre. The Vienna
Philharmonic is one of the world's great orchestras and its home,
the Musikverein is renowned
for its wonderful acoustics. The annual New Year's Day concert featuring
the music of Strauss, both father and son, is one of the music highlights
of the year. Musicians from the Philharmonic make up the core of
the State Opera's orchestra. The State
Opera is an imposing structure on the famed Ringstrasse
on which Emperor Franz Josef built many of Vienna's most important
and stately buildings. With more than 50 different operatic productions
performed each season, the State Opera draws many of the world's
greatest singers. The State Opera has a distinguished history of
musical directors including Gustav Mahler, Clemens Krauss, Karl
Bohm and Herbert van Karajan.
The musical organization with the longest history is the Vienna
Boys' Choir, established in 1498 by Emperor Maximilian.
As youths, both Schubert and Haydn were members and Mozart, Schubert
and Gluck composed for the choir which sings during mass in the
Imperial Chapel in the Hofburg palace each Sunday as well as in
concerts. Other venues include the Volksoper, the Wiener Kammeroper,
the theatre in Schonbrunn Palace and the Theater an der Wien.
Also of interest to music lovers is Schubert's
birthplace in Vienna's ninth district, which is now a
museum, and a number of apartments where Beethoven lived. He was
a difficult tenant and moved frequently. The apartment where he
died at 15 Schwarzspanierstrasse in the ninth district is today
a memorial site. With its great musical tradition, it's no surprise
that the city now has an attraction devoted to music.
Opened in June, 2000, the House of Music
Vienna is located at Seilerstatte 30, on the spot where
the Vienna Philharmonic was founded in 1842. The House of Music
Vienna is designed to be the centre for aesthetic, scientific, popular
and artistic encounters with music.
For information on Austria and its music check www.austria-tourism.at
Opera buff Patrick Dineen is editor of Travelweek,
Canada's most prominent travel trade publication.