Friday, July 22, 2011

That whole "Aida" thing.

And no,  I’m not talking about my Aunt Ada.  She passed away a few years ago.

OK,  that will be my only attempt at levity.  I promise.

Although,  I have to say,  my Aunt Ada was quite the going concern,  but that might be a topic for another day.

(and this post is about three times longer than my usual snippets,  so just be warned)

So what is it about this “thing” that would entice me to not only drive 700 kilometres,  but to then also sit huddled in the rain,  in order to have this experience?  More on the rain aspect later.  I also promise.

I guess it’s a hard thing to explain.  Have you ever had one of those moments in your life that has left an indelible impression on your memory?   Jean-Paul Sartre was of the opinion that we are a collection of our experiences.   That’s arguably a very simplistic view of something referred to as “existentialism”,  and would be shot down in a heartbeat if I were to ever dare say such a thing in the presence of anyone well versed in the subject.  But it is true,  we are essentially a collection of memories.

You can probably come up with your own examples,   but I’ll just briefly give you a couple of mine.

1) Seeing a drummer like Buddy Rich perform live,  and having the pictures to prove it. 
(on a personal level,  he was apparently a real jerk, but I wasn’t interested in a “meet and greet”)
That guy was awesome!

2) Standing at the end of the runway in Baden-Söllingen,  Germany in the spring of 1979 with my brother Angus,  who was stationed there with the Canadian Air Force, watching CF-104 Starfighters come in….with our fingers firmly planted in our ears.
You’d think that 100 feet is a quite the height,  but it’s really close when it comes to fighter planes overhead.  Trust me.
Won’t forget that ‘till the day I die!

I’m sure I could go on.  Those are a couple examples of events that remain vividly etched into my memory to this day.

Going to the “Arena di Verona” to see a performance of Aida is right up there.

Besides,  it was Travelling Companion’s birthday present!

Of course,  the major difference is,  I’m now a lot older,  and I do tend to forget stuff,  but I’m pretty sure this one is going to stick with me.
I have to say,  and I don’t know exactly why this is,  but I’m not easily impressed.  I might respect someone for working hard and being able to execute the results of their years of study and hard work,  such as the astronauts I mentioned yesterday.  But I don’t really go all “ape shit”  over well,  anything.   I’m not a “fan” of anybody,  even though there have been those people along the way who have impressed me.  Mostly musicians I find.  (it's all that hard work)

We’ve been to a few operas here in Vienna,  and we’ve even had occasion to check out the Canadian Opera Company going back as far as 1992.   But having said that,  I’m really not a huge fan.   I’m a simple enough guy,  that I do need to be “entertained”,  which is why the only operas we’ve seen so far usually have at least a few good “tunes” in them.   With the Canadian Opera Company,  it was Carmen.  If you ever get a chance,  go see it.  The music is wonderful.  Here in Vienna,  if you don’t go to at least one opera,  or even an operetta,  you’re just a fool.  Sorry.  That’s like driving to Kingman, Arizona and then not wanting to take a detour to see the Grand Canyon.   Are you kidding me?

So even if you’re not an Opera fan,  and thankfully not everyone is,  or we’d never get decent seats, if you’ve EVER been to a high school or University/College graduation,  you have quite likely heard parts of this opera!   I’m not kidding.  (whether you knew it or not!!)

Just as a side note,  back in May of ‘03,  we were lucky enough to get invited to the graduation of one of the brothers of a friend,  and during the ceremony,  the band played the processional 17 times!   After the third time,  I decided to start counting,  since this was the graduating class from Annapolis,  (otherwise known as the US Naval Academy) and there were some 950 graduates!  They started out with 1000,  but a few of them fell by the wayside.  It happens.

So I’ve included a link to something on YouTube,  where this “Triumphant March” is being played.  The sound quality is kind of sketchy,  but I’m sure you’ll recognise this tune.
The link also opens in a new window,  so you can bail out if you so choose.

The performance at the arena doesn’t start until some time after nine p.m.,  since it really needs to be dark outside for the proper effect.
We already had our tickets,  and had found a suitable place to have dinner,  and still had a bit of time to kill waiting to get in.

Took them a little while to find someone with a key to open our gate.  Honestly,  this was the same deal as in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.  They’ve been doing this for decades,  and they’re still disorganised! 
Even though I didn’t get to choose the exact seats when I purchased them on line,  we had pretty damned good seats,  being as we were in row five.   That was the other reason that our gate wasn’t open just yet,  and that is that the advise is,  if you’re to be up on the slabs,  you need to get there early to get a good seat,  since it’s a free for all.   This was a “once in a life time”, so that whole scene didn’t interest us in the least.

A couple shots taken from our seats:

This is what I mean by “slabs”.
Some of the lower ones that were "assigned seating"  had seat inserts.

It just so happened that I was on the aisle,  and had a decent view of the brass section as well,  and couldn’t help but get a shot of the second trumpet player’s hair style. 

I took this before the performance so no,  I would never stand there like a dope and take photos when they’re working.

I’m not even going to comment on the mullet.

One of the other cool things about Aida,  is that Guiseppi Verdi  didn’t mind using brass instruments at all.  Actually,  he uses brass instruments a lot in his music,  and I recall vividly the Contrabass Trombone in Tosca that was mind blowing.
It’s very hard to capture the entire aura of the experience,  but I’m pretty sure at one point I recall sitting there muttering,  “Holy Cr*p”,  because there was stuff happening everywhere you looked!

I get Goosebumps just looking back through the photos.

Note:  Guys on horseback??

In the third act,  not only does the brass section really shine,  but there’s also an entirely additional brass section (about a 20 piece band by the looks of it)  up in the corner of the stage,  along with 12 additional trumpet players stationed six to a side.

Just awesome.

So what about the weather forecast?
Well,  they were calling for a 30% chance of rain.  Pretty damned accurate if you ask me,  since it seemed that it rained just about 30% of the time.  Neither of us were wearing watches,  so I’m only guessing here.
We got sort of started into the second act,  and I was pretty sure I felt something on my nearly bald head,  and just as you would look up into the lights at a ball game,  I could see that,  yup it’s raining.   Cr*p!

No sooner had I looked back to the performers,  and there goes I think it was one of the viola players out of the pit and straight for the door!   The conductor was still conducting away,  every thing was going along tickety-boo,  and then everyone else realised,  “Oh Crap!  It’s raining"!

Um ya,  they don't play in the rain.  Them fiddles in particular don't like the rain all that much.

Now I swear to you here and now,  the orchestra pit and stage was completely empty within 30 seconds!   It was amazing.   We had our umbrellas,  so we camped out for a good half hour there,  waiting for a weather update.

All part of the experience!

They hadn’t brought out the two harps yet that are needed a little later on,  so that was a good thing.

Kind of glad I didn’t wear a suit.

There were a couple additional false starts a little later on,  and finally it cleared up nicely for the third and fourth acts.  Because of the delay,  we did unfortunately miss the rest of the second act altogether,  but these things happen,  and there’s not too much you can do about it.

I think it was after the second rain delay,  that the people behind us actually LEFT!  Silly buggers.  I just figured,  I drove all the way from Vienna,  and there’s no damned way I’m leaving until they kick me out.

Good thing too,  since the moon came out at one point,  which just added to the whole experience.

So I mentioned that we didn’t have any time pieces?  It didn’t really matter,  since I didn’t want to be fussing over the time anyway,  and we had rested most of the day in anticipation of having a “late night”.  What we didn’t realise was that it would be after THREE in the morning by the time we got back to the hotel!

I know!  Since when do we ever stay up that late??  I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Once again I’ve stuck a few more pictures on Picasa.  I do have to say however,  that taking pictures in such low light is EXTREMELY difficult,  but I’ve even included the ones that were less than ideal.   You can take a gander here.

Hope everyone has a fine weekend.

…and that the power stays on to keep those air conditioners running!

 OK...having some trouble uploading directly from Live Writer,  so I've done the copy and paste thing.


The other night,  Travelling Companion was surfing here and there,  and stumbled across this one,  and at first she said,  "Oh,  that guy looks familiar",  and she was referring to some guy sitting in front of us,  and sure enough,  at the 11 second mark,  you can see another guy who looks kind of familiar.

Also,  I did find another cute little video taken on the way to and inside the arena.   These folks were up on the slabs.   linky    Those last two should also open in a new window.  Just so you know.

The internet still freaks me out sometimes.



  1. Il Trovatore is another "bucket list" opera. I saw it in Prague and it was fantastic.

    Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci at the Wiener Staatsoper is also great, especially if you have a short attention span.

  2. All are good. I get a little "verklempt" with Pagiacci though...

  3. What an amazing stage. Looks like it was a fantastic show. Too bad about the rain.

    Kevin and Ruth

  4. In a way yes, it does kinda suck about the rain. But like I said, all part of the experience. Plus, the entire production group (musicians, stage hands cleaning crew etc.,) really were a bunch of troopers, since it was LATE when they finally finished up, but they still did their thing, and gave one hell of a performance.
    No complaints here.


Well, I've been getting too many spam comments showing up. Just a drag, so we'll go another route and hope that helps. So, we won't be hearing anything more from Mr. Nony Moose.
I guess I'll just have to do without that Gucci purse.