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Mark Slater

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The Vienna State Opera produces more operas each year than any other house in the world. It also has the longest season of any opera house - September to June.

The Vienna VolksOper ("Vienna People's Opera") also runs from September through June, and also puts out 300 performances annually (but only half as many operas). I may be wrong, but I think the Vienna State Opera is the equivalent of the Metropolitan Opera, and the Vienna People's Opera is the equivalent of the New York City Opera.

The NYCO shared their space with the NY Ballet and the result was a sound stage not fit for their level of performance.  Their mic-ing of the operas was something that was obvious {general ambient amplification of the entire sound stage, not mics on the individual singers}  They battled for years to get a sound redesign.  

While the problems weren't the same, there was also a ballet "controversy" in Vienna - in 2005, the State Opera and the People's Opera merged their ballet companies into one, and that proved to be a mistake - the problem was addressed in 2010.

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Keep in mind, Vienna is kind of a unique place - steeped in the Habsburg tradition, eschewing progress at practically any cost and is hardly the model of 21st century reality. The place in Europe for art and music is Berlin. And food is quite spectacular, not the old sausage and sauerkraut culture which is also awesome, but gets old fast if you have no choice. Berlin is an incredible metropolis. 

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I had attended opera performances before, but 1976 was the year that opera captured me for life. At the beginning of the year, the Wiener Staatsoper came to the Kennedy Center Opera House and put on Cosí¬ fan tutte. Pilar Lorengar was on stage and Karl Böhm was in the pit. I was entranced. That summer, La Scala, the Paris Opera, and NYC Opera did a sort of summer season, to which I had a subscription for five operas. The most memorable was La Scala's La Bohème, with a movie-star-handsome José Carreras as Rodolfo. Bohème with a really good-looking Rodolfo is a blissful spectacle, especially if he can really sing, which Carreras could.

Prague also has a really extensive opera season, which they spread across three different and very grand opera houses, including the one, known nowadays in English as the Theatre of the Estates, where Mozart conducted the world premiere of Don Giovanni. The librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, was in the audience with his friend Giacomo Casanova, a sort of real-life Don Juan, which is among my favorite fun facts. I don't know if it's quite as extensive as the season in Vienna, but I think they do at least 40 different operas per season. I hope to get there some time soon.

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