Attending a concert, play, opera, ballet…

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We asked any of you who attended a concert, a recital or any music or dance performance or stage production outside of the US in the last couple of years to tell us how you learned about it and how you obtained tickets. We asked for the following.

State what you went to see, where it was (country, city and, if known, the venue) and approximately when you were there. Tell us how you learned about the event (website? newspaper? street flier?) and how you obtained tickets (venue’s website? box office? hotel travel desk?). Do you have any dos and don’ts to suggest regarding purchasing event tickets? If the performance you saw was not in English, how was the experience? Did you notice anything different about how the audience behaved? What advice would you give to others considering a night out in a foreign country?

We printed responses in the last two issues, and more are coming. Those shown below are mostly about events attended in Italy and Austria. Send your report to Attending a Concert or Play, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com. Include the address at which you receive ITN (ITN prints letters from subscribers only). Photos are always welcome!

 

I have attended many operas, concerts and plays during my trips overseas in the past 50-plus years, often as a result of checking the papers on arrival in a city. Unfortunately, prices have outpaced my budget since I got front-row loge seats for 70¢ each to see Rex Harrison in “My Fair Lady” at London’s Theatre Royal on Drury Lane in 1960.

Standing room at the VIENNA State Opera (ticket orders to Bestellbüro der Wiener Staatsoper, Hanuschgasse 3, 1010 Vienna, Austria; fax +43 1 51444 2969) was still a huge bargain in 2008 (€5 for “Il Trovatore,” even if the staging was grotesque).

The summer opera in ROME, Italy, at the Baths of Caracalla is still affordable if you take binoculars. (The venue is located at Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 52, near the Circus Maximus; for info, phone 06 481 601 and for tickets, phone 06 481 602 55 or fax 06 488 175 5, www.operaroma.it. The season runs July through early August, with tickets $51-$274.)

Pay attention to posters, check the Internet in advance, and go!

Carl Boyer
Santa Clarita, CA

 

The classical music radio station KDFC in San Francisco sponsored a tour, May 21-31, 2011, to coincide with a European tour of the San Francisco Symphony. The group traveled from Vienna, Austria, to Lake Bled, Slovenia, then to Venice and Lake Como in Italy.

My wife, Joan, and I also booked a pre-tour extension in PRAGUE, and on a free evening we attended “Barbiere di Siviglia” at the State Opera, Prague (Legerova 75, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic. Box office phone +420 224 227 266 or e-mail order@bohemiaticket.cz).

I had gone online and was able to print out our bar-coded tickets from the website. Prime orchestra seats cost about $70 per person.

For a free night in VIENNA, we booked seats for “L’Italiana in Algerie” at the Vienna State Opera through the website www.viennaconcerts.com, printing a voucher which had to be exchanged for the actual tickets at the box office before the performance — not quite as elegant a process as in Prague, but there were no problems.

The Vienna opera tickets, for which we also had excellently located seats, at $298 per person cost considerably more than the ones in Prague. Still, we found that most of the opera tickets cost considerably less than what we expect to pay in San Francisco or New York for equally high-caliber seating and performances. (Where do they find all these wonderful voices?!)

The opera performances were always in their original language. In Prague and Vienna there were English supertitles. In VENICE, the tour included “Lucia di Lammermoor” at Teatro La Fenice (Campo S. Fantin 1965, 30124 Venice, Italy; phone 041786511), with Italian supertitles. Fortunately, we knew the opera well enough and drew on our limited Italian to follow the story. After all, it’s all about the music.

In FLORENCE, on our own, we attended “La Traviata” at St. Mark’s English Church, having booked tickets a few months in advance (but not until confirming our apartment rental to be sure we were within walking distance of the performance venue).

I did a Google search for "florence opera" and after browsing several websites purchased tickets from www.classictic.com. Our front-row seats cost €36 (near $50) plus a nominal service charge. We printed out our tickets to present at the door.

In the intimate church venue, the performance of “La Traviata” was sung in Italian. The general director of the company (who also took the tickets and served the champagne at the bar) gave a narration in English prior to each act. What followed was just glorious music. Who needs supertitles?!

When planning our trip, we had agonized about our wardrobe. We knew that European opera audiences tend to be less formal than those of, say, New York or San Francisco. The ladies can always get away with that “little black dress,” but can men just wear a blue blazer with dark slacks?

The answer is, emphatically, ‘Yes,’ though the standard might be a little more dressy for a New Year’s Eve performance of “Die Fledermaus” in Vienna. There is no dress code, other than that one should look nice. Flip-flops, shorts and sweatshirts, etc., would not cut it; neither would jeans or khakis. But a tuxedo is never necessary.

Audiences ranged across all age categories and were very much like what we are accustomed to in the San Francisco Bay Area or at the New York Met. Applause was enthusiastic and always well timed. There was no applause between movements at an orchestra concert, but there could be a standing ovation at the conclusion of a piece. Individual opera arias were applauded, and there was always enthusiastic applause at the end of each act, including cheers and shouts of approval.

Advice for travelers considering a night out — I would not just show up at a box office and expect to find tickets (but it is possible to do so). If you want to have an enjoyable cultural or entertainment experience, you should build it into your travel schedule, book ahead and then plan the day’s activities so you won’t be tired from sightseeing when it’s time to go to the opera house or concert hall.

Be sure to allow time for a glass or two of prosecco or Sekt or champagne after the performance. Don’t plan to catch a flight early the next morning.

Using Google, one can easily find a calendar of every kind of performance, from heavy-metal concerts to Ibsen plays, in pretty much any city, then follow the online links to the various ticketing options. The payment process, in our case. was always seamless, though we did receive a call from the fraud-prevention department of one of our credit-card issuers insuring that a charge was legitimate.

Our symphony tour was operated by Earthbound Expeditions (Bainbridge Island, WA; 800/723-8454). The land cost was $3,875, and I also took the three-day Prague pre-trip extension for $875.

It was an outstanding experience. Our guides, as well as our tour mates, were compatible people; we were happy to spend time with one another.

The performances were superb and we always had excellent seats. (At Teatro La Fenice, my wife and I had a private box!) Earthbound chose excellent restaurants and cafés, and the food and the wine were excellent, not to mention the very good four-star hotels.

Everyone enjoyed the tour so much, we had a “tour reunion” in August.

Peter Klatt
Berkeley, CA

 

There are two performances I particularly remember attending overseas.

While hiking in Switzerland in the 1990s I saw a poster for the Kammerensemble Cologne, a chamber music group which was to perform in a church in Germany. I got my ticket at the door.

I fondly remember only one piece, and it could have been the least interesting. The female cellist, instead of being annoyed by her repetitive eight-note part in “Pachelbel’s Canon,” was liberated by it. She glanced from section to section and delighted as each new entrance expanded the texture. I delighted in her spirit.

In VERONA, Italy, operas in the Roman arena, or Arena di Verona (Via Roma 7/d, 37121 Verona, Italy), are visual and musical splendors. I first went there when I was stationed nearby in the 1960s. In 1979 I bought a scalper’s ticket to “Aida,” which was performed to perfection, with 700 actors, dancers and singers in the “Triumphal March.”

My seat was so far left that I could see behind the scenery and enjoyed fascinating glimpses backstage. Performances began at dusk, and during the overture the thousands of patrons lit little candles.

Jon Lafleur
Kent, CT

 

Perhaps the most memorable theater experience that my wife and I ever had took place in July ’01 in VERONA at the annual opera festival. We were outdoors in the ancient Roman arena, or Arena di Verona (phone 0039 0458005151). I bought the tickets by telephone, although they are now available on the Internet.

Arena di Verona opera season poster. Photo: Buttolph

We saw Verdi’s opera “Na­bucco,” based on the conquest of the Israelites by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar (Nabucco in Italian).

In the story, along with political intrigue, there is a love-interest rivalry between Nabucco’s daughters and the nephew of the king of Jerusalem. Nabucco is struck by lightning and rendered temporarily insane, although he revives and later accepts the God of the Hebrews. During the show, there was an actual giant thunderstorm off in the distance with magnificent lightning!

Most significant was seeing and hearing the performance of the aria “Va Pensiero,” the lament of the Jewish slaves for their lost homeland. When Verdi wrote the opera in 1842, Austria occupied much of Italy, including Milan, where Verdi directed at La Scala, thus the opera, and the aria, are an Italian patriotic metaphor about Austrian-Italian relations — the Hebrews are the Italians and the Austrians, the Babylonians. Later the aria became the song of the fighters under Garibaldi, so it is even more fraught with patriotic fervor.

When the aria was sung by the chorus, the Italians in the audience stood up, with lighters and flashlights, and sang along. It was spellbinding! Then the audience stamped their feet for an encore, which was performed by the orchestra, the cast and the Italians in the audience. Who could forget such an evening?!

The acoustics were phenomenal, and the orchestra conductor wore a kippah (traditional Jewish head covering). How much symbolism could there be in one night?

By the way, a few days later when we were riding the train from Venice back to Milan, a woman from Verona sat next to us. When we told her about our experience, she remarked that some opera singers won’t perform in Verona because the acoustics, which are natural to the arena, are so perfect that any mistake can be heard.

The festival in 2011 was the 89th since summer 1913. We would highly recommend it.

Bruce Waxman
Fairfax, VA

 

Prior to our spring 2011 vacation in VERONA, Italy, my husband and I looked into getting tickets to an opera at the Arena di Verona, a Roman amphitheater built in AD 30. Unfortunately, we would be in Verona before the season started.

Upon our arrival, however, while walking along the Corso Porto Nuova, just outside of Piazza Bra, we saw some fellows unloading instruments and my husband asked them when and where they were performing. It turned out that there was a show the following evening, June 1, at the Arena di Verona. It was called “Lo Spettacolo sta per Iniziare” (“The Show is About to Begin”).

We went to the tourist information office on Piazza Bra and they sent us to the Box Office Verona (Via Pallone 12/A, 37121 Verona, Italy; phone 04580 11154, fax 04580 11936) to purchase tickets, which were almost sold out. We managed to get two “general seating” tickets for about $24 each.

The woman who sold us the tickets informed us that the show would be performed even if it rained because an Italian TV network was going to broadcast it. She gave us some very helpful information about getting good seats: get to an entrance gate about an hour before opening time; also, go to one of the side gates rather than the gates that face Piazza Bra.

Her advice turned out to be perfect, as we ended up with fantastic seats. We sat in the back of the arena, aligned almost directly with center stage, and had a terrific view of everything.

The performance consisted of selections from various operas that were to be performed over the summer, interspersed with other entertainers, some of whom appeared to be very popular in Italy.

The sound quality in the arena was outstanding. The entire performance was excellent. The musician who really impressed us the most was a young fellow (about 30 or so) named David Garrett, an extraordinary violinist.

Although we could not directly communicate with the people who sat near us, we all had a great time together. The ladies behind us provided “incendiaries” (red candles), which are traditionally lit up for an encore. The man in front of us was elated with some photos that he was taking and smiled excitedly when he showed them to us.

Attending this performance was one of the highlights of our trip, and I would recommend that people inquire about performances at the Arena di Verona during a visit to that city.

Adele Buttolph
Enterprise, OR

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

We asked any of you who attended a concert, a recital or any music or dance performance or stage production outside of the US in the last couple of years to tell us how you learned about it and how you obtained tickets. We asked for the following.

State what you went to see, where it was (country, city and, if known, the venue) and approximately when you were there. Tell us how you learned about the event (website? newspaper? street flier?) and how you obtained tickets (venue’s website? box office? hotel travel desk?). Do you have any dos and don’ts to suggest regarding purchasing event tickets? If the performance you saw was not in English, how was the experience? Did you notice anything different about how the audience behaved? What advice would you give to others considering a night out in a foreign country?

We printed responses in the last two issues, and more are coming. Those shown below are mostly about events attended in Italy and Austria. Send your report to Attending a Concert or Play, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com. Include the address at which you receive ITN (ITN prints letters from subscribers only). Photos are always welcome!

 

I have attended many operas, concerts and plays during my trips overseas in the past 50-plus years, often as a result of checking the papers on arrival in a city. Unfortunately, prices have outpaced my budget since I got front-row loge seats for 70¢ each to see Rex Harrison in “My Fair Lady” at London’s Theatre Royal on Drury Lane in 1960.

Standing room at the VIENNA State Opera (ticket orders to Bestellbüro der Wiener Staatsoper, Hanuschgasse 3, 1010 Vienna, Austria; fax +43 1 51444 2969) was still a huge bargain in 2008 (€5 for “Il Trovatore,” even if the staging was grotesque).

The summer opera in ROME, Italy, at the Baths of Caracalla is still affordable if you take binoculars. (The venue is located at Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 52, near the Circus Maximus; for info, phone 06 481 601 and for tickets, phone 06 481 602 55 or fax 06 488 175 5, www.operaroma.it. The season runs July through early August, with tickets $51-$274.)

Pay attention to posters, check the Internet in advance, and go!

Carl Boyer
Santa Clarita, CA

 

The classical music radio station KDFC in San Francisco sponsored a tour, May 21-31, 2011, to coincide with a European tour of the San Francisco Symphony. The group traveled from Vienna, Austria, to Lake Bled, Slovenia, then to Venice and Lake Como in Italy.

My wife, Joan, and I also booked a pre-tour extension in PRAGUE, and on a free evening we attended “Barbiere di Siviglia” at the State Opera, Prague (Legerova 75, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic. Box office phone +420 224 227 266 or e-mail order@bohemiaticket.cz).

I had gone online and was able to print out our bar-coded tickets from the website. Prime orchestra seats cost about $70 per person.

For a free night in VIENNA, we booked seats for “L’Italiana in Algerie” at the Vienna State Opera through the website www.viennaconcerts.com, printing a voucher which had to be exchanged for the actual tickets at the box office before the performance — not quite as elegant a process as in Prague, but there were no problems.

The Vienna opera tickets, for which we also had excellently located seats, at $298 per person cost considerably more than the ones in Prague. Still, we found that most of the opera tickets cost considerably less than what we expect to pay in San Francisco or New York for equally high-caliber seating and performances. (Where do they find all these wonderful voices?!)

The opera performances were always in their original language. In Prague and Vienna there were English supertitles. In VENICE, the tour included “Lucia di Lammermoor” at Teatro La Fenice (Campo S. Fantin 1965, 30124 Venice, Italy; phone 041786511), with Italian supertitles. Fortunately, we knew the opera well enough and drew on our limited Italian to follow the story. After all, it’s all about the music.

In FLORENCE, on our own, we attended “La Traviata” at St. Mark’s English Church, having booked tickets a few months in advance (but not until confirming our apartment rental to be sure we were within walking distance of the performance venue).

I did a Google search for "florence opera" and after browsing several websites purchased tickets from www.classictic.com. Our front-row seats cost €36 (near $50) plus a nominal service charge. We printed out our tickets to present at the door.

In the intimate church venue, the performance of “La Traviata” was sung in Italian. The general director of the company (who also took the tickets and served the champagne at the bar) gave a narration in English prior to each act. What followed was just glorious music. Who needs supertitles?!

When planning our trip, we had agonized about our wardrobe. We knew that European opera audiences tend to be less formal than those of, say, New York or San Francisco. The ladies can always get away with that “little black dress,” but can men just wear a blue blazer with dark slacks?

The answer is, emphatically, ‘Yes,’ though the standard might be a little more dressy for a New Year’s Eve performance of “Die Fledermaus” in Vienna. There is no dress code, other than that one should look nice. Flip-flops, shorts and sweatshirts, etc., would not cut it; neither would jeans or khakis. But a tuxedo is never necessary.

Audiences ranged across all age categories and were very much like what we are accustomed to in the San Francisco Bay Area or at the New York Met. Applause was enthusiastic and always well timed. There was no applause between movements at an orchestra concert, but there could be a standing ovation at the conclusion of a piece. Individual opera arias were applauded, and there was always enthusiastic applause at the end of each act, including cheers and shouts of approval.

Advice for travelers considering a night out — I would not just show up at a box office and expect to find tickets (but it is possible to do so). If you want to have an enjoyable cultural or entertainment experience, you should build it into your travel schedule, book ahead and then plan the day’s activities so you won’t be tired from sightseeing when it’s time to go to the opera house or concert hall.

Be sure to allow time for a glass or two of prosecco or Sekt or champagne after the performance. Don’t plan to catch a flight early the next morning.

Using Google, one can easily find a calendar of every kind of performance, from heavy-metal concerts to Ibsen plays, in pretty much any city, then follow the online links to the various ticketing options. The payment process, in our case. was always seamless, though we did receive a call from the fraud-prevention department of one of our credit-card issuers insuring that a charge was legitimate.

Our symphony tour was operated by Earthbound Expeditions (Bainbridge Island, WA; 800/723-8454). The land cost was $3,875, and I also took the three-day Prague pre-trip extension for $875.

It was an outstanding experience. Our guides, as well as our tour mates, were compatible people; we were happy to spend time with one another.

The performances were superb and we always had excellent seats. (At Teatro La Fenice, my wife and I had a private box!) Earthbound chose excellent restaurants and cafés, and the food and the wine were excellent, not to mention the very good four-star hotels.

Everyone enjoyed the tour so much, we had a “tour reunion” in August.

Peter Klatt
Berkeley, CA

 

There are two performances I particularly remember attending overseas.

While hiking in Switzerland in the 1990s I saw a poster for the Kammerensemble Cologne, a chamber music group which was to perform in a church in Germany. I got my ticket at the door.

I fondly remember only one piece, and it could have been the least interesting. The female cellist, instead of being annoyed by her repetitive eight-note part in “Pachelbel’s Canon,” was liberated by it. She glanced from section to section and delighted as each new entrance expanded the texture. I delighted in her spirit.

In VERONA, Italy, operas in the Roman arena, or Arena di Verona (Via Roma 7/d, 37121 Verona, Italy), are visual and musical splendors. I first went there when I was stationed nearby in the 1960s. In 1979 I bought a scalper’s ticket to “Aida,” which was performed to perfection, with 700 actors, dancers and singers in the “Triumphal March.”

My seat was so far left that I could see behind the scenery and enjoyed fascinating glimpses backstage. Performances began at dusk, and during the overture the thousands of patrons lit little candles.

Jon Lafleur
Kent, CT

 

Perhaps the most memorable theater experience that my wife and I ever had took place in July ’01 in VERONA at the annual opera festival. We were outdoors in the ancient Roman arena, or Arena di Verona (phone 0039 0458005151). I bought the tickets by telephone, although they are now available on the Internet.

Arena di Verona opera season poster. Photo: Buttolph

We saw Verdi’s opera “Na­bucco,” based on the conquest of the Israelites by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar (Nabucco in Italian).

In the story, along with political intrigue, there is a love-interest rivalry between Nabucco’s daughters and the nephew of the king of Jerusalem. Nabucco is struck by lightning and rendered temporarily insane, although he revives and later accepts the God of the Hebrews. During the show, there was an actual giant thunderstorm off in the distance with magnificent lightning!

Most significant was seeing and hearing the performance of the aria “Va Pensiero,” the lament of the Jewish slaves for their lost homeland. When Verdi wrote the opera in 1842, Austria occupied much of Italy, including Milan, where Verdi directed at La Scala, thus the opera, and the aria, are an Italian patriotic metaphor about Austrian-Italian relations — the Hebrews are the Italians and the Austrians, the Babylonians. Later the aria became the song of the fighters under Garibaldi, so it is even more fraught with patriotic fervor.

When the aria was sung by the chorus, the Italians in the audience stood up, with lighters and flashlights, and sang along. It was spellbinding! Then the audience stamped their feet for an encore, which was performed by the orchestra, the cast and the Italians in the audience. Who could forget such an evening?!

The acoustics were phenomenal, and the orchestra conductor wore a kippah (traditional Jewish head covering). How much symbolism could there be in one night?

By the way, a few days later when we were riding the train from Venice back to Milan, a woman from Verona sat next to us. When we told her about our experience, she remarked that some opera singers won’t perform in Verona because the acoustics, which are natural to the arena, are so perfect that any mistake can be heard.

The festival in 2011 was the 89th since summer 1913. We would highly recommend it.

Bruce Waxman
Fairfax, VA

 

Prior to our spring 2011 vacation in VERONA, Italy, my husband and I looked into getting tickets to an opera at the Arena di Verona, a Roman amphitheater built in AD 30. Unfortunately, we would be in Verona before the season started.

Upon our arrival, however, while walking along the Corso Porto Nuova, just outside of Piazza Bra, we saw some fellows unloading instruments and my husband asked them when and where they were performing. It turned out that there was a show the following evening, June 1, at the Arena di Verona. It was called “Lo Spettacolo sta per Iniziare” (“The Show is About to Begin”).

We went to the tourist information office on Piazza Bra and they sent us to the Box Office Verona (Via Pallone 12/A, 37121 Verona, Italy; phone 04580 11154, fax 04580 11936) to purchase tickets, which were almost sold out. We managed to get two “general seating” tickets for about $24 each.

The woman who sold us the tickets informed us that the show would be performed even if it rained because an Italian TV network was going to broadcast it. She gave us some very helpful information about getting good seats: get to an entrance gate about an hour before opening time; also, go to one of the side gates rather than the gates that face Piazza Bra.

Her advice turned out to be perfect, as we ended up with fantastic seats. We sat in the back of the arena, aligned almost directly with center stage, and had a terrific view of everything.

The performance consisted of selections from various operas that were to be performed over the summer, interspersed with other entertainers, some of whom appeared to be very popular in Italy.

The sound quality in the arena was outstanding. The entire performance was excellent. The musician who really impressed us the most was a young fellow (about 30 or so) named David Garrett, an extraordinary violinist.

Although we could not directly communicate with the people who sat near us, we all had a great time together. The ladies behind us provided “incendiaries” (red candles), which are traditionally lit up for an encore. The man in front of us was elated with some photos that he was taking and smiled excitedly when he showed them to us.

Attending this performance was one of the highlights of our trip, and I would recommend that people inquire about performances at the Arena di Verona during a visit to that city.

Adele Buttolph
Enterprise, OR