Things to do in Vienna when it’s pissing down with rain


notice the archangel weighing baby devils (left) and human babies (right) in this Michaelerkirche fresco

visit dead librettists: as I was saying two posts ago, Leander struck gold when she found this Baroque gem, Metastasio’s resting place. The conversation over pre-Xerse dinner ran like this:

Leander: want to join us to the crypt?
Dehggi: crypt? Sure, why not. What’s in the crypt?
Leander: Metastasio.

metastasioplaqueYou may be thinking ooooh, crypts! – though it’s October, ’tis the season – but this crypt was very civilised indeed. Michaelerkirche used to be the local church for the Hofburg, so aside from clergy, rich people associated with the royals could purchase final resting places there. Also, once the churchyard filled up, regular locals petitioned the parish and were allowed the same treatment.

What they did – for health reasons – was to chuck the coffins under the aisles, one on top of each other. Eventually (by 1784) the place filled up and no more chucking of coffins was allowed. Later on, monks realised it was a mess down there and took it upon themselves to organise the space. They found that some coffins had decayed and bones spilled out. They neatly stacked the bones by the walls, occasionally adding florishes like crossed bones and skulls on shelves, “to make it all more lively”.

Due to air vents and specific local conditions, as well as to the fact that the bodies were laid on wood shavings in the coffins, some of them mumified naturally. Many of the mummies were lost after the place got flooded at the tail end of WWII but it has since (meaning, in the past 10 years) been all cleaned up and air-conditioned, so what is left can be properly preserved. Aside from a bit chilly, it’s pleasant down there.


top-down: fresco detail above the altar, the very Baroque altar and the organ (bottom)

There were three mummies on display in finely preserved silk clothing. One of them in particular stood out for me as it had delicate hands. Metastasio’s coffin was there, by some nobility coffins. It’s large, of beautifully painted blond wood and it’s got 10 or so clawed feet – Hyrcanian tiger feet, as Leander suggested 🙂 He himself was (perhaps tastefully) not on display but the very lively and knowledgeable guide told us he had been embalmed following his autopsy.

TripAdvisor gives it a low rating, but check out the collage on the right, it’s a goodlooking church with a nice combo of Baroque and Gothic stylings even for those with no interest in the granddaddy of Baroque libretti. It is also the venue where Mozart’s Requiem was first performed (for his memorial).

hang out with bloggers: for a rounder view of this trip, read Leander’s take on Poppea and Xerse and even her guide to Vienna museums. She’s the Museum Meister.

meet other bloggers: thanks to thadieu’s generous introduction, I got to meet the legendary Anik of WS blogging fame, who, by an interesting coincidence, happened to be attending this performance of Poppea as well. We only had time to chat during the intermission but I think we did a very good job at cramming Monteverdi, Mozart and even a bit of chuckle at Hofmannsthal’s hilariously partriarchal libretto for Die Frau ohne Schatten in that 15min. We decided more opera analysis was necessary so I hope we can meet again in the not so distant future. Speaking of future opera trips, check out the concert performances coming up at Theater an der Wien. I’m about to pass out, I think I found a new favourite venue.

hang out with the band: just before Cavalli’s Xerse was due to start, Leander, HM and I ran into Emilie Renard (Valletto in this production of Poppea) who spontaneously invited us to hang out with the “British crew” after Poppea. Why not?

After Poppea, having already accepted the relentless rain (though not as our lord and saviour), we waited for them by the artists’ entrance where we saw Christophe Dumaux try to make a sneaky exit only to have his cover blown by somebody who loudly called out his name. We then joined the very friendly Jake Arditti (Amor) and Rupert Charlesworth (Lucano) and the people they were with to go somewhere nearby. I initially thought it was only going to be them and Renard but it turned out it was pretty much everybody else save for the main stars. I suddently thought, shit, these people must be starving and was about to make a hasty retreat but Leander wisely suggested we sit at the bar and chat.


yours truly and mezzo Emilie Renard (photo taken by Leander)

Emilie Renard joined us at the bar for “a quick drink” that lasted well after midnight (we all know in opera anything under 6 hours counts as short 😉 ). Since we only had 4 hours of opera that day, she regaled us with hilarious backstage stories centred on method snogging: how to disgust your stage partner in 5 easy steps whilst the audience thinks it’s a tender moment. Also we’ve now been warned: what starts with minge, ends in orgy (especially if it’s French baroque). Less cryptically, we learned that Simone Kermes is helpful with the young ones and Spinosi tactful and chipper. Then Jennifer Larmore came by and wished all of us a good night. How sweet is that? I was very touched.

make friends with the host’s cat: the host’s cat was hilarious. Her presence weighed very heavily on my decision to book with her owner staff and my expectations were met. It transpired that I had usurped the cat’s bed and she had no qualms about letting me know. Namely, she snuck into the room around 3am, stood in front of the bed and hissed at me 😀 I petted her in return and we soon became besties.

plot the fall of capitalism with said host: airbnb is a tool of social justice, I tells ya.

About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on October 25, 2015, in baroque, opera trips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. now i’m curious about your love-sick(ness)! 😉

    • the love of opera, you mean 😉

      • it’s quite a crowd 😉 But it sounds so cool, i love how casual the mezzo is! I guess they also appreciate you gals flying in, and the small venue makes it sounds quite a cozy atmosphere between “fans” and artists 🙂 . (I was also lurking over at Leander’s reading lots of details about arts + that reallly nice write up on Poppea)

        • ehehe… yes, she’s a proper laugh, very unpretentious. To be fair, the others were very friendly, too. We’ve seen them “at work” in London and have appreciated them so it was very cool to see them in a big production like this.

          Leander caught a very different angle, glad you’re enjoying it 🙂

  2. I’m amused that your post can be distilled as: “Leander forced me into a crypt. And then she forced me into a bar.”

    Emilie was awesome. That conversation had me almost crying with laughter. Glad you liked the photo. I think Jake would have been great fun too; hoping to catch him one time when he doesn’t have family to entertain. And I completely agree about Theater an der Wien. Dear God, if I had a salary that allowed for independent jet-setting I’d be there every week.

    And, thả diều, don’t lurk! Come and say hi properly! I’m friendly, honest. Grins

  3. Love love love this post! 😀

  1. Pingback: Song’n’jokes with Simon Keenlyside (Wigmore Hall, 27 May 2018) | opera, innit?

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