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?
You 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.
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).
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.
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.
If you’re wondering what’s going on with the Poppea writeup rest assured it is on its way, except there is a hell of a lot to write (information overload, thanks Guth and crew).
Yesterday was quite possibly the most opera filled day I’ve had so far, because it contained: opera per se, visits to two opera houses (is the Staatsoper humonguous or what?!), hanging out with cool people AND
possibly the most baroque thing in Vienna
seeing Metastasio’s coffin 😀 with metal feet/claws!
Leander has posted Act I of Artaserse, the graphic novel, which she’s based on Vinci’s opera seria and Purcărete’s production. Go check it out (if you haven’t already), it’s fun and probably as true to Ancient surroundings as can be. My favourite bits are Artabano’s horns and Arbace’s dream sequence 😉
I’ve often toyed with the idea of opera fan fic, but unlike Leander1, have not persevered just yet. More power to her! It’s another great way of experiencing operas we know and love – and renewing our love for them (and for Metastasio’s (etc.) libretti). There should be more out there! – both opera graphic novels and opera fan fics.
- Leander’s Artaserse‘s isn’t fan fic, it’s faithful to the libretto. ↩