Qualis Spectator

Europe is a great place to attend artistic performances – plays, concerts, operas, etc., in the major cities there’s always a dizzying variety of options on offer. (I vividly recall the tantalising posters in the Prague metro advertising multiple different operas from each of Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, and Wagner, plus many more, all in a single month.) Unfortunately, owing to limitations of time, money, or both, I’ve been to very few performances on my European trips. Here are the ones I recall (not counting street musicians, musicians performing in restaurants, etc. – although the Klezmer band in the main square in Kraków in 2007 was one of my very favourites):

1990, London: I really wanted to see Peter O’Toole in “Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell” at the Apollo Theatre, but tickets were sold out, so my King’s College London hosts suggested Denholm Elliott in Mamet’s “A Life in the Theatre” at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, which was fine. (Though not as exciting as seeing Patrick McGoohan in “Pack of Lies” in Boston in 1985 for my birthday.)

1997, Rome: As part of the ISIL conference package, we attended a performance of Verdi’s La Traviata; I don’t recall the venue, but it was a second-rate establishment (with a ninth-rate restroom, possibly the filthiest restroom I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying a lot – plus it was just a hole in the floor third-world style, no commode, which is something I saw nowhere else in Italy), and most of the cast was merely competent, but the lead singer was excellent, and you can’t beat the music.

2004, London: Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap at St. Martin’s Theatre. Maligned by some as a tourist trap, but I found it thoroughly satisfying, even though I already knew the ending. (The theatre claims the play has never been published, but they lie. I have it on my bookshelf.)

2006, Edinburgh: We wandered into St. Giles Cathedral and listened to part of a free concert by some itinerant singing group; I don’t recall their name, if I even knew it, but they were lovely and the surroundings were charming.

2010, Vienna: This is the only one I planned in advance. Watching the New Year’s concert each year from the Golden Hall in the Musikverein is a long-standing family tradition, so when I was in Vienna (on a side trip from the PCPE in Prague) I was delighted to get a chance to attend a concert there. (Mozart and Schubert [in particular, the latter’s “Sanctus”] were featured, IIRC.)


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