For the past four or five years, I’ve enjoyed one particular New Years ritual immensely. If you live in Europe, or ever spend New Years in Europe, you must try this:
Every year, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra gives a New Years concert in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna, consisting almost entirely of music composed by Vienna’s own Strauss family of composers: Johann Sr, Johann Jr. and Josef. You could say it’s very “Straussful“. Mostly marches, polkas, and waltzes.
The music is fantastic, but the production of the televised event is truly amazing, with cameras sweeping through the Golden Hall and live performances by ballet dancers elsewhere in the huge luxurious ballrooms in the Musikverein. This year things got a little silly as they injected a Euro 2008 soccer theme to the choreography, since Austria is the co-host of the tournament.
I enjoy watching this concert so much that, this year, I got up two hours early! I went to bed at 6:00 and got up at 9:30, not realizing that the concert, which always seemed to be on when I got up on New Years morning starts at 11:30 CET! Doh! At that time my only options on television were loud cartoons, some tired-looking pseudo-celebs, the same ones that had been on 12 hours earlier, still trying to get me to send an SMS vote for my favorite debut album of 2007 (anyone who watched all 12 hours of that doesn’t deserve to live), and Pope Benny, looking equally as tired, reading from a two-ton tome in a voice that makes Ben Stein seem like Richard Simmons. With the selection available, I chose the pontiff, mainly because the sweeping/slow-zoom camera work of the Basilica was very similar to that of the Vienna Philharmonic concert. I think I understood more of the Italian than the overdubbed Spanish that was also being read over the coverage. It was kind of funny how sometimes the Spanish, which had clearly been translated beforehand, would get ahead of the Italian and the speaker would have to stop and wait for ol’ Benny to catch up.
This led to the later amusing conversation with Marga, who, in her defense, wasn’t yet running on all cylinders:
Marga: What did you do when you got up so early this morning?
Erik: Watch TV.
Marga: Anything interesting?
Erik: El Papa.
Marga: Which papa?
Erik: How many are there?
I’ll always remember something that I learned in my high school Spanish class. In Latin America, the word for “the potato” is la papa (here it’s “la patata“), and the word for “the Pope” is “el Papa”. When my teacher taught us the word for potato, she warned us that it was very important to get the gender of the article correct so as not to insult the Catholics talking about “fried popes” or “pealing a pope”. Good stuff.
Right, so anyway, if you’re ever in Europe on January 1, be sure to check out the Vienna Philharmonic New Years concert on television. It’s worth it.
Now, on to the pictures… (more…)