Puppets Singing Mozart – The Salzburger Marionettentheater

My hostel in Innsbruck was easily the worst I’ve ever had the misfortune to stay in. I won’t subject you to a whole ranting post about it, but suffice it to say… It had bedbugs. My bed had bedbugs. After two nights, my shoulders and legs were covered with some two-dozen huge red bites that itched like crazy. I still can’t really wear shorts or tank tops in public, because it looks like I have some horrific rash…

So after the trials of Innsbruck, I really, really needed a break. Unfortunately, I saw almost nothing of Salzburg but the inside of the laundromat where I washed every article of clothing I own, including my purse and my whole backpack. Bedbugs spread because their eggs stick to anything that comes in contact with them, like, I don’t know, my pajamas, lots of my clothes, my bra, my underwear, my purse, my jacket, my fleece… I had to purge everything before my skin would stop crawling at the thought…

But one thing I did catch in Salzburg was an all-puppet version of Die Zauberfl├Âte at the Salzburg Marionette Theater.

The famousest aria of them all! The Queen of the Night II, performed by a puppet!

And one of my favorite duets, between Papageno and Papagena. Papageno gives Papagena until the count of three to appear, and when she doesn’t, he tries to hang himself. But before he does, the three spirits stop him and produce his Papagena!

Unfortunately, this was not an all-out musical production of The Magic Flute. I’m almost positive that everything, including the dialogue, was prerecorded and that the only performing going on was the puppeteering. But they did a great job! Of course it can’t be completely realistic, but the number of body parts that they manage to manipulate is amazing, down to the characters’ eyebrows!

The puppet-crew at curtain call. The whole thing was done by only five puppeteers!

There’s a lot more to do in Salzburg than I had time or energy for – Mozart’s house, a castle, a palace, a cathedral, many theaters and concert halls, and of course the obligatory Sound of Music tours, but all that will have to wait for next time! And there will definitely be a next time. ­čÖé
Oh, and speaking of trippy fantasy plots and singing puppets… these two videos from Labyrinth. That’s all!


The Real Gondoliers of Venice

The one thing probably EVERYONE knows about Venice is about the Gondoliers. Well I can tell you, they do in fact exist!

I didn’t take a gondola ride myself, because even the cheapest were 80 euros, but plenty of gullible┬áromantic tourists opt for the typical Venetian experience, which means that lots of cheapskate┬ásingle skeptical tourists get to stand on the canal bridges and watch the show!

They’re a special breed of guy – maybe it comes from wearing a costume all day, particularly one that involves tight pants and muscle-hugging shirts… And of course the adorable hats to complete the ensemble.

I swear this isn’t posed. They really were just standing like this…

The prices for gondola rides start at around 80 euro, and go about as high as you’re willing to pay. The basic ride for two would be one of these guys silently pushing you around the canals in a long black boat for a half hour. But gondola rides are like cars, where you can keep adding luxury features. Or like salads, where you can keep adding toppings (75 cents for veggies, 25 cents extra dressing, $1.00 for avocado or toasted almonds, $3.00 for a piece of grilled chicken or salmon… etc.) For instance, you’re gondolier can sing to you. Ka-ching. Or there can be another guy in the boat playing the accordion. Ka-ching. Or your gondola could have a sun-roof and red and gold velvet cushions upon which you and your┬álover husband recline and sip champagne while you feed each other fresh Adriatic oysters… Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.

(That song, by the way, is a Neapolitan tarantella. In case you ever need to bust out that trivium at a cocktail party.)

One of the more pimped-out gondolas

And the gondolieri aren’t bad singers, either. Venetians are generally good at music, I’ve found. Unfortunately, I don’t have a video of an actual singing gondolier (ran out of room on my memory card… darn), but here instead is a picture of some Venetian opera singers singing a duet from Don Giovanni:

They were singing “La ci darem la mano.” Super cute. For your own edification, watch this version with Bryn Terfel. It’s the closest Mozart ever gets to soft-core pornography. It should be pretty obvious, but… the duet is about him seducing her. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqPcb1nKZYg

And yes, the chamber ensemble is decked-out in 18th century costume as well.

I will remember Venice fondly, for sure. Not the exhausting heat and the soul-sucking crowds, but the costumes and the music and the novelty of the canals, which really are as beautiful as everyone says!