(NB: Written yesterday, posted today from my room back in Paris, after an unbelievably long day of travels!)
Today’s big news was my audition this morning. I thought I sang very well, but the audition itself was rather odd. I started with “Deh vieni,” because the company is doing Le Nozze di Figaro this summer, and also because I had a sudden crisis of confidence over my aria from Der Freischütz. I was concerned about the high note at the end, and at the last moment I decided I didn’t want them to hear that. If they asked for it, fine, but I thought I’d better put my best foot forward. (“It’s an expression, your highness…”)
Anyway, I got there and I was the only person waiting to audition who was not speaking rapid fire German. Luckily, I realized a few days ago that I was going to have to introduce myself and my audition selection in German, so I planned it out. I sat in the hallway for about half an hour listening to Gräfin after Gräfin (that’s Countess) sing “Dove sono,” and then it was my turn. I got up onstage, smiled and said, “Ich heisse Anne, mein Nummer ist sechzig [because they had assigned us numbers as well) und ich werde ‘Deh vieni non tardar’ singen.” And I did, and it went really well. I was pleased with the sound I was making, especially since I had heard somebody sing it earlier in the morning with rather a lack of nuance. I finished the aria, and they asked a question in extremely swift German that I had to assume was “What else did you bring?” (Really, I was just flattered that they heard me say my little speech and didn’t automatically think I was a fraud!). So I told them, and then the woman behind the desk said, “Und sonst?” Which I now know means something like “What else?”, but the audition instructions said to bring two arias, so I was flustered. I asked her if she spoke English, which I’m now thinking might be a kind of impolite way to ask somebody to translate, but my German is definitely not good enough to stand up under pressure. She did translate, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I had brought my aria book instead of a binder with two arias in it. But they didn’t ask to hear another piece. So who knows? I guess they heard everything they needed to hear from my “Deh vieni.” Then I walked back to my pension in the rain.
After that, I said to myself, “Self, you deserve coffee and cake, but first you really need to go buy yourself a new book.” I knew I had seen a bookstore on the Kärntenstrasse, so I went back and bought Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot for 12.70, which is a little steep for a book I could probably get at the library, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Having bought my book (and also a bag of raw almonds and a couple of apples at the supermarket, for later), I wandered off to find the Naschmarkt, where I’m told there is really great falafel.
But I just couldn’t find it. It wasn’t where I thought it was supposed to be (which was, as it turns out, the wrong place anyway). I walked and walked and walked, and then I got on a tram and watched things go by for a few minutes, and when I didn’t see anything resembling a market, I got on the tram going the other direction. I was cranky. Finally I turned on Am Heumarkt because I remembered that my friend Derek had recommended the Kaiserschmarrn at the Stadtpark Bräu, his favorite restaurant in Vienna. And he did not lead me astray.
See, I’ve finally gotten hip to the tricks of vacation eating. I frequently—and not just on vacation—realize too late that I would have been happier with about a fraction of what I just ate, or with only one course. I do tend to get to dessert and go, well, I could have just had that and skipped dinner. Today at the Stadtpark Bräu, I knew that eventually I was going to want Kaiserschmarrn, but that I would feel stupid not having real food first. So I had a small bowl of beef broth with boiled beef, vegetables and noodles, and it was delicious and warming (and not a moment too soon, because while I was eating it, the skies opened and shot down hail on Vienna, and then great big snowflakes that decidedly stayed on my nose, eyelashes, coat and jeans).
Since I wasn’t going outside any time soon after that, I decided to wait a while before my dessert. Fifty pages of Jeffrey Eugenides later, I ordered a coffee and Kaiserschmarrn, which looks like this:
It’s a cut-up raisin-studded pancake with stewed plums, and you pour the stewed plums all over the pancakes so they get soaked through. This may be the best cold weather comfort food I have ever encountered.
As you can see, I did not enjoy this at all.
Clearly a nap was in order at this point, and as it was snowing and my left foot was in some inexplicable pain, I hopped on the train. Ten minutes later I was at my pension and conked out. I let myself stay in my room for a while after that. After all, this is my trip to Vienna and I’ll sit in my pension for as long as I like! Then I had an apple and some almonds for “dinner” (saving up for big Sachertorte plans later!) and went to the movies. I had noticed an artsy-fartsy movie theater near the Karlskirche that was playing Meek’s Crossing, a movie about the Oregon Trail that I had wanted to see when it came out in 2010, but which never made it to a theater near me. I liked it, but I will admit that every time they drank water, my brain was shouting, don’t do it, you’ll get cholera, and when one of the guys was like, “Oh no, broken axle” I wanted to tell him to use the spare that you bought at the general store in Independence! The opening scene showed the characters and their wagons fording a river, and I almost giggled. I wonder what kind of reference point—if any—the Austrians in the audience had for the Oregon Trail.
After the movie, I headed to the Sacher Café for Sachertorte, which is a very famous rich chocolate cake with orange, I think, or could it be orange liqueur? Is that Grand Marnier? I’ll have to look it up. Anyway, it was delicious, and it came with real whipped cream.
I walked all the back to my pension to get some air, and it started snowing again. It was really pretty magical, what with the lights and the stores and St. Stephen’s and the cobblestones.
(Not St. Stephen’s, but the Karlskirche, which was so gorgeous after the movie that I had to take a picture.)
P.S. I know almost no songs about Vienna, so have a quote about a waltz!
ETA: I really very much liked Vienna. Here’s the Danube, which, as Bill Bryson points out, is not blue at all, but which was looking quite blue this morning because the sky was blue!