National Geographic : 1968 Jun
years, between 1781 and 1828, by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. Through the city's ups and downs, extraordinary en thusiasm for music has survived. Where but in Vienna-and I have this on excellent au thority-would Soviet Intelligence try to make friends and influence junior officials by offering them good seats at the opera? American Singers Flourish in Vienna The Opera! We lived just across from it, in the Hotel Sacher, and I wished I could have lived right in it. Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro, Tannhiuser-whether I found it su perb or just passable, I felt happy there as soon as I sat down. When the Vienna State Opera House was finished 99 years ago, the Viennese criticized it so ruthlessly that one architect hanged him self. Thereupon the other died of the shock. The Viennese often criticize something before they take it to heart. On March 12, 1945, American bombers struck at refineries and rail yards across the Danube; some of their bombs hit the opera, leaving it a burned-out shell. All Vienna cele brated when it reopened, its exterior restored to look exactly as before. Americans now outnumber all other for eigners in the boxes, and quite a few Ameri cans can be found behind the footlights too. Hofrat E. A. Schneider, who looks after the artists, named some for me with fatherly pride. From St. Louis, Felicia Weathers and Grace Bumbry. From Detroit and from Gates ville, Texas, respectively, Robert Kerns and William Blankenship. Hofrat Schneidercalled them Bobby and Blanky. "And we've had Lenny Bernstein conduct Falstaff. Next sea son he'll do Rosenkavalier." Hofrat Schneider went on: "Some singers say that what we here call an A is in fact pitched higher, that our C is really C sharp. The fact is that in our house the sound seems brighter than elsewhere, perhaps because of our orchestra. The Vienna Philharmonic, you know. I can't define their style. Others may play with more precision but none have their spirit, their heart .... " Or their timbre, their tone. At Philharmonic headquarters I consulted Professor Walter Barylli, the orchestra's president and one of its concertmasters. "We aim for the calm and clear," he said. "That's the Vienna sound, unmistakable in the softness of the strings. Or the timbre of the brass. Our French horns, for instance, have uncommonly large bores. That makes them sound fuller, more like the original hunting horn. It makes them harder to play, with more chance of amiss; this strains the players' nerves, but it's worth it." Professor Barylli took me downstairs into the great Musikvereinssaal, a dazzle of carv ing and gilding believed by many a conductor to produce the finest acoustics in the world. Crash! Thunder! Earthquake! The gilded ladies holding up the architrave seemed to shake. It was Maestro Bernstein, in slacks and sweater, rehearsing Mahler's Second Symphony-"The Resurrection." Bernstein came off the podium and wiped his face on a towel, exhausted and happy. "This orchestra, I just love it," he said. "We are very very far behind in rehearsals, but we'll make it." It was Vienna's most eagerly awaited program of the season. Modern art adorns classical crystal at Lobmeyr, one of the city's fine glassmaking firms. Using 50 different copper engraving wheels, a skilled Glasgraveurmeister will spend about 400 hours executing this fanci ful portrait by Wolfgang Hutter, a leading painter of Vienna's School of Fantastical Realism. Price of the finished vase: $1,600. KODACHROME BYJOHN LAUNOIS,BLACKSTAR© N.G.S .