Opera: The State Opera, which traditionally opens in early fall, starts this year Dec. 14. The main stage has been under renovation for months, with engineers preparing a new hydraulic system. The opening promises much: The first night of Richard Strauss' "Elektra" features mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig, in her farewell performances. The second evening, tenor Jose Carreras appears in the premiere of a new production of Giordano's "Fedora." For ticket information, call from the United States: tel. 011-43-1-51444-2959 or 2960, or fax 011-43-1-51444-2969.
Alternatives for opera lovers: The Volksoper, Vienna's second opera house, offers performances of "La Boheme," "Die lustige Witwe" ("The Merry Widow") and "Arabian Nights," among others. Information is available at the above number. Also, the Vienna Kammeroper specializes in contemporary and historical chamber opera, and performs every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday evening; tel. 011-43-1-513-6072.
Symphony: On New Year's Day, the Vienna Philharmonic performs its annual Johann Strauss concert, conducted this year by Zubin Mehta. Tickets are impossible to get legitimately, but visitors may also consider concerts at the Konzerthaus (Beethoven's 9th Symphony by the Weiner Symphoniker on Dec. 30 and 31) and the New Year's Concert of the Wiener Hofburg Orchestra; tel. 011-43-1-712-1211. Other musical events of note: the Ninth Vienna Mozart Festival at the Konzerthaus, now to Dec. 22, and the Haydn Festival at the Musikverein, March 5-12.
Balls: Yes, the balls, where the star is the waltz. The most prestigious is the Vienna Opera Ball, a giant all-night party, attended by 4,000-5,000 ticket-holders, including royalty and high-profile people from all over Europe. This year the ball is on Feb. 23--bring gowns and tails. Do not despair if tickets are gone--about 300 balls take place in the city between New Year's and mid-March, and the public is invited to most of them. There's the Philharmonic Ball on Jan. 19, the Physicians' Ball on Jan. 28 and a Magicians' Ball for Children on Feb. 26. The Austrian Tourist Office in Los Angeles has information.
Events come and go, but Vienna's musical legacy is permanent. A traveler could spend days contemplating the history of music and walking in the footsteps of great composers. From the 18th Century--Haydn, Brahms, Mozart and others--through the waltz and the Strausses, to Arnold Schoenberg and the "New School" of Viennese music, one might easily spend a lifetime studying the way music intertwines with daily life here.
A good place to begin is at the end, so to speak: the Central Cemetery. The Viennese, it is said, spend an inordinate amount of time reflecting on death, and planning for the end. A \o7 schone Leiche\f7 , or beautiful funeral, is what a Viennese saves for: The idea is to achieve the kind of grandeur in death that was so elusive during life.
The Central Cemetery--the \o7 Zentralfriedhof--\f7 in the 11th District takes up an extraordinary 495 acres, but it is only a small section--Grove 32A, the \o7 Musiker\f7 section--that is the final resting place of giants. Here is the Rodin-esque tombstone of Brahms, with the composer resting his head on his hands; the marker to Beethoven, embellished with a golden harp and butterfly; the tombs of Johann Strauss and his wife, Adele; the graves of Schubert, Gluck, von Suppe, Josef Lanner and Hugo Wolf. It is a touching place.
There is no grave for Austria's honored composer, Mozart, although there is a memorial to him in the Central Cemetery. Mozart died at the age of 37, impoverished and alone. There is a statue and plaque in the St. Marx Cemetery in the 3rd District over what may be his grave, but no one knows for sure where he lies.
If music is the soul of Vienna, Mozart is the essence of the music. His fluency in composition and interpretation are legend, and his work was prodigious. So were his homes: He had 13 addresses in Vienna.
Viewing Milos Forman's film "Amadeus" is good preparation for seeking out Mozart in Vienna (even though it was filmed in Prague). The obligatory first stop is the Mozart House, or \o7 Figarohaus\f7 , at Domgasse 5, very close to St. Stephen's. In this small apartment, where Mozart spent only three years, he composed "Le Nozze di Figaro," 12 quintets, four quartets, three sonatas for piano and two for violin, and a fantasy in C minor. Mozart here received Haydn and Beethoven as visitors. The reconstructed building is now a seven-room museum.
There is a wealth of Mozartiana in Vienna. At Rauhensteingasse 8 is the site of Mozart's "death house," his 13th address in Vienna where he wrote "Die Zauberflote" ("The Magic Flute") and Requiem and where he died Dec. 5, 1791. The avid Mozart lover also should not neglect Schonbrunn Palace, a short subway ride from the city center, to visit the concert room where the child prodigy, at the age of 6, astonished Empress Maria Theresa with his piano playing.