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Operas and symphonies

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st louis mo
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Operas and symphonies

Musical Tour of Europe

For our 50th anniversary my wife and I decided to take a 2-week trip to Europe to see some of the famous opera and symphony venues in Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Milan. On our “bucket lists” were the Berliner Philharmoniker and La Scala. Our anniversary is on Nov. 22 and were planning to go the last 2 weeks of November, but quickly found out that we would have to change that timing since the Berlin Phil would be on tour and La Scala would be between seasons.

We always plan our trips months in advance and usually we don’t have to plan too far ahead for our anniversary trips, being that they are in November the low travel season. What we quickly found out was that, though it was low season for tourists it is high season for local music lovers.

Our itinerary ended up as Paris for the operas Bastille and Garnier, Berlin for the Philamoniker, Operas Deutsche Oper and Staatsoper , Vienna for Staatsoper , Volksoper and the symphony at Musikverein, Milan for La Scala. The schedule was hard to set early since when we first started planning several of the season schedules had not been published yet.

Purchasing the tickets to get the best possible seats was challenging and several times meant getting up at 1 AM St Louis time to get in queue on line when the tickets were available for sale to the general public. Generally, we were very satisfied with the tickets with the exception of the seats at LaScala which were not only the priciest but also the most scarce. Although we were able to get front row box seats, the box was on the side and so had limited visibility. Any disappointment we had was more than offset by a wonderful performance of Rigoletto. The folks at the ticket office did explain that many season ticket holders had subscribed to this particular performance.

We ended up with 9 events in 13 days. With this ambitious schedule we decided to fly rather than train between cities. We were very happy with Air Berlin flights which all took about one hour versus 8-10 hours by rail, and at half the cost. Flying gave us more time to settle into the new hotel and go to a concert if we chose.

Our hotels were selected after using the reviews in Trip Advisor. Here again, although it was low season, rooms at some of the smaller hotels were hard to find. What we didn’t know was that the week before Armistice Day Nov. 11 is a holiday for many in Paris. (An hour wait to get into the D’Orsay was our first clue.) Since all the venues were in the central city we chose hotels that were close and provided us with the opportunity to walk if we wanted to. A word of caution, get a good street map like the laminated Streetwise maps. We got lost walking to the Bastille Opera house and were late. We thought we would use taxis most of the time but because of our proximity to the various subway lines and the street traffic we used the subways many times.

All the hotels lived up to their recommendations: Hotel Paris France, mittendrin in Berlin, Hotel am Stephanplatz in Vienna, and Hotel Berna in Milan. We booked directly with the hotels except for Vienna where we found a good deal on Expedia. On average our price per night was about $200. Since most of our events started at 7 or 7:30 we were not able to eat in restaurants, but found the cafes and brasseries recommended by our hotels to be very good and saved us a little money.

In summary all the venues were special, from the magnificent La Scala to the sound perfect Berliner Philharmoniker. Our expectations were very high and with few exceptions they were met. We were disappointed in the modern ballet at Garnier as was most of the Parisian audience. On the other hand we loved the comical, almost slapstick, presentation of the Barber of Seville at Deutsche Oper and completely blown away by the Vienna Ballet’s Carmina Burana and particularly Bolero at the Volksoper.

We were not sure of the dress for the various venues so we opted for suit and tie for me and comparable suit/dress for my wife. Better than half of all the audiences were dress that way or at least business casual. Whatever you wear go to see some of these wonderful places and hear some amazing music.

Island of Hawaii...
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1. Re: Operas and symphonies

Hi, would you share the number of your box at La Scala? I've sat in the first row of near-centre boxes, and lateral boxes in Rome and Catania. The view from the lateral boxes was 80%. In Catania, the Italians in the second row were polite, they stayed where they were. But in Rome, the people in the 2nd row (first timers to the opera) would push their chairs to the front asking to share the view. It was uncomfortable.

For La Scala, the front row seats are 252 Euros, more than what I'm willing to pay. I'm thinking of buying the 2nd row seat, and I know I don't have the guts to push my chair forward.

I would like to know your experience sitting in the 2nd row. Which box? How partial was the view, 30%, 50%? Who were the people sitting in the first row? Locals or tourists?

Thanks.

Vienna, Austria
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2. Re: Operas and symphonies

vteotl, have you tried that tool from La Scala's website:

teatroallascala.org/includes/…EN_Palchi.html

For the galleries seats, it's very accurate.

Island of Hawaii...
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3. Re: Operas and symphonies

Thank you Nemorino. That link is helpful.

I just realized I'd forgotten to include my most important question: are the rows on steps? that is, are the 2nd rows higher than the 1st, and the 3rd higher than the 2nd? or, is the floor flat, one level?

Vienna, Austria
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4. Re: Operas and symphonies

I'm afraid I've only had seats in the galleries and in the stalls so far. Back home in Vienna, I absolutely try to avoid the seats in the 2nd and 3rd rows of boxes. Not only because there is almost always a restricted view of some kind (and we do have somewhat elevated seats in the 2nd and 3rd rows here), but because the acoustics are much worse than in the stalls and on the galleries. Given that the boxes in Milan are even narrower than in Vienna (only two seats in 1st row as opposed to three here), I suspect that the rear seats in boxes are particularly bad value at La Scala as compared to gallery tickets. In Vienna, most seats in the 2nd and 3rd rows of boxes are in the cheapest price categories and explicitely sold as "restricted view". I think I even remember reading some reviews of La Scala here on TA where patrons complained about their back-row seats in the boxes.

st louis mo
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5. Re: Operas and symphonies

I had the same question about some of the venues we went to. The answer is yes the rows of seats do increase in height. If you look at the home page for the theater one of the pictures is from stage to the a seats. I think you can see it from that.

http://www.teatroallascala.org/en/index.html

Toronto, Canada
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6. Re: Operas and symphonies

Yes, avoid the boxes along the side unless you have front row. I had a 2nd row seat on the right side of a stage right box and my view was completely obscured. However, at intermission, one of the other people in the box discovered that they were re-assigning 'no- show' seats so the three of us who were in the 2nd row were able to move to the orchestra for the remainder of the performance.

st louis mo
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7. Re: Operas and symphonies

We sat in box 6 in the first 2 chairs.. there is not room for the chairs behind to get closer. The people in those chairs had to stand to see anything. We could see all but the left third of the stage.(unfortunately the final scene was there) I think if you are in the boxes you should be in least box 9 to get a good view. The web site teatroallascala.org/includes/…EN_Palchi.html

gives a good view from all the seats. I decided early on that I would pay for the best seats, but unfortunately for the night we went there wasn't much available.

I would try for the stalls, the chairs in the boxes aren't that comfortable , although the LaScala seats are a lot more comfortable than Garnier in Paris or vienna staatsoper.

Island of Hawaii...
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8. Re: Operas and symphonies

Thank you to all your detailed descriptions. It's good to know that there's no room for chairs from behind to squeeze closer to the front.

I've come to a decision,(I think), based on your responses and the following:

The link in post #2, the views from the 2nd and 3rd rows do not seem terribly bad, BUT that is taken without anyone sitting in the first row blocking the view.

I've read many of the reviews on TA, and I don't want to stand for the entire length of the opera.

My initial thought was to go to the gallery, but that means queuing at 10 am in the morning, and then again at 5 pm, with no quarantee. I'm reluctant to spend 252 Euros.

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES that there'll be empty seats in Feb, and I may get reassigned, as margjm mentioned in post#6??

I've been staying up to do trial runs to purchase tickets the day they're released. As mentioned by other TA members, hundreds of tickets are sold within the first 30 mins, probably to resellers. However, for Falstaff, which has been on sale for more than a week now, hundreds of tickets are still available. It's strange. I was / am going to the next one, Nabucco.

Now, I'm leaning towards not going to La Scala, and be happy going to La Fenice and two others in Prague.

Re La Fenice, I'm surprised that the best seats (centre, first row, in every section) are still available for La Boheme. I was told that there aren't many subscribers in Venice, and after Carnevale, there aren't many tourists.

Vienna, Austria
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9. Re: Operas and symphonies

vteotl, many seats on the galleries are sold just like all the other seats by internet and telephone, only the 140 worst seats in the last rows are sold on the day of the performance.

The seats in the first row of the galleries, especially in the centre are excellent and much better deals than those in the rear of the boxes.

I suggest you try your luck when sale starts and go for the best gallery seats you can get.

10. Re: Operas and symphonies

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