Salzburg is one of those places where beauty doesn’t fade. She only becomes more lovely with age.
And so, tonight is just like any other night except my dear friend and I have tickets to La Bohème at the Festspielhaus and there’s a full moon rising. Even though we’re dressed for the opera, that doesn’t stop us from riding our bikes along the Salzach River into the city. For a change, we’re not late.
For decades, the opera world has lamented its declining public, that the up and coming youth have resisted this musical medium inherited from their powdered wig forefathers. So what to do about this has been an ongoing discussion at many opera houses around the world. Fret no more. This most recent adaptation of La Bohème incorporates cool and beautiful video backdrops, artfully blended into background scenes. Mesmerizing and captivating. Beautiful and daring. A Bull’s Eye for anyone 13 and up. No daydreaming here and gazing off, hoping for the end to come sooner. The company fettFilm who created the digital eye candy are the quiet stars of this performance.
We left the opera sniffling, dabbing our eyes with tissues, as did a lot of other women in our balcony section. I’ve never shed tears at the opera before, but Giacomo Puccini said himself he wanted to make the world weep with La Bohème and tonight, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, the director of the Salzburg State Theater kept that promise to those in attendance.
With our heart strings passionately plucked and humming, we alight into the moonlit city. Its fresh but not cold. Bustling by day, Salzburg’s Old City district is quiet now and the perfect time to explore her opulence, sheer dramatic scale and architectural beauty. She looks like a baroque wedding cake with sumptuous tiers and decadent layers of frosting facades, sugary spires, decadent curves and softness. Yes, all that but with Austrian precision and cleanliness. If Alice in Wonderland had a favorite city, Salzburg it would be.
We leave Max-Reinhardt-Platz on bikes leaving Erwin Wurm’s green Gurken behind. We ride past St. Peter’s Abbey, through the vaulted tunnel on the right is the oldest restaurant in the world (803), and a personal favorite. I ordered a pigeon (squab) dish there once with my dad. Bizarre, the things we remember.
The moon shines like a bride beneath her gauze veil over Salzburg Cathedral. Don’t let the Baroque architecture fool you, the crypt below protects the Roman remnants and parts of the original building. From here we steer left through the archway to Residenzplatz where the horse and carriages are lined up during the day. To the right, our favorite fountain onto Mozartplatz and past his friendly statue, then along the Kai Gasse and around to Kapitalplatz where the moon sits on top of HohenSalzburg storming the castle walls with iridescent light. It’s so heartbreakingly beautiful, nothing short of an operatic scene—enough emotional gravitas to shed tears all over again.
If you don’t think you have a poet’s soul, Salzburg might loan you one during your stay. It should be on every romantic’s bucket list. It helps to visit on a full moon after the opera.