Dreams of the Vienna Woods

How can a place signify so much if you’ve never been there?  But when we look forward to a promised land –whether it’s America for the immigrant, Mecca or Jerusalem for the pilgrim, or just a personal utopia—it’s a mental landscape more special perhaps if one hasn’t been there.

The Vienna Woods are an ideal place with a different meaning to the locals than to those of us who have never been there. I’m finding that they have a particular lure right now.

There’s a Johann Strauss Jr waltz from 1868 titled Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald or in other words Tales from the Vienna Woods  

Cynthia Ashperger, Director of the Ryerson Theatre School Acting Program

Ödön von Horvath’s play Tales from the Vienna Woods?  It premiered in 1931, with Strauss Jr & assorted other waltzes as a big part of his cultural subtext.  I’m  blushing that I didn’t know von Horvath, a playwright who deserves to be better known.

Among his many titles is Figaro Lasst Sich Scheiden or Figaro Gets a Divorce, a play that (inevitably?) was adapted as an opera in the 1960s.

And so it shouldn’t be surprising that Tales from the Vienna Woods has also become an opera.  HK Gruber’s new adaptation premiered in the summer of 2014 based on  von Horvath’s play, receiving glowing reviews, and likely will be seen again, at least in Germany in 2016, and (if the reviews are any indication) will likely be heard all over the world thereafter.

Ryerson Theatre program will be staging von Horvath’s play early in 2015, directed by Cynthia Ashperger.

I’m the Music Director on the Ryerson production, which means my current task is assembling the dozen or so songs mentioned in the script, whether that means finding them in the library or—if they’re not to be found— transcribing them. Next week we begin rehearsing the gifted young actors at Ryerson.

We’re doing it in English.

I was just listening to “Wien Wien nur du allein”.

In translation that becomes “Vienna, you alone”.

I must apologize for concerts or performances I’ll miss.  But between Remembrance Day Service at Hillcrest playing the organ (Sunday) and wandering musically & otherwise in von Horvath’s Forest, I’ll have to miss a few things I would normally attend.


This entry was posted in Dance, theatre & musicals, Music and musicology, University life. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Dreams of the Vienna Woods

  1. Tales from Vienna Woods is my very favourite play…except for The Three Sisters…What a genius Von Horvath is/was. He died too young, struck by lightning on Champs Elysees as a refugee. Hitler chased him out. To write about the rise of Fascism in 1931 with such accuracy, keen sense of time, place, the people. Enormous depth and substance and yet with much compassion for the people of Vienna…and Austria. Great sense of humour also. His choices of songs are just perfect too.

  2. Pingback: Songs of Love and War | barczablog

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