A weekend in the Vienna State Opera



I don’t know about you but I REALLY struggle with repetitive tasks. I quit the gym mid-workout (3 sets of 12 reps of bicep curls or something equally boring – no muscles are worth it!), I quit piano lessons when I was kid (scales for a WHOLE hour on a sunny day), and spectacularly quit German class (rote learning articles – UGH!). I love variety and crave new experiences. Luckily, in the Vienna State Opera, variety is guaranteed, no two days are ever the same. Here are some highlights from the weekend: 

Friday night – Tosca

This Opera by Puccini is one of the most popular and it’s a wonderful experience for us Extras. It’s by far the oldest production in the house (I think it premiered in the 1950s) and it’s been performed over 1500 times in Vienna. The music is so beautiful, with stunning arias, and this production is a very traditional version. 

We turn up at 7pm, change into our costumes, in my case (I’m pretty sure) a Cardinal’s robes. We gather side stage and approximately 60 of us dressed as Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, line-up side-stage waiting for the Auftrit (the call). We then walk 2-by-2 in a procession across the stage to hauntingly beautiful sounds. Total time on the stage is approximately 20 seconds! Back to the Garderobe, change back into normal clothes and we’re done. Short and sweet! 

Saturday night – Wozzeck

This could not be more opposite to Tosca. This is an Opera with almost no melody. It’s all klangs and plinks and screeches. The lead character is losing his mind. The production is new and modern, with booze, drugs, debauchery. The stage is constantly rotating with a new scene every couple of minutes. For the Extras it’s a huge challenge as we must play several roles and change quickly in between. On Saturday I was called at the last minute to watch it from side-stage so that I can play the roles on Wednesday. Here are my roles: 

Scene 1 – Get murdered in a Barber’s chair. This is one of my worst recurring nightmares from my childhood when my crazy parents let me watch a gangster movie too young. Now it must be played out on stage. Blood goes everywhere! 

Scene 2 – Quick change into a policeman’s uniform. Drink a beer next a wurstelstand. This is more like a dream! (I admit that I immediately ate a sausage from a wurstel stand afterwards). 

Scene 3 – Get naked (almost) in a changing room scene. I have to wear a pair of Speedos and sit in a changing room chatting with other gym-goers. Obviously this required some serious acting to hide my disdain for the gym! 

Scene 4 – Back into policeman’s uniform, flashlight in hand, and search the undergrowth for a body. 

All of this happens in a moment. The whole Opera is done in 1hr 40mins. It’s exciting, challenging, fun, and I absolutely can’t wait to play in it. THIS is what keeps me coming back to the opera. It gives me such a feeling of energy and joy when work has variety, this is what I love about my job as an Extra. 

It got me thinking about the bigger picture of what work means. For me, this whole Opera experience is exciting and stimulating, for others it might all sound completely bonkers and awful. When I was in my early-work-career I used to worry that there was something wrong with me because I had jobs that relied on being consistent, doing something the same day after day, week after week. If I just do X every day by the end of the year I will get a good bonus. I couldn’t motivate myself through the mundane mind-numbing sameness of the experience. Now, I know that I was just in the wrong job. Knowing ourselves is the best way to work happiness. Sometimes we just need a little reminder of who we are. 

So, where do you sit on the “more of the same please” vs “always seeking new experiences spectrum”?l

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe today

Changing your story

Sign-up to my newsletter to be informed about my up-coming free webinar about changing our stories as well as soon-to-be-launched onlines workshops and programs about Purpose, Connection, Belonging, and finding work you love