Orchester Wiedikon Concert

IMG_5891The Wiedikon Orchestra has wound down the year with our second of two concerts. Because our conductor also leads a choir in Wettingen (not very far outside of Zürich), he wanted to perform a joint concert with the orchestra and choir. He chose a very fun mass called Misa a Buenos Aires by Palmeri which contains an accordion-like instrument called a bandolino.

You can listen to it on this youtube video (another group performing), and even if you only hear the first few minutes of it, you get the idea of style of music. It has been very fun playing this piece.

In addition to the mass, the orchestra performed five short pieces by Piazzola, an Argentinian tango composer.

To make things all even-Steven, we performed the first concert in Wettingen in St. Anton’s Church, a very modern Catholic church which is light and airy.

The next performance, on Friday night, will be in St. Peter’s in Zürich.

Of course, now that the year is winding down, I am feeling the most comfortable with this great group of people. My language skills are better, and I have gotten to know some of them enough to really miss them. Isn’t that always how it goes?


Zürich Opera House Tour

It’s hard to miss the Zürich Opera IMG_1195House. One has unobstructed views of it from Sechseläutenplatz or from the lake. Of the grand World Opera Houses, this one is the smallest, seating around 1,100.

This particular building was constructed in 1890-91 on the same spot where the previous theater had burned to the ground in 1889 on New Year’s Eve. Until 1964 it was called the Stadttheater (City Theater), and even though it is the opera house, it showcases ballet, theater, and concerts, as well, with over 340 events per year.

The foyer is a bright rococo and though it looks expensive, the statues are plaster, and the marble on the walls is painted on.

The theater itself is lovely, and we got this view from the stage (skirting the many people working).

On the day of our tour, we saw many, many people working throughout the building, on stage, in the props room, costumes, making us a rather intrusive group, but the people there seemed to think this was pretty usual.

Here is the hat-making room


We were not allowed to photograph anything relating to an upcoming show, but in the costume room (where women were sewing by hand and machine for the 300 costumes required for each opera), but I took this photo of a collage of a past show.


This young woman was just finishing up her apprenticeship in the furniture department. It’s tough work!


Some of the props in a hallway


You can’t even begin to imagine all the shoes! In fact, there are so many costumes that they store many of them off-site, and once a year or so they have a sale to make room for more costumes.


After seeing what it takes to create a production, one begins to understand why tickets cost so much.

Toi, toi, toi! (Pronounced “toy”) Means Good Luck before a show.


Free Day of Transportation: One in a Million

I was not the only person in this canton who noticed this promotion: Am 31. Mai gibt es nur eine Zone: die Gratiszone. On Sunday the ZVV (Züricher Verkehrsverbund) celebrated its 25th anniversary of cooperation between trams, trains, ships, and other assorted transport like funiculars and gondolas) by giving everyone free transportation within the ZVV Zone (mostly the canton of Zürich).

20 Minuten reported that more than one million people took advantage of this amazing offer. This photo from the paper shows an enormous line at the dock where a record number of people took the boats in one day, and they waited in long lines.

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So, what did I do with my free pass? I went to an orchestra rehearsal in Wettingen. Wettingen is just a few stops over the border in canton Aargau, but it shares a Z-Pass privilege with the ZVV, and from what I could tell on the website, it was part of the deal. I assume one had to start in the Zürich zone.

I boarded an S-train (the commuter lines) with four other violinists from our orchestra. We had a little conversation about whether or not we had to buy a ticket for the last three stops, and I mentioned that the website said we were good to go. They weren’t sure, but no controller came on board, so I only had to wonder if I had to buy a ticket to return home.

The question ended up being moot since one of the other violinists who lives near me gave several of us a ride IN A CAR back to the city.

It was a completely different feeling of being on the streets in a car which is bound by traffic rules and can’t just go where you want. No straight line from A to B, and much discussion about how one could get from here to there.

The orchestra is performing a piece with a choir, and we were invited to rehearse with them at their place. Here is the church where we practiced.


Revering Famous Czechs

IMG_0939Our son-in-law has a favorite composer, and that would be Dvořák. His choice has much to do with the fact that he plays the cello. Dvořák’s melodies for low strings are especially lush and beautiful.

He thought we might want to visit the Dvořák museum until we read about it and decided against going into a building that houses mostly documents. Dvořák’s birth home was far away and not much of a reason to travel to it. We looked at various concerts available, but none seemed to be what we wanted.

Next best thing? Go pay a visit to the composer himself. He is conveniently buried in the old Vyšehrad Cemetery near the river. His grave is prominent with his bust being a work of art by Ladislav Saloun, the art-nouveau sculptor who created the Jan Hus monument in the Old Town Square.


Also in the cemetery is Smetena’s grave. Later we learned that Alfonse Mucha was also there, but we missed him. Another reason to return to Prague.


As we wandered through the beautiful setting, I noticed a very common name among the inhabitants – Rodina. I mentioned this to the kids, and they smiled and said, “Oh, that means Family.” I wondered if they knew that already, but, no, they had looked it up since they, too had noticed the number of times this name appeared. I told them they might want to name their first daughter Rodina. ; )

An interesting feature of most of the gravestones in this cemetery was the way the dates were engraved. The month and day looked like a fraction set between the first and last two numbers of the year.


Last time we missed the Kafka Museum, and we all agreed we’d be up for a look-see. IMG_5725The first thing we noticed was that the fountain in the courtyard was being repaired, so we could not enjoy the full experience of the swiveling hips and peeing. The sculpture is entitled Streams. However, you can see what we missed at this youtube video.


The museum itself is unlike any we’ve visited. First of all, it’s pretty dark inside, alluding, probably to Kafka and his work. As you wander, you hear a variety of sounds, from music to atmospheric and visually distorted presentations. Through various documents (all facsimiles) and photos, I learned some of his biography – he wrote in German though he lived in Prague since his family were German-speaking Jews. I did not know that he had been engaged to several women, but never married.

So, get ready book club in Claremont, we are going to choose some Kafka when we host book club next!


IMG_5671You know Céline Dion, ABBA, and Julio Iglesias but did you know how they got their start? I didn’t know this, but it was with Eurovision, the singing contest that way predates American Idol.

This contest began in 1956, is one of the longest-running tv shows ever, with the largest viewing audience outside of sporting events. I was vaguely aware of this contest last year, and now I am less vaguely aware of it, especially since it is so ephemeral, lasting only a few rounds.

The night we spent in Fribourg was the finals for this year’s contest, and our hosts as well as their Lithuanian roommate, Gintare, were very interested in the outcome of the contest, so we gathered around the internet to watch the final 20 countries compete.

Gintare was very excited that her country was represented in the finals, but she was under no illusion that they would win. It was her pure pleasure just to have her country invited to the party.

The broadcast started at 21.00 and we were in bed before the final acts performed, and certainly before the voting was cast and counted and the winner declared. The first question we asked in the morning was, “Who won?” The answer was Sweden with Russia in second place. I wasn’t aware that Russia was in Europe. … Then I found out that other countries can be invited to participate. This year was Australia’s debut year as a participant.

You can watch the winning song here.

You can read our Two Small Potatoes friends’ blog post about it here. Trust me, you’ll enjoy that post!

The Value of a Verein

As a copy editor and proof-reader for the American Women’s Club bi-monthly newsletter, The Round Robin, I decided that it would be a good thing to contribute an article about something I have learned about living in Zürich. Many of the articles in the publication pertain to living in Switzerland, and now that I’ve been here for a little while, I thought I might have something to contribute.

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So I did a little asking around and started this thread on the English Forum, asking people what they knew about clubs (Vereins). The May/June issue of The Round Robin (hot off the press!) contains this article I wrote about The Value of a Verein.

Murray Perahia at the Tonhalle

IMG_5147Now we know why there were some very low-priced seats for the Murray Perahia piano recital at the Zürich Tonhalle. Even though the balcony has only six rows on the sides, the last two rows have an absolutely fabulous view of the ceiling as well as the top of the organ. Even if the two huge pillars weren’t there, one cannot see the stage anyway unless one stands.

Nonetheless, you don’t need to see in order to hear a concert, so we took our seats for most of the concert and admired the Baroque architecture of the upper half of the hall.

Because we did not want to spring the 5 CHF for the program, H whipped out his phone (at intermission) and found out exactly which Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Franck and Chopin Mr. Perahia was playing (all from memory). The woman sitting next to us inquired as to what was on the program, indicating to me that I should ask what part of the US she was from.

Turns out that she is from near Boston, working at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. We know someone who used to be there, and it turns out, she knows him, too. I think the world must be down to five degrees of separation.