Vienna Honors a Doyenne, Chides Discrimination


Publius Ovidius Naso, called Ovid, ancient Roman poet, once wrote “Bella gerant alii, Protesilaos amet” (Let others wage war: Protesilaos may love!) An unknown 16th century admirer seems to have transformed Ovid’s sentence into “Bella gerant alii – tu felix Austria nube!” (Let others wage war: thou, happy Austria, marry!) to describe the success of Emperor Maximilian I and the way of life of the Habsburger

Ban Ki-moon and Conchita Wurst

To admit: they did not marry, Conchita Wurst, drag queen and winner of the European Song Contest 2014, and Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary general, when they met at the UNO City at Vienna. All Austrian newspapers proudly presented the pictures – and all the Germans with a slight mockery, of course. They both stood up for tolerance and human rights: “Discrimination has no place in the world of the 21st century!”

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All spotlights and gossip columns focused on Lady Gaga when she and her show artRAVE:THE ARTPOP BALL made a stop at Vienna’s city hall on Nov 2nd – All Souls’ Day – but the hangover could not fail to appear: the critics were not too bright. They disliked the “bored band” and made fun of the “touching Post-pornographic Pop-compulsory exercise…”

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From the High Life to Historic Death

So I turn my back to Lady Gaga or her successor Miley Cyrus (as a child, it is hawked, she was nicknamed ‘Smiley’, when beginning her career she dropped the S) and make a walk to Vienna’s Central Cemetery. On the way I pass the Haydn Park, named after the composer of the Kaiserhymne (Emperor’s Anthem) Joseph Haydn, who was buried on this ground in 1809. In 1820 finally the family Esterházy, residing in Eisenstadt, ordered to exhume and transfer the body there, where Haydn had worked and composed for about 30 years at the court. During the exhumation one noticed the composer’s skull was missing…It had been stolen! And it was not before 1954 when the true skull was brought back to the corpse of Joseph Haydn.

Another visit to the Museum of Funeral History gives us an insight into the history of cemeteries in Vienna, the evolution of grave forms, the coffin, the mourning dress, imperial funerals and a “good send-off”…and, of course, the decree concerning a funeral order passed by Emperor Joseph II. The deceased were to be buried without clothes and without coffins of their own to save resources: The corpses decayed faster and the graves could be occupied sooner. So the corpse was laid into the municipal coffin and dropped into the grave by means of a hinge mechanism so that the municipal coffin could be used by the next deceased…Strong opposition from the population gave cause to the Emperor to withdraw the decree within a year.

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“Let others wage war…”

Back to Vienna alive: the movie festival Viennale honors Viggo Mortensen, showing “A Walk on the Moon “, “Eastern Promises ” and “Jauja “, his latest movie, to which he contributed the score.

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And the late John Ford, Oscar winner, is honored by a wonderful retrospective with almost 50 from about 140 movies: his “The Sun Shines Bright ” opened the festival! A special view of Fritz Kortner, born and educated in Vienna, and one of the great stage producers: here at the Viennale presented as actor in different movies.

Burgtheater Doyenne Elisabeth Orth

After the death of Gert Voss (you might look up my column of September), the Doyenne of the Burgtheater Elisabeth Orth will receive the Honorary Membership – after almost 50 years as an actress of the Burgtheater: “Yes, I am proud. And happy. Period.” She is the oldest daughter of the famous actor’s dynasty Hörbiger – Wessely. To avoid a theater career just because of the family name she took the surname of her maternal grandmother.

Applause – applause: Prince Ernst August of Hanover is one of the best customers of famous jeweller Köchert at Vienna. So he made a flying visit to his friends Wolfgang, Florian and Christoph Köchert to crown the opening of the exhibition “Imperial Jewellers – Purveyors to the Court – 200 years A.E.Köchert “ .

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And the other day Queen Letizia of Spain made her first official stop at Vienna: She is Honorary Guest of the fabulous exhibition at the KHM of Diego Velázques. The Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer gave her a warm welcome and referred to the traditional good relationship between Spain and Austria….surely due also to the past, when the Habsburger ruled The Holy Roman Empire.

To admit: they did not marry either – but a serene and slightly wistful mood fell over the country, when TV and newspapers showed the Queen and Mr. Federal President backed by the flag with the eagle…

“Let others wage war – thou, happy Austria, marry!”

And, dear reader, don’t miss the December Pocket Vienna: I’ll tell all about the Velázques exhibition. Or even better come to Vienna in January and save the trips to Madrid, London and even Dallas: the exhibition shows works of Velázques from all these fine places…So long!

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