Classic Mornings

First the Lottery, Then the Ticket


Were you there on New Year’s Day?

Maybe in your thoughts and dreams you were in Vienna as you listened to or watched the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna. Have you ever considered travelling to Vienna for the occasion?  For one thing, it’s a big deal – an annual event with international coverage. And next year Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will be the conductor.

If you do think about travelling all the way to Vienna to attend the concert, know that you won’t be the only one. In fact, because of the demand for tickets there’s a lottery. At least you only have to go as far as the Vienna Philharmonic’s website to enter the lottery. And you have until February 29th.

When I read about it, I began to fantasize for a moment about all of the regular lottery outlets having access to the Vienna ticket lottery. Can you imagine lines at gas stations and convenience stores just to get in on the New Year’s drawing, not to mention days and days of media publicity?  I can just hear those announcers tell you that your chances of winning are better than you imagined. That’s because there actually are 3 concerts: a preview concert on New Year’s Eve, the New Year’s Eve concert and the New Year’s Day concert.  Already I can hear them spice the radio and television lottery ads with excerpts from previous concerts. Suddenly it’s Strauss on every streetcorner. Wouldn’t that be like living on another planet!

All the hype would make you want to be Vienna-bound and sign up for the ticket lottery, wouldn’t it? There’s only one problem. You don’t win tickets in the Vienna New Year’s Concert lottery. You just win the chance to buy them. And having looked at some of the prices and guessing what airfare, hotels and meals would cost for such a musical adventure, you might want to get in line at the regular lottery outlets first, before you enter the Vienna lottery. If it all falls through, know you’ll be able to see and/or hear the program next New Year’s Day on the WILL stations.

Vienna isn’t everybody’s thing.  So what about a midnight classical music concert in which you’re encouraged to come as you are and to sit up on the stage among the players on bean-bag chairs?   According to a person who attended one and is quoted at the website of the orchestra that sponsors the concerts: “It’s very friendly and intimate. I don’t feel like a moron for lacking expertise in classical music. The audience and the orchestra are practically one and the same community.”

Sound enticing? You might consider a trip to Budapest, Hungary for a Midnight Music concert by the Budapest Festival Orchestra. They’re scheduled fairly regularly. Those arriving on bicycles receive a 30% discount.

Conductor Iván Fischer, who along with pianist and conductor Zoltan Kocsis founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra back in 1983, is known for going out of his way to break down traditional barriers between the orchestra and younger audiences.  A couple of years ago Alex Ross of The New Yorker  related stories about the Midnight Music concerts. He said sometimes programs are unannounced. And sometimes an audience member gets to choose the program – that person is selected by drawing a name from among those on pieces of paper inside the bell of a tuba.

One can only imagine how the orchestra would have celebrated music director Iván Fischer’s 65th  birthday on January 20th.  There was no scheduled concert. But we celebrated on the Classic Morning Prelude with a performance of Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 3 for orchestra. And you might say that in the spirit of the Budapest Festival Orchestra’s Midnight Music concerts, listeners were seated at home, in their cars or at work for the performance!

Long before the Spanish-born tenor Placido Domingo was surrounded by opera audiences – and he has been now for over a half century -  he lived in the world of zarzuela. In fact, even before he was born, his parents were singing in zarzuelas. That’s how they met.

Zarzuela is a type of Spanish musical theatre, with a mix of spoken dialogue and singing. It’s been traced back as far as the mid-1600s. Domingo has said zarzuela was the lullaby he heard his mother and father sing as he lay in his crib.  That would have been some 75 years ago. We celebrated Domingo’s 75th birthday on January 21st.

Domingo, who once had studied the piano, helped to prepare singers and choruses for the zarzuelas staged by his parents’ zarzuela company in Mexico. They had moved there from Madrid. He began his singing career in operettas and zarzuelas in Mexico. He also had a minor role in the first Mexican production of My Fair Lady, which had 185 performances. In 1959 at age 18, he became a member of the Mexican National Opera. He auditioned as a baritone, but they asked him to audition as a tenor as well. He says that’s when he realized he actually was a tenor.

Domingo has become one of the best-loved operatic tenors of our time. He’s been active as a conductor and music administrator over the years as well.  According to his website, he appears in the Guinness Book of Records for the size of his repertoire and for having received 101 curtain calls after a performance of Verdi’s Otello at the Vienna State Opera.

I’m excited just to hear that a listener joined us for Classic Mornings or enjoyed a particular selection on the program, though I’m sure there are some who have joined us hundreds and hundreds of times. Whether or not you’re counting, you can count on me for classical music, stories and a most enjoyable time. Join me Monday-Friday from 9 to noon and for the Classic Morning Prelude just before at 8:50 on FM 90.9 and online at