Die Fledermaus
Tausendundeine Nacht, aber nicht.

Very Strangely

In the last 36 or so hours I've had about 2.5 hours of sleep. This doesn’t sound so bad, I suppose, but I spend a good deal of my time asleep, otherwise I’m rather nonfunctional.

The way one goes about getting opera tickets at the Bavarian State Opera is much different than in San Francisco as far as I can tell. My second day here involved a trip to the box office to see what information was available. There were two main pamphlets, one schedule for January through March 2003 and one schedule for the Münchner Opern-Festspiele, which occurs in the last month of their opera season, July. After careful deliberation, operas were selected by composers and performers, but most of January did not have a good selection of seats, since written orders are filled 2 months in advance to a given performance, and other orders are only filled 1 month prior, and since the main venue only holds 450 people (150 of these are standing room places), the middle-range tickets sell out rather quickly.

After figuring out the ways of regular ticket sales, I went over the Festspiele pamphlet thoughtfully, noting that advanced booking started on January 18th at 10 am until 4 pm, and continued the next day, even though it is a Sunday, from 10 am to 4 pm as well. After that, postal bookings start being processed on February 1st, so I thought it would be a good idea to go about all this in person. I looked at the directions in German, then in English, noting the German was more elaborate, that "Advanced Booking" was called "Erstverkauf" in the German version, which isn't exactly the same thing. "Erstverkauf" means "first sales," and "advanced sales" is more like "Vorverkauf," which is a word they did use for information elsewhere.

At any rate, I decided I would go to the opera box office on the morning of the 18th, and dutifully wrote this in on my calendar. Little did I know, the process for this Erstverkauf was much more arcane than even I could have imagined. The directions for the Festspiele stated nothing of what ensued.

So the Friday before the 18th, I thought I would get to the opera box office a bit before opening to feel out how the large the lines were on a typical day, this, and I could pay for some tickets I had reserved by post. I arrived at 9:30 am and the line was about 30 people, most of whom wanted to see a particular ballet as far as I could gather. I picked up my tickets from a very nice lady, and asked her how the Festspiele sales operated, since I had noticed something on the door about an "Anstehliste für die Opernfestspiele" listing a number of times for "Appelle." She explained that I had to go to a particular location on the other side of the building for a number. I examined the sign on the opera house door again, noted the location which was apparently on Marstallplatz across from some construction, and near a fountain. There were also many numbers listed, but I had no idea what they could mean, I thought they were room or address numbers, and regrettably, I had no pen. So I wandered to the disclosed location, which happened to be right next to the Instituto Cervantes, the Spanish cultural center, always something that makes me pleased. I looked at the fountain, and there was a small car, with a sign that said something about the "Anstehnummern." Incredulously, I went up to the car and asked the kindly man inside where I was to get a number, and he explained that he could give me one, and asked for my name. This, of course, made me horribly nervous, since my last name, in particular, does not look like a word, much less a name, in any Indo-European language. Too many vowels. So I spelt it out, but I always forget how the name of the letter "i" is pronounced in German, and stuttered and was basically quite silly. Then the kindly man gave me a paper with a list of times and told me to come back at each of the times, which seemed rather odd, and I was terribly confused. So another man, who was in line, explained in English that I had to check-in with the person in the car at all of these listed times, and that my number was rather high, and that I might not be able to buy tickets until Sunday. I stared dumbfounded at this list of times: 11 am, 2 pm, 4 pm, 6 pm, 11 pm, 1 am, 5 am, 7 am, and 9 am. I walked home, had lunch, walked back for my 2pm check-in, noting as the person went through the list, that people had been doing this since Wednesday, checking-in every 2 or so hours to keep their place in line. On the one hand, it made me a little nervous that I would not be able to get good tickets for the Festspiele, and on the other, I was a little relived I didn't know that I could have gotten in this surrealistic line some 48 hours earlier, because I fear I would have, out of sheer prideful idiocy.

So, I wandered around the opera house all of yesterday and today, except for the 2.5 hours that I slept from 1:30 am to 3:30 am this morning and from 12:00 to 12:30 pm after lunch. It was a little too cold to just sit and read when the sun was down, so I walked and stared at buildings and trees. The moon was quite full.

At 8:30 am, a man with a clipboard and the list called out numbers and had us all line up, something like 200 or so folks, mostly Germans. Then we waited and we got an "official number" after which most of the people dispersed. I went into the opera house to warm up and watched as the people with low numbers line up, by 10:40 they had gotten through number 15, so I decided to go home for lunch, since my number was 139. I returned at 1:30 pm and tried to discern what number they were at, it seemed like 96 or so. I tried to look for the person before me and the one after me, but I didn’t see either of them. But by 2:15 they were there and I quietly found my way between them, and I was lead to a lady downstairs by 2:30 pm. To my relief, I was able to get tickets for the nine performances I decided on early in the month, and I also bought tickets for a young lady whose number was above 300, since one is allowed 4 tickets per performance.

The opera people gave out jelly donuts to the people waiting. I had one with an apricot jelly filling.