Visiting the place where it all began

Eleanor Wood explores Vienna


Eleanor is CutCommon’s London Correspondent. The writer and performer moved from her Sydney base to London in 2017. She studied Classical Voice and Musicology at Sydney Conservatorium of Music and graduated with a Bachelor of Music Studies (Honours) and a Graduate Diploma in Pedagogy (Voice). In this photoblog, she takes us on her musical travels through Vienna.


I came to Vienna for three reasons: to indulge in history, secessionist art, and to eat my weight in strudel. But more than this, I wanted to nerd out on classical music. And that I did.

As someone who grew up in sunny Cairns in tropical North Queensland, classical music made so much more sense when I got to Europe. You can see where composer heavyweights lived and worked (and ate strudel), and the city that inspired them.

This is the city where Gustav Mahler seduced his Alma, Mozart debuted many of his operas, and Beethoven wrote his final works. You get to see where your heroes lived and died, and built their legacy. Classical music makes sense in Vienna because you get to see where the music started, and how the city has shaped some of the most significant composers in classical music.

Colourful buildings in the town square

For one thing, winter is actually a thing here. The cold feels bitter and relentless. So when the first glimpses of spring begin to bloom, it feels genuinely exciting and filled with promise. All those German lieder and poetry about spring promising a re-birth actually make sense. Growing up in Cairns, seasonal transitions weren’t really a big deal; people wear boardshorts and singlets all year round, so this was pretty exciting for me.

Enjoying a glass of champagne in the place it all began

In terms of seeing live music, the actual experience of going to the opera is really fun and not as hoity-toity as you might think. I went to see Puccini’s Girl of the Golden West at the Weiner Staatsoper. Our seats were ‘challenging’ (we could only see around a third of the stage), but what we could see of the production was excellent, and the acoustics in the hall were fantastic.

The (stunning) Vienna Opera House

In some ways, the spectacle of going was more interesting than the opera itself. There were high society types in tuxedos and ball gowns, fur coats and monocles. But there were also plenty of tourists in jeans and backpacks, and Viennese locals going for a midweek culture hit. And this is what appealed to me about the whole circus of going to the opera –  it looks like it’s only for royalty, but actually it’s for everyone.

When I was studying my music degree, I certainly didn’t have the means to shell out thousands of bucks for a European summer. I realise the cost of travel can be prohibitively expensive. And I write this in full knowledge that the classical music culture in Australia is thriving and has something uniquely significant to offer audiences. But if ever there was a chance to enrich your understanding of classical music, getting along to the place where it all kicks off is a great place to start.

Imperial Square


For more photoblogs and stories from across the world, check out our Global series.

All images courtesy Eleanor Wood.

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