At 10.30 p.m., I’m back at my hotel after one of the most smile-inducing, heart-gripping concerts I’ve ever attended.

But first . . . dinner.

I had a bit of shopping to do, so I added a layer of clothing to ward off the evening chill, and then set out from my hotel around 5.20 p.m., walking toward the Stephansplatz and the center of the musical universe.  After buying my goodies at Meinl am Graben (think pretentious, highbrow foodstuffs – overpriced, but leaving one feeling oh so chic), I walked east on Singerstrasse, looking for a quiet, non-touristy restaurant.

I found LA NORMA.  Now anyone who knows me well knows about my fixation with the aria Casta Diva from the opera Norma.  I was delighted to find a namesake restaurant.  This turned out to be the best meal I’ve had the whole time in Vienna, and that’s saying something big indeed!  I had tortellini with red sauce, mushrooms, and ham.  The food was simple and incredibly tasty.  The place had a total of nine tables – a true hole-in-the-wall, with one waiter and one chef.  I’ll go there again and again.

La Norma restaurant, Vienna.

La Norma restaurant, Vienna.

The Musikverein was a ten-minute walk, so I did.  I’ve decided that Vienna is a city best viewed at night when the monumental buildings, hearkening to an earlier era, are illuminated.  With a clear sky tonight, and chilly temperatures, the city was magic.  One emerges from narrow side streets where one can FEEL Mozart and Beethoven and all of the pantheon of Viennese composers into broader streets with century-old buildings, and then onto broad, tree-lined avenues that beg both awe and familiarity.  THIS is what a European city should feel like, at least in my flights of fancy.

So I arrived at the Musikverein for the second night in a row.  The Statsoper performed Le Nozze di Figaro tonight, but I chose to see Dudamel conduct.

Gustavo Dudamel is one of the hot-shot young conductors these days.  I can see why.  He is, in a word, hunka-magni-super-fabu-spectalu-incrediblous.  I’m serious.  I’ve never grinned my way through the final two minutes of the Symphonie Fantastique, but I did tonight.  I’ve never heard Beethoven 2 played like it’s a skittering romp, but I did tonight.  And I’ve only once before heard two more impassioned encores.  I swear I’m spoiled for life, what with this 27-year-old conductor and this most glorious venue for symphonic music. . . .

Gustavo Dudamel and the Gothenberg Symphony at the Musikverien.  I snuck my camera in so I could take just this picture.

Gustavo Dudamel and the Gothenberg Symphony at the Musikverien. I snuck my camera in so I could take just this picture.

Then I walked out onto the shallow plaza in front the venerable hall, and there was Vienna all over again, pulsing, energizing, lit just so perfectly in the autumn evening.

The Musikverien, Vienna, 24 Oct 08.

The Musikverien, Vienna, 24 Oct 08.

I walked down to the Statsoper, just to see it one more time, then took the tram to the hotel.

The Statsoper Wien, 24 Oct 08.

The Statsoper Wien, 24 Oct 08.

I started the trip with Brenden, and close with Dudamel.  Not a bad combo, I think.

I’m ready for home; I always am at this point in a trip.  But I’m leaving a bit of my heart in Wien, and a bit more in Innsbruck.

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Other shots from today, with more to come after I arrive home:

Boesendorfer Street.  God breathes, and pianos speak.  Need I say more?

Boesendorfer Street. God breathes, and pianos speak. Need I say more?

The Danube as seen from the U-1 today, looking northwest.

The Danube as seen from the U-1 today, looking northwest.

Vienna's United Nations complex, again from the U-1.

Vienna's United Nations offices, as seen from the U-1.

The Danube canal, across the street from my hotel.

The Danube canal, across the street from my hotel.

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