Music: Vienna's Spark of History

The State Opera brings a treasured legacy to the U.S.

The word for it is Gesamtgastspiel, which, roughly translated, means everybody gets in on the act. And indeed, as the Vienna State Opera unpacked in Washington for its first U.S. visit, everybody—and everything—seemed to have come along. Thirty-seven soloists and 100 chorus members? Check. An orchestra of 95, with all their instruments? Check. Thirty-five stagehands and five staff workers, plus 23 custom-built 40-ft. containers full of scenery and costumes? Check.

The company brought something else too. It did not show up on any...

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