Monday, September 14, 2015

Aida in Verona

Sets for Aida outside the arena.
Note: This is a little out of sequence, because we went to Lake Garda and the Dolomites before we returned to Verona to see Aida. But to keep all the posts for Verona in one place, I am entering it here.

When we found we could get tickets for Aida, we didn't hesitate to buy them. To see a great opera in the Roman arena at Verona, one of the world's premier opera venues, was an opportunity we couldn't pass up. Aida is a spectacular opera, and the sets by film director and designer Franco Zeffirelli, made it an event to remember.

We sat in the "cheap seats" on the stone steps, so we had to get there early to secure a good view. (People in reserved seats, on the floor of the arena, are asked to dress elegantly, but the hoi-polloi can dress casually.)

We rented cushions, which helped, because we arrived about an hour before the opera began at about 7:45 p.m., and the opera, with two intermissions, didn't get over until about midnight. 

It really didn't seem that long, because we were entranced with the performance and the venue. How often do you get to sit in an arena that is nearly 2,000 years old to see an event? It was fun to think back on all the people who have sat in the same place over the years to view some sort of entertainment. Of course, my reverie was a little bit disturbed when the Canadian woman sitting behind me had to point out that originally the Roman spectators would have been watching gladiator fights. I had read that, but I didn't appreciate being reminded of it, and while we were impressed with the acoustics (one reason the Verona arena is such a popular place for opera), she was critical, because it doesn't match the acoustics of ancient Greek theaters.  We have been to the Greek theaters and have witnessed the remarkable acoustics, but nonetheless, don't you have to appreciate every sight for what it uniquely offers?

The arena before the performance.

I apologize, because I lost the program that identified the principal singers on the night we went.  But honestly, most people go to see Aida not for the music alone, but because it is a spectacle, with an enormous cast and eye-popping sets. (In the past, directors have been known to bring horses and even elephants on stage) The animals were spared from this staging, but it was still impressive.

The Verona arena traditionally begins each performance by having the spectators light a candle, and the candles are furnished free of charge. However, because fewer people smoke these days, we were not able to light our candles! No one around us had a light.

I imagine if you are a serious opera buff, Verona might be a bit trying, because although the audience is asked not to take photos during the performance, flashes are going off practically every moment.  Kevin refrained, but finally, he had to take a least one photo (above). The shot he took wasn't even of the most dazzling stagecraft, but he felt he had violated the rules enough for one night. Ah well, what would you expect of the people in the cheap seats?

Aida is not our favorite opera for its music, but we felt the experience in Verona was well worth our 40 euros (20 euros per seat, or not quite $23). Even without the elephants, it was a night to remember.

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