Back in July we set off for our opera holiday in Verona. We’re not exactly opera buffs, but we have seen a few over the years, and we always wanted to go to Verona, so this was the year. After an overnighter in Gatwick we flew off to Verona the following day. Leaving the airport building the heat hit us almost palpably. 37 C, after leaving a cool, grey Scotland, was a shock to the system. We were staying at a hotel in a golf complex, another novelty, but it was clean and comfortable. I did keep a journal, but this posting just contains a few random impressions.
On the walking tour we heard all about the various families and nations who had occupied Verona, building its walls and the beautiful bridges. After reaching the main square we had a look round the outside of the Arena, the venue for that evening’s production of Don Giovanni. In the street behind the Arena we found some of the stage set for upcoming production of Aida,
Then we had along one of the main shopping streets, the Via Mazzini, but neither of us were in the mood to buy anything. We found ‘Juliet’s house’ in the street of the hat-makers. The balcony had been added in the 19th century, and the bronze statue of ‘Juliet’ was even more recent. It’s become a tourist custom to stroke Juliet’s breast in order to assure success with the next lover, so it’s noticeable that her right breast is much shinier and smoother than her left one.
No, I didn’t, since you ask. Then, after a nice meal in a local restaurant, we headed back to the Arena to the The Don. It’s a gladiatorial arena, built in the 1st century AD to stage combats, wild beasts and other brutalities. ‘Arena’ means sand (as in arenaceous), as it was scattered on the floor to absorb blood. Originally higher, it could hold 30,000 spectators, but it has lost its top storey, and it now hold 15,000, on the most excruciatingly painful steel seating I’ve ever sat in.
The Don entered on horseback, with Leporello leading a donkey. A good start, I thought, but I have to admit the leading singer didn’t do it for me, and Leporello over-acted. Donna Elvira had the best voice. It was a magical setting for opera, with a set designed by Zeffirelli. As the sky darkened it seemed we were enclosed by a soft black roof, with the occasional star peeping through.
That was on the Friday. On the Sunday we were back for the production of Aida. This was quite simply breath-taking. The tenor lead was good, as was the soprano playing Aida, but the mezzo playing the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris was stunning. I’d have picked her over Aida any day, but that’s just me.
Another time I’ll mention Lake Garda and the rest of the trip.