Friday, June 24, 2011

Verona, Day 3: Church Pinball + Operatic Tragedy

A lazy morning in Verona thanks to good sleep and happy Juni. We finally leave around noon in search of our opera tix and lunch. The crowds around the Arena are thick, perhaps due to the evening or just the awesome imposing nature of the historic building.

We hunt down lunch off the Arena because 2 hours after breakfast it's definitely time for lunch. I had risotto with porcini mushrooms (yeah for no spaghetti marinara), while Martina and Claire dove into gorgonzola and walnut pizza and salad. No afternoon wine today due to leftover headaches from yesterday's one glass indulgence. Margaret's cousin Dave and his wife Marlena joined us, so it was a very merry lunch indeed. We heard their travel adventures and mined them for good stops on our afternoon meander.

Meander we did in a game of church pinball: San Lorenzo, San Anastasia and the Duomo. From the simple Lorenzo to the ornate Anastasia. From the quiet, serene music in Lorenzo to a shock of history (three churches in one) at the Duomo. The pinball of taking cameras out, putting them in, taking shawls off, putting them on.

I've just gone through the day's photos. I really am obsessed with Italian windows and fading frescoes. I could make one of those cheesy posters of 'Italian Windows' like you can find the 'Doors of Ireland' posters everywhere. Why are balconies and shutters and plants so captivating?

It amazes me how nonchalant Italians can be about frescoes indoors and out. Age, time, weather, pollution--all indifferent to the fading paint. I wonder what this city must have looked like with all its facades vivid and fresh, telling stories and histories. There's such texture to these buildings as colors and layers of paint and plaster fade.

We eat sorbet on stone steps and wait for a church to open. We watch as a hearse passes and mourners in smart business attire kiss each other and smile. We hope the rain stays away.

Then, the Opera. We leave Juni with a babysitter and off we go. The arena is crowded at every entrance. We stand in the long line for the cheap seats, make our way up the ancient stone steps, buy our cushions, and find our space. We pack in like sardines, and we try not to kick the butts of the people in front of us or lean longingly back on the knees behind us (oh, too have something to lean on!). We watch all the posh people meander into their reserved seats. Except for the cramping back and fidgety legs for a few hours, our seats really are the best seats in the house. The whole arena lies before us.

We buy wine from the vendor and he pours it into paper pepsi cups. I buy a souvenir libretto. There are no names of performers, no list of the various movements/arias/etc. But a line by line translation is not so bad! We wait for the gong and the opera to begin. The sky is a perfect blue, the breeze crisp but comfortable.

What a spectacular performance from the simple but intricate set design to the setting to the orchestra to the voices. I will post photos, but what a sight. Soon we sit in plitch black, and everything focuses on the stage. At one point, at least 60 people weave on the three different interlinked stages. Through my binoculars I watch as the heroine belts out her last words, falling to the stage in a heap. An unexpectedly moving death, since it took a whole act to happen...

One of those evenings I will always carry with me. Good friends, gorgeous weather, stunning music.

So I sign off with an espresso buzz still going at 4am, 14 hours after dosage. Tomorrow, Lake Garda.

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