As I’m writing this, I am sitting in an airport on my way home from Verona, where I just spent the weekend.
I didn’t plan my trip to Verona with the Opera season in mind, but when I heard about it, I knew I wanted to experience it. My friend and I quickly looked it up online and found out that, depending on which weekend we wanted to go, there were two different operas we could see: Nabucco or Aida.
I’m sure both would have been amazing but with Aida being more famous, we decided on that one, bought tickets and planned everything else around it.
What got us so excited about watching an Opera in Verona? The fact that it takes place in the arena, one of the Roman amphitheatres that is still standing. We didn’t want to pay a fortune so we got tickets for the stone benches, sitting there just like the Romans once did.
Unlike our Roman ancestors, we did not leave any fan art behind.
Since the seats aren’t numbered, arriving early is essential. And as you will spend two hours sitting on the stone benches before the show even starts, make sure to bring a cushion to sit on. Or two. Or three. Damn, those Roman stones were hard! The opera started at nine. We arrived at seven to find long lines in front of each entrance.
Once you enter the arena, you will find rows that have to be left empty so people can walk to the exit. This is where you should sit. Not on the bench that has to be left empty but just above it because it will give you a chance to stretch your legs once in a while. However, you will have to be there a long time in advance. If you’re too late, you’ll have to sit wherever and prepare to be uncomfortable for a couple of hours.
For a long time, nothing happened. We sat there, annoyed at ourselves that we hadn’t brought any water, and waited for time to pass. After what felt like ages, people with fancy dresses sat down on the more expensive seats.
When it felt like my bum was on fire and I could not possibly sit any longer, the show finally started. Make sure to either pick up one of the candles on your way up or to bring one of your own. We missed them and there weren’t enough for everybody but apparently, it’s tradition for those sitting on the stone benches to light them during the first song. It was very pretty, with the music playing and people holding their candles.
My last opera must have been Carmen, a couple of years ago when I had a really bad cold and desperately wanted to go home to sleep. Aida seemed to be a bit shorter than Carmen, although I might have gotten that impression because this time, I didn’t have to sneeze every five minutes. In any case, the stage was impressive. The pyramide, that you can see on one of the pictures above, moved and opened up and the sphinxes were always in different positions. Since taking pictures wasn’t allowed once the show had started, I can’t show you any of it. It’s something you have to experience yourself.
At times, I felt like they were singing for too long. Being unable to understand any of it didn’t help. But the music was beautiful and the atmosphere alone made it worth it. Plus, when would you ever get to see an opera in a Roman arena?
The only thing I don’t understand is how the Romans did it. Back in the time, they used to spend a whole day in such colosseums. My whole body hurt after just one evening. Looks like we have become too soft over the past two thousand years.