Joe and I have a little policy that allows us each to be free to say to the other....."go do your thing, I'll meet up with you later" when we are traveling. He tends to be happy visiting museums that house military artifacts or heavy works of medieval art, moving along slowly, reading captions under objects or on walls, while I have an intense dislike for "shuffling" and anything that requires a good attention span. So, on one of our beautiful days in Verona, we parted company for a few hours in the morning and met up later for lunch.
The poor dear man, I honestly cannot remember what it is he did with his time....although he did tell me, because I was so intent on bringing him to my "find" of the day, knowing that he would be utterly delighted and that we could comfortably share an afternoon of museum visiting.
While Joe was busily shuffling along, doing his diligent museum tour, I was walking briskly around the fair city of Verona, window shopping, people watching, and generally enjoying my day. We had decided to meet up at the German Christmas Market and I knew he would not be there at the appointed time, so I had lots of free time and I used it well. I use my camera as if it were a body part. In fact, on this trip, I have taken over three thousand photos which will take me the entire winter to edit. Snap, snap, snap.....I twist and turn into alley-ways, I sneak up on people and snap their faces or their backs should they turn before I catch the moment I was aiming for. In other words, I'm always looking for something unique and I use my great little Canon as if it were a gun, tracking down something I really want.
As I cruised along the streets of Verona, gasping at each new sight, I spied yet another courtyard. This one held the promise of something truly unique because there, a few meters from the sidewalk entrance, stood a huge sphinx, just begging me to come further. As I entered the quiet courtyard, I found gigantic statues of red roses which kept me snapping and exploring further. Where am I? Why is there a sphinx from Aida here? What's with the giant roses and the other signs of eccentricity? I followed the path that led away from the courtyard and just as I discovered that this was a museum, a young woman exited the building and greeted me. "Would you like to come in? This is the opera museum". Be still, my heart, " I'm going to find my husband and I will return this afternoon"...and so, we did.
The Arena Museo Opera is brand new. It opened in June, 2012 in the Palazzo Forti, the former home of the Museum of Contemporary Art, once inhabited by the Forti family and then used as a home by Napoleon for his visits to Verona. In fact, there is a mirror in the museum that has a crack in it, made during a Bonaparte visit and never repaired. Each room in the Palazzo is ornately decorated with gorgeous high frescoed ceilings, original tile floors and marble fireplaces. Surely, this was not as suitable a home for the contemporary art collection as it now is for the collection of precious, rarely seen anywhere else, opera artifacts. This was THE place for the collection and it was getting itself ready for the biggest opera celebration Verona has ever seen, the 100th anniversary of Aida, in all its glory, promising to bring dedicated fans from all over the globe to Verona's ancient Arena for a performance to end all, this summer. The multimedia presentations housed in the museum added to the growing excitement about this event.
The Vernonese take their opera seriously. Each summer, from June through September, they have a full season of performances in the death-defying open air arena that dominates the center of the city. It very much resembles the Colosseum in Rome and has not changed since ancient times when it was used for less bloody assaults and more cultural entertainment. No handrails, no elevators. When we toured there, ascending layers and layers of hard rock seating, we wondered how the senior citizens or for that matter, anybody over age forty, safely get to and from their seats but apparently, they do, thousands at a time.. The museum bears testimony to this in photographs and videos of past performances.
We were the only visitors on that afternoon. Thus, we were assigned our own personal guide who brought us through fifteen rooms, each one dedicated to a component of an opera. We studied seven sections ranging from the libretto through to the representation (performance) stages. We viewed original scores, librettos, sketches, gorgeous costumes and massive props, all from Aida, each with a commentary in writing and in the words spoken by our lovely and knowledgeable guide who clearly loved her work. Together, we listened to and viewed videos of five major arias, each performed at one time at the Arena. This, we did in a quiet room with a huge screen in front of us.Two rows of music stands, sheet music cleverly covering a button which, through the wonders of modern technology, turned on the aria, accompanied by beautiful videos were at our disposal. Pure joy.
Now, if you have been reading my blog lately, you know that I am convinced that my recently deceased mom sent me to Italy this year, followed me everywhere I went, and oftentimes, was accompanied by my grandmother. I'm sure they delighted in my reflections and gently pushed me in all the right directions along the way. So, having said that, it will be of no surprise to learn that opera was very much a part of my childhood. In fact, it is the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, that figures into one of my earliest and clearest of childhood memories. His name was Milton Cross. He broadcast live, every Saturday afternoon, from the Met and on countless Saturdays we listened to his radio show. Our background music. Comfort food for our ears. Beautiful music with commentary at intermission and always an introduction to the day's performance. Years later, my parents purchased one of the first Hi-Fidelity record players and I'm almost certain, the first LP album that was played by my mother was "Madame Butterfly". I still melt when I think of it. I still lose my breath when I hear anything from " La Boheme" and take enormous pride in the fact that my own daughter inherited an appreciation for the genre and that my first granddaughter was born with a Puccini aria playing in the background. The first thing she ever heard in the outside world. A joy, beyond joy. Both of my granddaughters seem already to have a sense for the beauty of the opera and have their own recordings, now on CD's, the Hi-Fi, something antiquated that they will laugh about one day.
It makes me smile when I think that one day, I too, will be looking down on my own little legacies, two beautiful little girls who will become exquisite women, living their lives in ways they have chosen. I'm sure that they will continue to have an appreciation for things like music and art, and I hope that they will travel and see the world and I know that I will be with them, every step of the way, perhaps leading the way as I have been taught to do.
Go back to a much earlier post....the one about the "teachers"...........it's all making sense now.