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Laurel & Ric on vacation: Part I – Verona

24 Jul

I hear you cynics out there: You took a vacation, and you live in Rome? Yes friends, we had to get away and see more of this amazing country. Plus we needed to cool off!

First stop, Verona. You know, Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, and Two Gentlemen of Verona. While we made the obligatory stop at “Juliet’s Balcony,” the motivation was to experience this town we’ve heard much about, and to attend an opera in the Arena, a 2000 year old structure much like Rome’s famous Colosseo. It was quite a production.

“Aida” is a huge and fascinating work. Staged in the ancient Arena in Verona, the stage was elaborate and took full advantage of the venue.

I wanted to see Aida, which is four (4!) hours long, starting at 21:15 (very late for Americans), after sundown, when the day starts to be tolerable. Ric almost threw me over the stands when I told him I thought it was three hours long. (Of course I waited to tell him until we were seated with our rather expensive tickets long since paid for.) It turned to be four hours because there are 4 acts and 3 long intermissions, totaling at least an hour, to facilitate changing the elaborate sets. There were dozens of supernumeraries but only about 5 main singing roles. The “supers” filled the stage, climbed to the highest ledges with lighted torches, and generally added to the “really big show.”  It was so riveting, even in Italian with no translation (ah, Portland Opera, you spoiled us!) that Ric stayed awake for almost all of it. (OK, I rested my eyes during some of he particularly long arias too. Just a little. During the really long ones.)

The Arena in Verona used to be twice as tall. Amazing to be able to attend an opera in a 2000-year-old structure!

The Arena begins to fill with opera-goers as the sun fades away and night descends.

In honor of Verdi and the 100th performance of “Aida” many years ago, opera goers are provided candles to simulate a time when there was no light and the opera fans provided it with candles. (Long story; Google it.)

Verona is a very nice little city settled by the Romans in the crook of a river, the Adige. Anchored by beautiful Piazza Bra (nothing to do with women’s lingerie), Verona requires nothing more of one than to stroll, savoring the architecture, the ambience, the food.

Not quite like the Willamette River, the Adige runs fast through Verona, but there are a lot of bridges, green hillsides, and charming architecture. Many bicycles, too. More than we’ve seen since Amsterdam.

In Verona you are still clearly in Italy. But move a little further north, and it’s not so clear. More to come…

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