San Francisco, California
April 4, 2002
We had a pre-performance dinner about 50 meters away at "Le Catine de L'Arena" so we could see the people milling about, ranging in attire from American Casual to elegant formalwear. Performances at L'Arena draw regularly draw people from all around the region, and even futher. This harkens back to the days of the Roman empire, when the seating at L'Arena was larger than the population of the city. Rome used free admission to the games as a way to keep their citizens unified and content.
Once we entered we ascended to our seats, high in the wings, which cost 56 Euro, about $50 apiece. Although seats had been temporarily fitted over the hard Roman stone, we were glad to have brought cushions with us. For the less prepared, cushion rentals are available. About 1/6th of the interior was blocked off to serve as an extended stage, but the rest was filled with people. While we waited for everyone to take their seats I watched bats flit around the floodlights.
We did not have the best seats to view the stage, but the view of the rest of the Arena, the illuminated wing, and the many campanile of Verona peaking above the top of the walls along with a rising full moon- bellisimo. The picture below captures only a fraction of the panorama and none of the magic.
When we entered, the attendants handed us each a program and a small birthday candle with instructions when to light it. At the start of the opera, everyone lit their candles. Imagine being in a packed Roman ampitheatre that holds 25,000 people, alight with tens of thousands of candles.
The opera itself was amazing. We had doubted at first that we would be able to hear anything, so far away, but Roman builders were apparently accoustical engineers. Some of the singers were better than others, but the sheer size of the cast and extravagance of the sets put Broadway productions to shame. At one point there was a cast of 300 on the huge stage, and there were navel scenes with singers on boats.
Opera at L'Arena is a spectacle not to be missed, especially if you can get tickets to Aida. If opera really isn't your scene, you can leave during the intermission, but to experience a performance at L'Arena is to live like a Veronese of the present and the past.
For a performance schedule and ticketing information go to L'Arena's website.
From journal Verona: La Citta d'Amore