Our Aida Experience
When I first learned of the Opera being held in a Real Roman Theater, I was tickled pink. I quickly researched on-line and found that Aida was going to be playing during our time in Verona, Italy too! Double bonus baby! I was thinking about how much we were going to relish this experience and I couldn’t wait for the day to arrive.
Aida day has arrived!
We were staying in a small town about an hour from Verona and the show wasn’t scheduled to begin until 9pm. All day I was dreaming about us sitting there in a Roman Theater at dusk listening to some incredible music and getting lost in the love story. We decided to head up to Verona late afternoon, so we would have time to walk around town a bit as well as have a good dinner, and that we did.
After dinner we went to the office to pick up our will call tickets. That is when I discovered the Opera was scheduled to end at 1am, Yep, ONE IN THE MORNING! Oh great, well this isn’t going to be good news for the Wagoner Clan. I broke the news to the family and the kids let out an “Oh Mom!” and Alan said, he thought it was “Going to be long”. At this moment, I realized I needed to enjoy every last-minute, because it was clear WE weren’t going to last the entire show.
The Verona Arena (Roman Theater)
The building itself was built in 30 A.D., and in those days it was well beyond the city walls. The perimeter of the current seating stalls is 391 meters, and including the wing it is 435 meters. The Roman Amphitheater (now called Arena) could host more than 30,000 spectators. From ancient Roman times through the Medieval times, people gathered to view gladiator shows, battles with beasts as well as tournaments and games. Today it is likely the most renowned Veronese monument and entertains in a different way.
The first 20th-century operatic production at the arena was a staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, which took place on 10 August, 1913, to mark the birth of Verdi 100 years before in 1813. Now in 2013, they are celebrating 100 years of performing Opera in the Arena, and we were there to see it! The Arena is located in Verona Italy (North Eastern part of Italy). It is approximately 1 hr from Venice, Modena or Bologna.
Time for the show to start…
We walked to our entrance gate and up into the amphitheater we climbed. I stopped to soak up every little nook and cranny of steps, stone walls and arches. I noticed Lars was just ahead of me doing the same with his video camera capturing “his moment”. Oh, that was a proud mom moment! At least we are getting some culture into the kids and they are soaking it up… Ah, the master plan is working.
We arrive up into the arena and locate our section, you know the almost cheapest seats in the house. We bought the €25 seats, but that still wasn’t good enough to get a seat we were all familiar with. That bought us the lower section of the Roman Stone Seats! Okay, I know that doesn’t sound exciting to most of you, nor did it to Alan and the kids, but I was excited. How cool that we are going to sit here and watch a performance, just as they would have hundreds of years ago.
(Just so you know, my thrill for the stone seats lasted about 30 minutes. Then my bum was getting sore sitting on uneven stones with all of those delightful cracks, crevices, nooks and crannies exposed.)
We settled into our chosen spots and just enjoyed the ambiance around us, while imagining what it was like to watch the gladiators back in the day. Thanks to the homework I provided to Anya while we were in Rome, we could talk about those times and imagine together. The sun was beginning to set and it was time for them to pass out the candles. Each of us lit our candles as did all of the other spectators in the stands. Oh, that was a magical moment, at least for a few minutes until the candles melted too low to hold.
Candles were passed out to the entire audience, prior to the start of the Opera. Each candle was individually wrapped in plastic, along with a little paper explaining the meaning.
“On the 10th of August 1913, the 100th birthday of Giuseppe Verdi, AIDA was performed in Verona’s Arena amphitheatre, and so the greatest lyric theatre in the world was inaugurated. There was no electricity in the Arena, and to illuminate the scenery and read the programs the public brought with them thousands of candles: so the great tradition of the candles was created.
Almost forgotten over the course of the years, the historical ritual was brought back to life in the eighties, thanks to Vicenzi (a small pastry workshop on the outskirts of Verona), who decided to offer a candle to every spectator on the seating steps. Since then, Vicenzi contributes in recreating, evening, that magic atmosphere.
Lighting your candle before the show signifies your presence at an event unique in the world.”
The Opera began and Anya started to ask “How long are we going to stay here?”. Well, I knew it wouldn’t last, but didn’t expect it so soon. Just at that moment, the music intensified and the performers came out carrying long torches in various shapes and on fire. That caught the kids attention! It was spectacular paired with the incredible voices singing. I was amazed there were no microphones and you could hear their voices throughout the arena. Unfortunately, it was in Italian and we couldn’t understand it all, but Lars was getting pretty jazzed that he understood some of it. It was similar enough to Spanish for us to guess.
I then overheard Anya asking Alan questions about what they were singing. Alan quietly whispered to Anya, the 2 minute synopsis of the opera/story and Anya wanted to see it all. Then men came out all over the arena dressed in hooded cloaks carrying glowing while spheres. With a gasp, Anya loved it! I had chills from the start and this just intensified it, as it was all so surreal. I loved every moment and could have stayed all night (in a real chair). After 1 hour the 1st act was over, the arena lights went on and it was announced that the show would resume in 20 minutes.
Should we stay or should we go now? If we stay, it would need to be the full hour until the next break. Our seats were at the bottom and we would literally have to climb over people to get out. We had a Wagoner family discussion and there were 3 and a half votes to go ahead and go now. I was the half vote, as I could have stayed another hour, but realized it would be rough on the kids.
The kids were troopers and sat through an hour of an Opera and were genuinely interested in their surroundings and what was happening. I couldn’t ask for any more than we already had and our goal and expectations for the experience were accomplished. It was time to leave, while we still could chalk it up to a good experience. We departed and explored a bit of Verona. Then it was time to hop in the car for the hour drive back to our apartment in Reggio Emilia. We have a brief video to share with you below, of the beginning and then filming and cameras were no longer allowed.
- Would we do it again? You bet!
- Did we get what we wanted out of the experience? You bet!
- Would we recommend this to families with kids? Yes, if they aren’t too young. I would say 8 years old is about the youngest I would suggest.
- Would we pay for the “real modern seats”? For me, the answer would be no. I loved that we were sitting on the stone. The rest of the family may beg to differ.
- Was it worth the €115 (4 seats and booking fees)? I am a very frugal person and don’t like to splurge, but I think our experience was worth every penny. That is just 1 hours worth of the Opera too.
More on our Summer road trip.