The Teatro Verdi was built by the Austrians in 1801. It is just west of the Piazza Unita and the entrances are on pedestrian only streets so you can stand there and appreciate the façade of the building. I read on the internet that the original design proposed was not intricate enough for the Austrians so they had the design changed to make the façade more like La Scala in Milan. The interior is more like the Fenice in Venice because it was designed by the same architect. There are various entrances depending on where you are seated.
The theatre shape is a tall semicircle – the classic theatre shape. There are many levels of theatre ‘boxes”. The ceiling is frescoed with angels and flowers and colors. The boxes all have heavy red velvet curtains with gold braided tie backs. The walls are all gold frescoed. The seats are red velvet. Really exactly as you would imagine an opera theatre to be – as you see actually in the New Years Eve concert from Vienna. Stunning and just plain beautiful!
The opera was a one act opera by Rossini called L’occasione fa il ladro. It is a comedy and also was staged with some ballet sequences and was about 90 minutes long. Some of the arias reminded me of the Barbara of Seville which is probably inevitable since Rossini wrote the opera in 15 days. The singing was live and not through the use of microphones. It was quite amazing how clear and crisp the sound carried all the way up to where we were seated in the top balcony kind of facing the stage itself. We were high up and at an incline so I could not see the orchestra but the point was to hear it not see it! The costumes were stylized – I think a modern pared down take on 18th century and all white.
All the words appeared over the stage on a long narrow screen which really helped me a lot to understand what was being sung although I have to say the enunciation of the singers was really good too. And Osvlado did tell me to look up the storyline on the internet, which I did do, so that also helped. This was not a premiere or special occasion so people were dressed casually nothing like evening attire but largely women wearing wool dresses and dressy shoes and men more casual.
I thoroughly enjoyed the surroundings and the opera itself and my attention did not wander, hardly at all, from what was happening on stage.
I met two of the friends that go on the Sunday caminattas and that was nice too.
The evening was mild and Piazza Unita was all lit up and silvery. There were no waves on the Golfo di Trieste and the city lights bounced off the water as far as the eye could see.
I also had the opportunity to see Madama Butterfly. Again I was totally enchanted by the rich colors of the velvet curtains, the golden glow of the carved woodwork, the height of the theatre. While I was familiar with the story, I did have a harder time following the singing than with the first opera. The sentences were longer and used vocabulary that I was not familiar with. However, the music still drew me in and at then end when Butterfly was telling her son to go away I had tears in my eyes!
The set was minimalist and stylized,two long ‘wooden boardwalks representing the dock where the American ship comes in, a red arch representing the house where Butterfly lived with her son, a vase with a single orchid representing the garden…I am most grateful for the opportunity to have experienced the opera and the beautiful theatre.
My third opera was La Traviata. It was a sold out performance and this time people were quite dressed up. This is my interpretation of the storyline – It is a tragic love story where a gentleman (Alfredo) falls in love with a Parisian courtesan, Violetta. They move to a country estate where Violetta subsidizes their life style by selling off her jewels and valuables that had been gifts of precious admirers. This brings shame to the family of course and Violetta receives a visit from Alfredo’s father who at first believes Violetta is just using his son. He implores her to understand that she is ruining Alfredo’s life and she needs to give him up. She understands and makes the grand sacrifice of giving up her life with Alfredo and returning to her life as a courtesan. She does not tell Alfredo why and he is angry and jealous and challenges Violetta’s new admirer to a dual. Alfredo’s father finally realises that Violetta is truly in love with his son and tells his son that he is behaving badly. Violetta is not well and Alfredo comes back while she is on her death bed and together they seal their love and she dies.
The set was really interesting. Instead of a backdrop the whole length and height of the stage was a huge mirror. The backdrop was actually laying flat on the floor of the stage and reflected in the mirror behind. The effect, I read in the newspaper, was allegorical in that it showed how delusional Alfredo was to think that he could live happily ever after with a courtesan.
The first act was set in a Parisian salon, all red velvet settees, and Louis IX chairs with gold leaf legs. The background (reflected in the mirror) was of frolicking semi-clad women! The ladies on stage were all dressed in evening attire, lots of shiny colorful satin maybe 1850’s style dresses. There were also a couple of ballet dancers as part of the salon scene. It was colorful and active because there were about 50 people on the stage and all were reflected in the mirror. “Libiamo” is sung here by Violetta and Alfonso and the chorus. It was generally agreed at the intermission that it was not as strong a Libiamo as it could have been.
The next act we see Alfredo and Violetta at their country home. Then we see Alfredo’s father arrive and the setting changes to a field of daisies – daisies on the stage and reflected in the mirror. The father’s performance was quite strong and drew good applause.
Then back to a Paris Salon and all the women are dressed in red satin and sequins likely to represent a wanton life style. Then the final act and Violetta with her maid alone in her bedroom and very ill. Alfonso finally arrives but it is too late.