Set in Seville, Spain.
Performed in ancient Roman amphitheater.
In fair Verona.
Ummm...yeah...it's pretty darn cool. Each summer the Arena di Verona hosts a summer opera festival. It's one of those things that I've wanted to do but didn't have much motivation to organize because, well, I don't know much at all about opera. Several months ago Richard and his colleague decided that we all should go together this summer, and that's exactly what we did last week. He chose Carmen as great introduction to opera for a bunch of rookies, and I took no insult when he told me that I would surely recognize the music from Tom and Jerry or The Bad News Bears.
The Arena was built in the 1st Century AD by the Romans and is a well-preserved structure. In addition to the summer opera festival, it hosts other concerts throughout the year. I saw Alicia Keys perform here a couple of years ago, and I believe Richard attended a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Arena.
The large-scale opera production offers a chance for Everyman to experience the opera, with tickets ranging from 21 Euro for general admission seats high up in the area with stone seats to nearly 200 Euro for numbered seats down on the floor of the Arena. The place was not packed on the Tuesday evening that we attended, and there was a jovial, festive feeling to the event that seemed to be full mostly of tourists. (Could that be because it was Tuesday and did not end until 1:15 am?)
The Carmen production was fabulous from my rookie point of view, with an unbelievable stage set designed by the famed Italian Franco Zeffirelli. (Never heard of him? Surely you've seen his version of Romeo and Juliet at some point in your life! You haven't? Well, what are you waiting for??) I was also in awe of the sheer number of performers. People, people, everywhere!
Before the opera, we had dinner at La Taverna di Via Stella, a place that came recommended by an Italian friend who lives and works in Verona. It did not disappoint: the prices were fair and the food very good. I would return. He also recommended the Osteria di Ugo, which we hope to try another time. Both of these are a short walk from the Arena.
A couple of weeks before we attended Carmen, we took a visitor from the States to enjoy fair Verona one morning. These images are from that visit. The sets of the operas that rotate nightly during the summer festival are simply stored right outside of the Arena, a pretty cool thing to see.