Sunday, June 19, 2011


Verona is very close to Venice so while we decided to visit for a couple of reasons. First, it is where Romeo and Juliet was set. Second, they have an old Roman Arena where they still show operas in the summer. It was only an hour’s drive so we left late in the day so we could have a bit of time to sight see before having dinner and catching a show.

We bought tickets to see Aida at the arena. The coolest thing about the show was the fact we would be sitting in seats the Romans had sat in to watch their shows 2000 years ago! We bought tickets in the “riff-raff” section of the theatre. In ancient times, the theatre was divided into sections depending on what social standing you held in society. The very closest seats were on a special platform and were reserved for the elite. From there, it went back in the different guilds, like capmakers or knights. Finally, in the very highest area, with no seat assignments sat the poorest citizens and women. This was where we sat. The Romans designed the arena with many arched entryways to help facilitate the large numbers of people attending. Everyone attended. It was free, supported by the very rich. The guilds and elite of society had their seats assigned so they didn’t need to get their early. Just like in ancient times, we arrived almost two hours before the show to secure a good seat. Unlike ancient times, there were no fist-fights that broke out over where to sit.

Our show was at night while the gladiator fights always took place all day. The arenas used to have canvas lids that could be pulled over to shade people from the sun. It must have been beastly hot. During intermissions, people would go back into the arched gallery areas to chat, eat and drink. Those without assigned seats couldn’t leave, unless they had someone who would hold their seats while they were gone. It would have been nice to have had a canvas awning over the arena as the weather was not stable. It rained off and on up to about 15 minutes before the performance. Everyone had umbrellas and it was beautiful looking down over the colourful crowd. As the rain stopped, the umbrellas disappeared. You didn’t see people taking them down. You just saw them all up and then suddenly noticed they were all down.

The performance was in Italian and as we don’t speak Italian we couldn’t understand what they were saying. Visually, however, it was very entertaining. There were lots of elaborate costumes and people flooded the stage to dance, march and sing. They even had characters up behind the stage posted along the very top of the arena. These were centurions with torches. They didn’t use microphones because the acoustics of the arena is why they still perform there to this day. Even though we were quite a distance from the stage, we could hear the performers clearly. At the beginning of the show, everyone lit candles picked up as you entered. This is an old tradition dating back to a time before electricity when the audience had to bring the candles to light up the space.

During the show, it started to rain again and there was a low hum throughout the audience. It grew in sound until it drowned out the performers as everyone moved to cover themselves from the rain. Then the orchestra leaped up and ran for shelter. The singers stopped suddenly and waved. We all clapped and cheered. Then they ran off the stage as well. The rain lasted for about 10 minutes and then we watched and cheered on the cleaning crew as they mopped the stage, the orchestra pit and so on. There must have been a choir in the audience because we were serenaded with singing while we waited which drew loud appreciation from the audience as well. When it started to rain the second time, we decided to leave and the masses followed. We missed the end of the performance but we had read the story before we went and we knew the lovers died. Who wants to see that, anyway?

Before we went to the show, we strolled around Verona following the Rick Steve’s self-guided walk. We walked beneath the original Roman Arches that led into the city and a fountain that still works 2000 years later. We found Juliet’s balcony and forced Julia to go up onto it so we could take her picture. There were hoards of people in the courtyard and Julia was a bit nervous about standing out in front of them. True to her Fine Arts training, however, out she went to pose. If she called for Romeo we couldn’t hear it above the rabble of the crowds. The balcony is purely fictitious as the families in the story are from Shakespeare’s imagination only. However, there is a carving over the arch leading out of the courtyard. The guilds in medieval times each had a symbol marking them and this symbol is of a hat. If there was a capmaker, it does follow the family name might have been Capulet. However, that is where the historical fact ends and there is no real proof of that either.

Visiting Verona and seeing the balcony was neat as Rhys had just read Romeo and Juliet for his English course. Julia also picked up the play and read it. While Rhys and I discussed the play, she would often volunteer opinions or answer questions before Rhys! We all thought it was pretty funny that there is a volunteer group of people in Verona who answer letters written to Juliet. This is just wrong in so many ways. First, she is a fictitious character, people. She never existed except in the mind of Shakespeare. Okay, assuming you have a fairly weak understanding of the line between fantasy and reality, she lived during the medieval era back in the 13th century or so. I don’t think she’s still around, even if she DID exist. Finally, did you people not READ the play? She DIES at the end. Sorry to be a spoiler but there are only a few people resurrected that I know of and they didn’t wind up in Verona!

The whole visit to Verona was exciting and fun, regardless of the rain towards the end.

1 comments: said...

LOVED the commentary and the pictures!!! What treasures for all of you. Seeing the lit candles reminded me of Christmas eve with you in Horn Castle...guess you are not on Skype today...Love Mom