Before the opera yesterday, I went to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant near the theater that was highly recommended on TripAdvisor. The food was great, but very expensive. For a dish of gnocchi and a water, I paid €23. I just did not want to cut it close and make sure I had plenty of time to get to the theater.
The theater itself, La Scala, was absolutely breathtaking. It was like an opera house from the movies. There was a large section for floor seating and about seven or eight balconies, one on top of the other, around the perimeter of the floor seats. Each seat had a mini-subtitle screen in front of it with the option of following along in Italian or English. The seats were small and there was less legroom than we have on airplanes!
I didn’t realize it when I bought the tickets, but I was very lucky to get them as it was opening night for the show. The opera was called Luisa Miller and it had many parallels to Romeo and Juliet.
The story was a bit hard to follow, but I believe I understood the plot. Luisa was in love with a man named Carlo and intended to marry him. A man named Wurf, however, asked Luisa’s father for his permission to marry her a year ago. Luisa’s father said no because marriage should not be arranged, but by choice. Wurf was angered by the news and told Luisa’s father that Carlo was not who he said he was. Carlo was actually named Federico, the son of the Count, the despised ruler of the land. When Luisa found out and confronted Federico (Carlo) about this, he said that his love for her was true and he disguised his identity just so he could be with her.
When Federico returned home, his father, the Count, told him that he has arranged a marriage between Federico and the Duchess of Germany. Federico tried to tell the Duchess that he is in love with another women, but she refused to listen. The Count then went to Luisa’s house to try to break up the marriage, but Luisa’s father threatened to kill him and Luisa and her father were arrested. Federico threatened to tell everyone how his father really gained control of the land which compelled the Count to grant Luisa, only Luisa, her freedom. Luisa’s father was put on death row for trying to kill the Count.
Wurm went to Luisa’s house to tell her that the only way to save her father’s life is to write a letter saying she never loved Frederico, but she had discovered his wealth much earlier and was a status seeker. She also had to say she loved Wurm. After much internal debate, she decided to write it and save her father’s life. Wurm took the letter and sent it to Federico. Then he brought Luisa to confess her “lies” to the Duchess of Germany, the woman that was supposed to marry Federico. Federico was shocked by the letter and, after some motivation from the Count, decided to marry the Duchess immediately.
Luisa intended to kill herself and wrote a letter to Federico asking him to do the same so they could be happy together in heaven. Luisa’s father returns home after being released from death row, discovered the letter and convinced Luisa to stay alive and tear up the letter. They also agreed to run away at dawn so she would not have to marry Wurm.
Federico, still angry, visited Luisa’s house and poisoned her drink. He asked her if she really meant what she wrote in the letter, that she was a status seeker, and fearing any retaliation against her father, Luisa said the letter was true. After Luisa drinks her poisoned drink, Federico told her it was poisoned. Realizing she was about to die, Luisa told Federico the truth. Realizing the mistake he just made, Federico drank the poison as well to ensure he could spend all of eternity with Luisa. As Luisa was dying, her father walked in to find her dying body. As all this is happening, Wurm and the Count also entered the stage and, Federico, with all the strength left in his body, killed them both. Then, Federico died.
While the opera itself was a bit too much like a soap opera for my liking, the talent of the actors & actresses was phenomenal and the set was intricate. The whole stage was on an incline, just like the old Shakespearean plays. The Italians applaud much more than we do in the States. I actually heard a lot of people yelling “Bravi!” and some applause lasted for at least a minute! I was also surprised by the fact that the actors & actresses came out at the end of the first act as a group and took three bows. Then, at the end of the opera, they came out three different times as a group and took three bows. Then, they each came out and took an individual bow.
After the opera, I went to one of the only things still open at midnight, McDonald’s. I am now embarrassed to report that I have had something from McDonald’s in every country I have traveled to so far his trip. I did, however, find a first, the €1 menu! I had a hamburger and fries for just €2. Not bad at all.
Note: This post was originally published on June 7, 2012 in a blog entitled “Romeing Around Europe…Again” which chronicled my post-graduation trip across Europe.