“Aida” at The Arena di Verona, Italy

“Every Story is a Love Story”

DSC07633My first experience of opera singing was at Restaurant Bel Canto in Paris, France. During the wonderful dining experience, we were serenaded by the staff who are trained opera singers. The Bel Canto experience is truly a special one, and since then it was on my bucket list to watch opera performance.

As I traveled to Italy during Verona Opera Festival 2017, I got the opportunity to watch the amazing opera productions at the biggest open-air theatre in the world – Arena di Verona. Attending the performance in the best preserved Roman amphitheater in Italy, which was built in the first century, was a surreal experience. It was an unforgettable evening.

Arena di Verona, Italy

The Arena has hosted many concerts and performances of the most notable opera singers, such as Luciano Pavarotti, Giuseppe Di Stefano and Andrea Bocelli, and international rock and pop singers and bands such as  Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart and Radiohead. The Arena di Verona is also the romantic setting for “Intimissimi on Ice”, an international highly acclaimed spectacular show, which combines great music, fashion, and skating.

During my visit, I chose “Aida”, a timeless love story based on the classical Verdi production, which is known for its extravagant stage productions and amazing musical arrangements. Aida is an opera in four acts with breaks in between and the show lasted more than four hours. There were two large screens that provide subtitles in English. The performance was heartfelt, the musical was in full glory, with romance,  war, intrigue, love, betrayal, guilt, power, and religion.

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Aida is a story about an ancient love triangle. The character focused on the enslaved Nubian princess, Aida, the Egyptian Captain, Radames, and the Egyptian princess, Amneris. I was deeply absorbed in the magnificent play, and at the end of it, there was a big lump in my throat and I felt like crying. Life can be unfair sometimes.

Aida: “If you don’t like your fate, change it. You are your own master. There are no shackles on you.”

As their forbidden love grown deeper, Aida and Radames chose to renounce the world. They believe that only death will unite them forever and make their love immortal.

Aida & Radames: “I’m so tired of all we’re going through. I don’t want to love like that. I just wanna be with you. Now and forever, peaceful, true.”

Love stories are reflections of our own experience and expectations from life. Whilst watching this play, my mind visualized myself as the main characters, how they feel and think. I imagined myself as Aida, put myself in the shoes of Radames, and most importantly, my feelings of Princess Amneris.

I told Nicky that Amneris has the biggest heart. She came off as a shallow ‘bimbo‘ when in fact she is a sweet, smart and compassionate person. She is willing to do anything for Radames, even to share her love with Aida, her favorite slave, whom she considered as her closest friend and sister. In my opinion, Amneris felt dejected and was the most hurt.

Amneris: “Why do I want him still? Why, when there’s nothing there?
How to go on with the rest of my life to pretend I don’t care?”

Sometimes we cannot understand love. Love can drive a person insane. There is always a taunting feeling inside us that things will never be perfect. At some point, we have to realize that some people can stay in our heart, but not in our life. And we get hope from Aida that we will find our perfect match – someone out there who will love us eternally.

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Buying Tickets

Cheapest tickets on the stone steps cost €22 and the most expensive seats are €208. I  bought the cheapest tickets online which was supposedly located facing the stage. But as we arrived late, the gate has closed. We were directed to another location at the side which was not a bad spot.  Anyway, the arena was built in the first century and for almost 400 years gladiators fought here and entertained the people. So no matter where you sit, it feels like stepping back in time.

What to bring and/or prepare?

  • Sitting on the stone steps for more than four hours can be uncomfortable (show starts at 9pm and end almost 1am). Bring or buy cushions at the entrance. I brought along my S$1.90 cushions from Ikea. Half-way through the show, we managed to make ourselves much comfortable by resting our back on the stone when the audiences behind left the venue as it was getting late.
  • The rules and regulations stated that no food and drinks are allowed in the Arena. But the Security did not check our bags. The beverages; mineral water, soft drinks, beers or wines sold at €5 each. So, if I plan to go again, I will bring some snacks and drinks of my own.
  • Bring a fan, it was hot and humid from queueing and climbing the stone steps.
  • Candles are available on the stairs on the way in. The lightings of candles at the start of the show was absolutely magical. Bring a lighter.
  • Try to ease yourself before the show. It would be troublesome to find a toilet and Nicky said it was pretty gross.

How to Dress?

  • The opera is scheduled during summertime, so dress casually and more importantly, comfortably. But then again, it is Arena di Verona, and you are in Italy! Dress well to capture good pictures and memories.
  • Bring a light cardigan, sweater or scarves as the air cools off significantly after sunset.

Dining after the Opera

  • There were some restaurants still opened after the show and we had a lovely supper in the restaurant with breathtaking views of the Arena past midnight. It was a good way to end the evening.