by Melinda Gallo

Elektra

There have been a lot of perks from my writing my blog like meeting people, exchanging emails with some very interesting and sweet people, getting interviewed, and building new relationships. But one other unexpected perk was being invited to attend the opera Elektra at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino by one of the opera singers, the soprano Christine Goerke. She was reading my blog while she's been here in Florence for the show and emailed me.

Living in Florence :: Elektra

We had exchanged a few emails and finally met up last week. We went to the top of La Rinascente for a drink and a chat. She invited me to see her at the opera and I was excited about it all week. I marked it on my calendar and couldn't wait to go even though I knew that I'd be missing a partita di calcio (soccer match) between the Fiorentina and their biggest rivals Juventus.

I had only been to one other opera in my life with my mother back in the US many years ago, but never went to one here in Florence, so it was doubly exciting for me.

I invited a girlfriend of mine to come with me to today's matinee because she loves the opera and would appreciate it. We sat down in the orchestra area where our seats were, and I was immediately taken by the huge curtain in front of the palcoscenico (stage). I looked around the theater as I listened to the musicians tuning their instruments in the platea (pit). It felt magical to be in such a large theater, which looked quite unassuming from the outside as many buildings do in Italy, with so many people patiently waiting for the performance to begin.

The theater filled up slowly and I don't think I saw an empty seat in the house. The lights dimmed and the direttore d'orchestra (conductor) Seiji Ozawa came out. The crowds applauded when they saw his head of grey hair appear in the platea. He looked unassuming, but had the charisma of a man twice his size.

He greeted the crowd with the wave of a hand and began to conduct. I was mesmerized by his hands as they floated and danced through the air and lead the entire orchestra. The music seemed to build up in his body and was then born by the musicians who followed his graceful movements. It was a magical sight to watch, and at times I couldn't help but look over at him. All that grace and power behind the music was impressive. He truly became the music.

When the curtain came up, I felt as if I were transported into another place. The opera was in German and the Italian sottotitoli (subtitles) were shown above the stage. Christine summarized the story of Elektra and I had read the synopsis in the program beforehand, but I still wanted to read the sottotitoli when I could. It was difficult because I felt as if my senses were already overflowing with the singing, music, and the movements of the performers on the palcoscenico.

I was so happy when I saw Christine come out. I had never met an opera singer before and it was exciting to hear her sing. As I watched her, I felt so much joy. Her stunning voice was pouring out onto us and I felt honored to be there to hear her.

All of the singers in the opera was amazing and I didn't even notice the time go by. Almost two hours later, the curtain fell and it was the end of the show. People cheered, applauded, and many yelled out, "Bravi!" to the performers. I was so pleased that the performers received so much heartfelt praise and appreciation because they definitely deserved it.

I wasn't supposed to take any pictures inside the theater, but I asked one of the ushers and she told me that she wouldn't tell anyone. I took this picture of the palcoscenico as they were cleaning it up for the next performance.

Christine invited us to go backstage after the show so we walked around the building and saw many people waiting to talk to and get autographs from the performers. I felt a bit like a groupie standing outside. Christine's friend came out to get us and we were able to go backstage and see her. We bumped into Seiji Ozawa who was finishing up a rehearsal for his next performance before he left for the day.

I'm so grateful to Christine for having invited me to the opera. And now that I've had this experience, I'd love to see another one. It's unfortunate that I hadn't seen many before. My mother loved the opera and I think as a teenager I just refused to listen to it, but today I was able to fully experience the opera by being present for a live performance. I'm looking forward to attend another opera some day soon. I don't know when or where, but I do know that I will go again.

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