Let me begin by saying I’m going to share this story with you, but it is a bit embarrassing.
Back in February of 2011, my husband and I decided to do something from our shared bucket list for our 40th anniversary. Being both lovers of opera, we decided to visit Milan and see an opera at its renowned opera house, Teatro Della La Scala. We were both excited for this trip so as soon as tickets went on sale, I searched online and found two, second row orchestra seats for Pucini’s Tosca. I knew DaVinci’s Last Supper was also in Milan, so I booked a viewing of that as well. From there, we would take a train to Switzerland in what I referred to as the Hemmingway-Farewell to Arms-route: starting in Milan, then a few days in the resort town of Stresa, and finally, on to Lausanne for a few more days. (As I’m writing this, I realize that trip covered my greatest passions: music, art, and literature.) We booked a direct fight, Toronto to Milan, and had really nice accommodations waiting for us when we arrived there.
We settled in and everything was wonderful, just as we imagined it would be. The day after we arrived, we went to see the Last Supper at the convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie. It was a short showing -maybe 15 minutes – in a temperature-controlled room where groups of only a few people were allowed to enter at one time. The guide explained details about the mural and we found it was all very interesting. (By the way, opposite the Last Supper is another beautiful mural Crucifixion by renaissance painter Giovanni Donato.) After that, we did some more sight seeing and later had some fabulous food at a local restaurant.
The next day we had our night at the opera. The morning we spent doing more touring and eating, and later we returned to the hotel to prepare for the evening.
Again, everything was grand when we arrived at La Scala. There was a light drizzle but it did not dampen our excitement as we walked into the opulent, historic opera house. The foyer was of an ivory cream colour and gold gilded trimmings, and it had large statues of famous Italian composers displayed here and there. The ushers wore, I believe, 19th century cloaks to set the feel of the time period the opera was supposed to have taken place in. We took our seats in the theater decorated with lavish, red velvet drapery framed in more gold gilded cornices and moldings. The orchestra was so close, the stage was so close, that we felt like we were a part of the presentation.
There was a few minutes before the opera was to start, so my husband stepped out to the restroom and I flipped through the program while I waited. I was holding my glasses in one hand, absentmindedly playing with them between my fingers. (I had reached that certain age when I always had to take them off for reading, but I was not quite ready to accept bifocals.) In any case, I needed them desperately for distance, being very nearsighted and blind as a bat without them.
Wouldn’t you know it? The glasses slipped out of my hand, and I couldn’t see where they landed on the floor!
I panicked and thought to myself, after all the planning and expense to finally be here, there was no way I was going to see a blurry Tosca! I looked and looked around. Not seeing them, I figured they must have fallen under my seat somewhere and I worried my husband might step on them when he got back. I really needed those glasses to see! So, I got down on all fours – in my fancy dress – and felt around under my seat and the seats in front and to the sides of me. Finally, I let out a sigh of relief, as I felt them under the seat to the left of mine and pulled them out triumphantly from under there. As I got up, I noticed people smiling and chuckling, in particular, an elegantly dress couple seated just behind me, smiling – closer to laughing. I smiled back and just slightly held out my glasses to indicate why I had been on the floor. I’m sure at that moment the colour of my face must have blended in with the colour of the red velvet drapery. I slumped in my seat trying to be as inconspicuous and small as possible. My husband returned and I told him what had happened. He thought it was amusing. I thought it was mortifying. Mercifully, the lights went down, the orchestra played, and I drifted away to 19th century Rome, and the tragic story of Mario Cavaradossi and Floria Tosca.