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VIVA VERDI + LA SCALA – October 2018
"Who could forget the chill in the theatre... the brilliant lighting effects and the sound as copious amounts of dry ice were dropped onto the stage..reminding us of the bitter cold of Macbeth's Scotland!"
The Parma Festival Verdi certainly dished up some effective, brilliant and perhaps thought-provoking productions. This is a Festival and new ideas and visions are encouraged to thrive in this atmosphere. Attila certainly didn't disappoint the traditionalists, though...and it was breathtaking!
Overall , the standard of soloists, the chorus, the orchestra...were simply stunning in that beautiful Teatro Reggio...It was the same in the tiny Teatro Verdi in Busseto, where we were treated to a real surprise with such an early Verdi work brought vividly and comically to life in the tiny space. (complete with Parma hams!!). Even the recital with baritone Klassen Karagiozov and bass John Paul Huckle was thoroughly enjoyable, with those fabulous dramatic Verdi arias for lower voices.
It was very moving to walk through parts of Verdi's life, to be aware of the absolute adoration so many still feel for this great musician and Italian nationalist, a man on the one hand strong-willed, even harsh...on the other, brought to butter by his 'best friend', his little white dog, Lulu... Who could surpass our delightful Verdi guide in bringing everything to life with her thoroughly informed and entertaining guiding
There are so many vivid memories of the warmth of the people in the untouristy Emilia-Romagna region...Those dear chaps...the club of the 27 in their blue ties and blazers...bonded by a love of Verdi and a desire to ensure that his works are always before the people...starting with school children, the very hospitable and generous Umberto from Hotel Posta and Cavazzone...how much more he gave of himself, his passion for real balsamico and his proud family story than any tourist could expect...we even met Mamma!
The delightful young lady who brought Casa Pavarotti to life for us was another highlight...so dedicated and respectful of the Pavarotti story, yet this was just 'work experience'...her real chosen career will be as a corporate translator!
There was the food we enjoyed...oh dear..those big tortelloni...and remember the large pear and hazelnut cakes cut up and placed on our tables AFTER dessert at Pegaso...when most of us could barely swallow air!? Such delightful people we encountered....so many intent on us enjoying our experience with them and feeling welcome.
In Milan we'd no idea that our guide in the La Scala Museum would be our contact in the marketing department... He didn't need to guide us....but he wanted us to get the most from our time at La Scala. When we expressed our concern that a second guide hadn't been booked for our theatre tour (we'd had two last year ), ...who appeared as the second guide? He did!
Milan itself, although big and bustling, (and with SO many tourists cf last year,) held its own as a fitting place to finish and I'm sure we all enjoyed our various activities there....Walking up on the Duomo terraces is always a particular thrill. Our hotel being so central and there being so much you could easily walk to, was great of course.
The final word must be about Verdi's Casa di Riposo. What a special visit it was and good on Stewart for approaching them in the first place and asking if we might have a special visit. (this isn't a museum where you book tickets online...It's peoples' home!) We'd all agree that our host...not a trained tour guide, did a fine job of enlightening us about Verdi's wishes and intentions for his 'greatest work' and how fabulous to see those honour boards bearing names of many famous musicians who have supported the house.
There really was so much in our tour together, we haven't mentioned half of it...but we're sure those who joined us will continue to enjoy your own memories and special insights for a long time to come. .
Client comment : Dear Stewart and Jennifer, Jean and I would like to let you know that we enjoyed the Viva Verdi! very much.Firstly we appreciated the way Stewart organized our air tickets so we could link seamlessly from Wellington to the Emirates flights through Dubai alongside the Australian tour members.We appreciated that there were multi-night stays rather than moving on every day as happens on some other tours we have observed. There was also plenty of free time to do our own things.
The hotels, and our rooms were all both comfortable and convenient and you can take great credit for the care you clearly took with their selection.The unique Operatif! custom of pre-ordering our menu choices really worked and avoided bland standard tour party fare. But it meant we never lost any weight.We appreciated how you unobtrusively helped the slower members of the tour by finding lifts, keeping distances short and looking out for stragglers. While we had visited the Italian cities many times before, many of the actual activities were new to us, for example the Pavarotti house, Renata Tebaldi's memorabilia and the Verdi “old musicians home”.The seats for La Scala were fabulous, far beyond what we could have got for ourselves.
The operas were great.
All in all a great success and especially with the companionship of the other Operatif! fans with whom we had much in common, both in interests, experiences and age.
Dr Don & Jean T, Wellington, NZ