Sunday, April 27, 2008


Sorry I took yesterday off from my blogging duties, but I was in Bologna with no internet connection. I took the train there to see my friend Kate sing her dress rehearsal of Norma (she was singing Adalgisa) at the Teatro Communale of Bologna. I had a great time, she was fabulous, and we had a great meal afterwards. 

Taking the train in Italy is somethin' else. There are certain things in Italy that are absolutes, and that you can totally count on like the fact that everything is closed during the lunch hours, and that carbohydrates will become your friend. But one thing that seems to be totally non-standard is train service. I mean, it's wonderful that in europe, you can get around relatively inexpensively pretty much everywhere by high-speed trains. But here in Italy, the whole system is really beyond my grasp. First of all, when I was trying to purchase my tickets to go there, there were some tickets that cost 50 euro, and some that cost 17. That's a big difference, right? It depended on several things; what time you went, if you went directly, and how nice a train happened to be running at that hour. I wanted to leave in the morning and arrive in time for the 4:00 rehearsal, so if I had been choosing totally on my own, I would have chosen one of those 50 euro tickets. Luckily I had my italian buddy Vincenzo to work the ticket machine for me, and figure out that if I took such-and-such a train to Milan and switched for a certain Eurostar train, it would only cost me 39 Euro or something. The confusing thing is that there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason behind when the nicer, more expensive trains run, and when the cheaper ones do. And the cheapest train I took was the one from Torino to Milan, and it was probably the nicest. On the way back this afternoon, I found a non-stop train for only 28 euro total. Go figure.

 As I was boarding the train, Kate yelled after me, "next time get first class - it's much less crazy" and strangely, not much more expensive. I soon understood what she meant. In this particular train, there are little carriages with 6 seats, three facing three, and some of the seats are reserved and some aren't. I never figured out how that worked out, because I somehow didn't have a reserved seat, so I just took a seat in an empty carriage. But then a family of three came in, and they had reserved seats in that particular car. No one kicked me out of my seat by the time we had left Bologna, but I spent the rest of the ride expecting someone to get on at any of the stops and make me get out of my seat. There are also these sad folding seats in the aisles, and people were sitting on those for the entire 3 and a half hour journey. I still have no idea if I was in somebody's seat and they were too polite to tell me so were sitting in the aisle. Although I don't think so because Italians aren't really afraid to tell people what they think. 

The theater in Bologna is one of the oldest in Italy, and it looks exactly like you would imagine an old italian theater should look. One of the interesting things about the set up of the theater is that instead of a balcony, other than the orchestra the entire theater consists of box seats. So you have the orchestra seats, which I estimated to be about 650 seats, tops, and then you have like 4 floors of about 20 boxes each. Because there was no long balcony, the theater seemed teeny to me, and the acoustics were amazing. The other thing that was fascinating was that the production was not particularly traditional (although I'm not sure how you would traditionally represent druid priestesses) but was full of weird abstract art - one of the drop downs was this neon lighted fixture shaped kind of like a tree. It was almost shocking for me to see this very traditional theater filled with these modern abstract art images. It reminded me of putting antique furniture in a really modern loft - which I love, but which can be a little jarring when you first look at it. A lot of the singing was spectacular, especially coming from my friend Kate, who was a super star. 

We went to dinner at this old style rather formal restaurant and we stuffed ourselves (I had the agnolotti, and Kate had what else, but pasta bolognese) and we even had the distinct privilege
of being hit on by some german tourists claiming for some reason to be canadian (Kate dispatched of them swiftly by telling them that there were plenty of college bars they could go to - without us, thank you very much). Bologna is quite a college town, and there were more people out and about on a Saturday night than any college town I've been to in the states. Italians really treasure their leisure time more than any culture I can think of. 

Today after visiting some fountains and piazzas, I was back on the train and back "home" to Torino. I spent the train ride silently reviewing recits in my mind and praying nobody was going to make me sit in the car with the chicken coops or something. I walked back to my apartment from the train station only stopping for a couple scoops of gelato, and then after a brief respite, went out and had a seafood risotto for dinner. There are these big blue antique scales all around Torino that I think are a sign to me that I should slow down with the massive food consumption - however, they only measure your weight in kilos, and since I have no idea what the conversion is, I could weigh myself and remain blissfully ignorant. Hooray for America's shunning of the metric system!!!

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