First of all, for those of you who have been following my saga, I did finally make it to the bank today, but alas, didn't get to do my laundry. I could have rushed home after rehearsal was over, but I decided to spend the evening hanging out with my colleagues instead because I have been spending a lot of time speaking english to my swiss friend in the cast, and thought I needed to spend the night in italian or I would digress. And going to the bank felt like enough of a victory for one day.
I finally found the correct bank, and again, was amazed by the high security - I had to be buzzed in through one door, and close that door completely before I was buzzed into another door. When I arrived inside the bank (which looks like a palace - see above photo) I was perplexed by how things worked. There seemed to be some sort of number system like the deli counter at the grocery store, but I didn't see where the numbers were coming from or how to get them. I managed to find a gentleman who seemed to work at the bank, and explained to him in my best italian that I was a singer from the Teatro Regio, they told me I could come here and get my money, but I had never been in an italian bank before (lie - I have been in 3, but didn't ever really know what I was doing) and could he please help me figure out what to do? He said a few things to me that I didn't completely understand and got a number for me from somewhere. Then he winked at me, took the next number from the machine that everybody else was taking numbers from to show me that the special number he had handed me was 141, and the next number from the regular machine was 161. Finally somebody is helping me because I'm blonde!
The way they have the whole system organized seems totally high tech and yet completely inefficient. There were people sitting around in all these chairs waiting for their numbers to be called, and I swear, if the teller put a number up on the screen and the person didn't arrive IMMEDIATELY they would scroll to the next number (this may have been because it was already 12:45 by this time and they were ready for their 2 hour lunch break). I made sure to wait someplace where I wouldn't be skipped because I was too slow and watched the board like a hawk for my number to come up. When it did I raced to the window, and was praying that I was finally at the right bank (I still wasn't sure because while the nice man had given me a good number, he didn't really ever say YES this is the opera company's bank!) I was so relieved when I walked up to the teller and she knew exactly what I was talking about and dispatched my money immediately. I skipped away and only had to go through three high security glass doors in order to get back on the street.
Today was our second day of rehearsal on the stage. As I mentioned yesterday, I am totally amazed that we have as much stage time as we do, because in the states, this would be unheard of. There are a few other things that are completely different about working in europe that I've noticed since we've been in the theater as well. First of all, yesterday, somebody important from the opera company (I believe he is the second in command) came into the theater (this photo is the Teatro Regio, where I will be performing) and very informally announced to whoever was sitting in his vicinity that they were going to be making a professionally released dvd of this production (don't get excited - not of my cast), would be broadcasting the performance on national italian radio, and also filming for a tv show in italy called "prima della prima" (which means "before the opening") which is shown on one of the national television stations here in italy. Everybody seemed pleased, but not particularly overjoyed with any of this news. In the states, we're thrilled if the local tv station wants to do a segment on their 6:00 news where they try to have someone from the opera company break a glass (this has actually happened to me) and here, they are telling the cast a couple weeks before opening, "by the way, we're going to make a professional dvd of this and sell it, cool?" In the states, we can't even get our hands on the archival recording because of orchestra union rules, but here they just make professional dvd's when the mood strikes them. And people actually buy those dvd's, listen to the performances on the radio, and watch the tv programs.
The other funny thing about italian opera companies is the choruses. Never before have I heard a chorus mark (which means singing with only a tiny part of your voice in order not to tire it out) and today, the chorus was marking. They were totally phoning it in physically, but also they were barely singing. I asked someone about this, and it was explained to me that in italy, the chorus thinks of themselves as both very important and also cannot be bothered to do anything. It's apparently really bad at La Scala, where they refuse to sing until the performance, and have written in their contracts that if they appear on stage at any moment when they are not singing, they must get paid more. One colleague told me that when she sang at La Scala, she was having trouble hearing the orchestra on stage during the performance because the chorus was talking so loud to each other about what they were going to have for dinner later or something. This chorus didn't appear completely apathetic, but they definitely weren't really bothering to sing, and it was cracking me up. A chorus in the U.S could NEVER get away with that, nor would they ever try.
After rehearsal, I went out for happy hour and then dinner with several non-english speaking colleagues, and was able to participate (although somewhat limitedly and with many hand gestures) in conversations about lesbian stalkers, whether animals have some human emotions, and the complications of singing ensembles in Rossini operas - all in italian! Whenever the I had the floor and everyone quieted down to listen to just me, I usually blushed and fumbled terribly with my words, but luckily, as with most italian meals, usually everybody was talking at once and I could shout out without too much attention being paid to my grammar. The night ended with more gelato (it has been pointed out to me that I am in fact an addict) and finally, with the removal of my pants, which have inevitably become just a little too tight.