Thursday 12 May, 9 am
Arrived in Milan yesterday en route to Assisi. This is where most of the long haul flights come in – and Singapore to Milan at 12 hours is certainly long haul. Made the most of the in flight entertainment concert channel to watch opera. The Valencia Gotterdamerung (I saw their Rheingold also inflight a few months previously) hi-tech, video screens, Wotan as a currency trader – but a very traditional Brunnhilde built along traditional lines. Then the Salzburg Festival of about 5 years ago Don Giovanni – modern dress, running round in the woods, hiding behind trees. Brunnhilde couldn’t have managed that (either the running round or the hiding behind trees) but the Mozart cast, and managed to keep singing at the same time. And finally about half of Lulu – also from the Salzburg festival – before landing in Milan.
First impressions. Who are these elegantly dressed, coiffured and made up people standing round the arrivals area at 6am? The airline employees of course. Second impression – in Italy there’s always something closed for repairs, or “work in progress” and the exit I was heading for from the terminal was such a case.
Arrived at the hotel I had made an internet reservation for (51 Euros a night) – but once I started cluttering up their “elegant and spacious lobby” with my luggage they told me I was staying at another hotel run by the same company, fortunately just round the corner. So here I am in the “Hotel Club” in my “simple yet elegant” room, being just that – simple and elegant. But no matter how hard I try to be elegant I remain among the worst dressed in Milan. Tourists can be spotted from a long distance.
Sightseeing – the usual things for me. The Duomo – and the climb to the roof. The lift? No thanks, I’ll take the stairs, they’re cheaper. A sprinkling of churches. Two big saints (Ambose =Ambrogio and Charles Borromeo) and a sprinkling of smaller ones.
And then La Scala. The 12 Euro gallery seats are sold on the day of the performance. First – at 1pm you queue for the opportunity to have your name added to a list. The first 140 or so are lucky, others might be if there are cancellations. The second test is then to return at 5:30pm and join the crowd while the names on the list are bellowed out. If you manage to hear your name over the traffic and general chaos you then elbow your way to the front – “scusi! scusi!”, collect a slip of paper, and then join the queue for the box office and after that opens you wait to hear your number called, then finally you are admitted to the box office where for 12 Euro you receive an actual ticket. Those who just missed out hang about because after all this there might still be a few tickets remaining.
Two women had – according to those just in front of me – pushed their way into the 1 pm queue, resulting a dramatic argument for five minutes or so. What passion to bring to the desire to see opera! It was splendid enough theatre joining these queues and if I had been unlucky and not got a ticket I would not have been disappointed too much. The performance was Turandot – a lively performance with inventive staging and an almost constantly moving set. The cheap gallery seats are small and cramped and I was squashed between a rather wide man on one side and a pillar on the other. Suffering from jet lag I was near sleep at times but the long intervals were a chance to stretch and drink coffee.
Now on the fast train to Florence before taking the slow train from there to Assisi.