Sept 22, 2013
On a whim I decided to tour the famous Teatro Massimo. I knew tours were offered here and fortunately this opera house was open today. For the reasonable fee of eight euros, I was thrilled to be able to see this amazing landmark of Palermo.
The Teatro Massimo was built in 1875 and had been closed at different times due to fires. After a closure of twenty-three years, the theater re-opened in 1997. Almost everything inside is original, including the Murano glass lighting fixtures on the walls. An exception is the refurbished red velvet seats.
Its unique ceiling features artistic paintings on panels which open on warm evenings for ventilation. Although the theater now has air-conditioning, during an opera this feature is never used as it interferes with the singer’s voices.
I actually heard one of the opera singers rehearsing and was thrilled as I listened. On the tour I also experienced the echo room, an interesting place not commonly found in opera houses. In the beautiful marble lobby, costumes from previous operas like Aida and La Traviata were on display.
At the end of the thirty-minute tour, my knowledgeable tour guide informed our small group that tickets may still be available for tonight’s performance of the Barber of Seville. My first thought was that I would love to go, but I had no dressy clothing with me. When I voiced my concerns, the friendly guide said that only in the stalls on the lower level do patrons need to be formally dressed. Seating in the balconies and galleries accommodates those who are more casually dressed. She reassured me that it would not be a problem.
Now I was excited, since I have never been to an opera, yet have always wanted to attend. The thought of being able to see my first opera in Italy really thrilled me. When I went to the box office to check for seats and ticket prices, I decided to buy a ticket for €85 and my seat was in the first balcony, just left of center. The opera would begin at 5:30 and I was advised to arrive an hour early. I walked back to my hotel room with a smile on my face, and thinking about what I was going to wear.
At 4:20 I left the hotel and walked to Teatro Massimo, wearing black pants, a black and white dressy blouse, my black flats, and sunglasses. Although this was a warm day in Palermo, I knew my gold-colored scarf would come in handy, and it was the perfect accessory to wear to the opera. I could hardly believe this was really happening.
I arrived before the doors opened, so really there was no need to be there so early. After about twenty or thirty minutes, I was able to go inside and a theater usher showed me to my seat, or to my room, I should say. The balconies consist of individual small rooms with six chairs, reminiscent of what I have seen in the movies. My view was perfect, and I regretted only having my iPhone camera.
The interior was magnificent with the velvet curtains and gold-colored walls with exquisite glass chandeliers. As more people entered, I noticed many of the ladies using hand-held fans, again, just like I have seen in films.
Although I was not hot, I assumed these women needed the fans to stay cool, since no air-conditioning was in use. Soon three others entered my room, or sala, leaving two of the red velvet, cushioned seats vacant.
A few minutes after the scheduled time to start, the lights went down, and the opera began. I was fascinated, watching the performance, and I was glad that I had researched the story, so I could follow the Italian lyrics. A live orchestra played and above, a screen displayed the lyrics in Italian. How interesting. Such an awesome experience; I was thrilled to be here.
Unfortunately, there is not enough time to include all the details here. You will have to wait for my book to come out to read more about this awesome event. Stay tuned.