A Night at the Opera
Some people believe in fate, a divine plan, or the notion that “everything happens for a reason.” Some people believe that there’s a higher power in charge of our destiny.
I am not one of those people.
Instead, I think we largely determine our own fate. Not necessarily “directly,” by force of conscious will, but rather by the thousands of small choices that we make every day. Individually, each decision seems insignificant, but the sum of them is what guides the course of our lives. (However, not without a little luck—good and bad—thrown in to keep things interesting.)
A Night at the Opera
In 2008, I experienced my first long-term stay in Italy. Most of that time was spent in Emilia Romagna. I lived in Bologna, but spent many weekends with some friends in Parma who were studying opera performance at the Conservatorio di Musica Arrigo Boito. They were true “Bohemians” in the Puccini sense of the word, living hand to mouth while trying to scrape together a few extra Euros for an occasional private lesson that might give them a competitive edge.
My best friend during that period was Fidel Gamboa, who I had met several years earlier while working together at my dental practice in Orlando, Florida. He was a dentist, too, but also an aspiring tenor whose passion for the opera must have rubbed off onto me.
(I interviewed Fidel in Episode 011 of my podcast The Fatal Charm of Italy.)
I admired my friend’s courage when in 2006 he gave up everything in the States to follow his dreams and move to Italy—where I caught up with him 2 years later.
Together, we attended the Verdi Festival in Parma that October, scalping tickets for two seats way up in the rafters; the “piccionaia,” the pigeons’ roost (or the “nose bleed section,” as we call it in the U.S.).
In fact, it’s known that the true aficionados prefer these seats, in some measure as a protest against the elitist perception of opera enthusiasts. They also claim that you can see and hear the performance better from this lofty vantage point.
Furthermore, these tifosi up in the “cheap seats” are boisterous in their fervor; cheering wildly for exceptional performances, and heckling even more vigorously when the lead tenor doesn’t measure up to their high expectations. Who’d of thought: the common man as the most influential music critic in the hometown of Giuseppe Verdi?
Un’ Opera in Musica
In Rome, I’ve watched performances at The Baths of Caracalla. Summertime—in the open air, against the crumbling ruins of the ancient city; Prosecco in hand as the sun went down and the lights came up on Bellini’s Norma. The memories of those famous “Three Tenors” echoing about…
I’ve visited the opera houses in Venice, Bologna, Milan, Catania, and Palermo. I’ve attended small “operatic” concerts in churches, such as the one I saw in Puccini’s hometown of Lucca, and a performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Prague. In Sorrento, I attended a kitschy review of the Neapolitan folk music that evolved alongside the Italian opera with such songs as O’Sole Mio and Torna a Surriento…
Why am I rambling on about all of this?
Is it divine intervention? Nah… My own brain guided me here because this is where I wanted to be. And I must say, it feels exactly right at this point in my life.
A circuitous route, for sure. First inspired by friend’s leap, and then captivated by the magic of live opera. Then to my own experience as an expat in Italy, which led to my blog, which led to freelance travel writing, which led to social media proficiency, which led to my Internet marketing business, which finally led to a great job in my home state of Florida. And along the way I picked up all the skills that I needed to thrive at this new position.
I didn’t consciously plot a course in this direction, but looking back it’s easy to see how all of the decisions that I’ve made over the last 10 years have lead me to this precise spot.
So if you find yourself in South Florida this winter, contact me about attending the opera. I’ll get you some cheap seats way up in the nose bleed section. Up where the pigeons roost, where the true fans hang out, where you can enjoy the best vantage point to experience the magic of a live performance. Who knows, it might even send your life in unexpected directions.