Monreal / Palermo
Today: Absolutely perfect from beginning to end. And I believe it ended on a high C, with the final chorus from Don Pasquale.
Rosalia is our guide this morning on a panoramic driving tour of Palermo. I see several things I want to return to visit later. We leave the city driving to the Royal Mountain, Monreal.
There we visit the world-famous cathedral that is a mix of Arabic, Byzantine and Norman artistic styles. It really is quite amazing. Several of us climb to the roof for amazing views over Palermo and the sea.
Returning to town, we visit the Capo market where I had been yesterday. It is really thronged today with people making their purchases for the weekend. The tour ends at the opera house and eight of us purchase tickets for tonight's performance.
During free time this afternoon several of us taxi to the Catacomb de Cappuccine, an eerie place where people had made arrangements in life to have their bodies displayed after death. They are hanging on the walls and lying on open shelves or in coffins with glass on the sides. The earliest is 1599, and many are dated in the 1800's. We get a great sampling of the costumes of the era, as the people are clothed as they were in life. Spooky.
One other guy and I continue touring after the catacombs, visiting the main Cathedral, the Porta Nuova gate, Fontana Pretoria, Quattro Canti, the Vucciria Market and the San Dominico Cathedral. We see two weddings in progress and hear an organist rehearsing in some of the various churches we enter. Quite a busy day music-wise.
Those of us going to the opera tonight grab an early dinner (7pm is the earliest any restaurant would seat us), and our guide helps us order quickly. We're in and out in exactly one hour, and then off to the theatre.
The opera is a modern interpretation. Don Pasquale is a businessman, and they do some really fun stage business during the overture with secretaries typing to the fast beat of the music. The costumes are from the 30's and 40's perhaps? Very colorful, with Mediterranean splashes, Tuscany orange walls. In one place an Erte-style art-Deco poster to advertise the business. The final act incorporates old movies from the 30's and 40's. I can understand what they were trying to achieve, and it is very creative, but it is a bit distracting-upstaging the singers. My opera-buff seatmate and I give the production an "A" for creativity and imagination, but not quite so high marks for the actual execution. And the singing is technically fine, but somehow lacks soul. The ovations aren't at all raucous as I imagine they would have been had the audience been overwhelmed.
Only two of us made it through the third act, which ended about 11:15pm. The other six left during the intermission after act two. We troopers decide to see if the gay bar is open tonight, since it is just around the corner, and it sure is! Crowded. A young and gorgeous crowd. Everyone out on the street. Only can go inside if you have to use the toilet. We enjoy chatting and people-watching until 12:15am, then head for the hotel.
It will be difficult to top today, but we will see what tomorrow has in store!