Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Opera connection.

Now,  you probably thought this was going to be, "Rome,  part deux" but I figured you'd be expecting that.
Instead,  I'm just going to ponder a bit on some of things about Rome that seem to stand out.  I don't just mean the old stuff either,  but I have some theories about that too.
 I still consider Austria to be "Absurdistan",  but after visiting Rome,  I'm no longer sure that Austria is right up there at the top of the heap.   It takes living here in Wienerland and seeing some of the more subtle things that eventually leads one to see the absurdity.   Therefore as a tourist say,  it might not appear that obvious that you're in the heart of Absurdistan when wandering through the Hofburg.  It's all very carefully hidden.  But if you want to live here?   Well,  that's a different story.
 In the case of Rome however,  and perhaps in other Italian cities,  the absurdity bubbles right up to the top,  like a steaming cauldron of craziness that just makes your head spin.   
Traffic lights are only a suggestion.  So what if the light is red?  There's nobody coming,  I'll just proceed.   They don't bother painting marker lines on the streets,  since it would be a waste of paint.   Lanes?   We don't need no stinking lanes!    Speed limits in town?   What's that?
 Thinking of crossing on foot at a pedestrian crossing?  Whoa, you'd better have your wits about you.

 Shall I go on?

 The biggest and most inconvenient example of this bubbling cauldron of absurdity was on Sunday morning when we wanted to get in to the big mass at Saint Peter's Square.
I'm not completely certain of the details,  and I'm not about to waste any more time on the net than I already do trying to find out,  but off and on,  various Popes throughout the ages have been giving Easter Mass since some time around 1450.  You'd think that would be enough time to figure out how to get organised.
Apparently not.
Maybe they need another five or six hundred years?

See,  these days there's all these concerns about security,  so naturally everyone has to go through some sort of check point to get in.  Do you think we could have more than just two??   Hm??
And why are all those cops standing around,  when they could be getting people through the check points?
 Admittedly,  we did discover later that they had more than just the two entry points off on either side of the square  The thing is though,  people come up the main drag from the Tiber river,  and there's nothing telling you that it might be easier to get in if you simply walked 50 meters to one side or the other of the square.

That would make sense.

Can't have it make any sense.  That might be some conflict with Italian tradition.

Now,  let's talk about the yellow tickets.   See,  you could get a yellow ticket that would get you a seat.   Only thing is,  there were way more tickets than there were actual seats.   There were nuns wandering around with tickets that weren't allowed in to get a seat.  If anyone is a "card carrying member",   wouldn't it be a nun?  
I happened to notice one of the tickets from this very annoying Italian family that "camped"  waaay too close to us and right along the bottom there it said you really should get there by 8:30.   Nice.

 Um ya,  if I can read over your shoulder?  You're too flippin' close!  Get away from me!

And by the way,  by the time the Pope got to his "Urbi et Orbi"  speech, there were well over 100,000 people in the square.   We had managed to elbow our way out of there by then.  Travelling Companion had had enough,  and I was just waiting for her to finally say she was ready to pack it in.  *phew*

So now,  let's talk about the "old stuff".   See,  Vienna relies on their "old stuff"  to bring in the tourists,  but I have to say,  they do a fairly decent job of keeping the rest of the city looking half ways decent as well.  The streets are kept reasonably clean and even down around Michaelerplatz,  where it's all cobblestone,  it's still not so wavy that you're liable to lose your lunch.   I've even ridden there on my bike,  and I still have feeling in my legs.
When it comes to Rome,  they have some awesome "old stuff",  but the rest of the city is in really bad shape.  If you care to look at the finances for all the member states of the EU,  you'll see that Italy is right down there with Greece and Spain in terms of their "got no money"  program.
Well,  do you think having about 19 different kinds of police force might be part of the problem? I'm exaggerating  here,  but not by much.
  I swear,  they have a different branch of police for just about everything you can imagine.  I wouldn't be surprised if there were some sort of sheep herder's police.   Seriously! 
And they like to stand around.  Getting paid.  Seems like a good gig.  Sign me up!

Al right,  you've managed to hang in there up to this point,  so here finally is the "Opera connection".  OK, I can see your eyes starting to glaze over,  but just bear with me.

On the Saturday,  as one of the stops on the Roman version of a "hop on hop off"  tour bus deal,   we went to the Castel Sant'Angelo.
This turned out to be a worthwhile stop,  and we were lucky enough that there wasn't much of a line-up to get in.  It was considerably longer when we left,  so we just felt happy to get to see something without queueing up for hours.
 At this point I'd like to mention just how much of a cultural dim wit I am,  since we were standing on the very spot where the final scenes of Giacomo Puccini's opera Tosca takes place.   Yes it's fiction,  but the final scenes take place on the top of the Castel Sant'Angelo.

As a matter of fact,  I had a picture of Travelling Companion sitting on the very spot where,  in this case,  playing the part of Cavaradossi, Placido Domingo sings the final aria before being led to his death.

It's three minutes out of your life if you choose to watch.  There's even English subtitles.  This performance was actually a live broadcast from 1992 wherein, through the magic of electrons travelling at the speed of light and other such things that are also beyond my comprehension,  the orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta,   was actually several kilometres away.

Now aren't you glad you stuck around?

Scene from Tosca

Try it,  you might like it.

Tomorrow,  I think we'll have a go at Roman plumbing.


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Well, I've been getting too many spam comments showing up. Just a drag, so we'll go another route and hope that helps. So, we won't be hearing anything more from Mr. Nony Moose.
I guess I'll just have to do without that Gucci purse.