On the first day my parents explored Turin during their visit in June they came back with a brochure for me. It was the programme for the upcoming season in the Turin Opera house, a building which hides a modern, curved metal roof behind a red brick facade facing the Royal palace. Within very little time I was informed that not only was the opera in Turin (Regio Theatro) well known for high qualify performances, but also that it will be putting on a diverse 2016/2017 season. Within a few moments more we discovered that they offer reduced rates for under 30s.
And so, a few months later, I found myself at the opening night of the season, watching people in fancy clothes walking along a red carpet. The woman who was followed by a young man at a half-jog, half-stumble, filming her walk up to the big doors and the flash of the photographer’s cameras, made me grin. Clearly this was a bigger event than I had thought it was. I mentally cut the different takes together into the perfect “Instagram story” or “Facebook Video”… and chose a side door. After all, I had decided to come out in my jeans and sweater, straight from work. No one had told me that an evening of culture also meant an evening of playing high society.
My friend P, who is living in Turin and also into all things music and art, had managed to get tickets close to and shared the experience with me. We soaked in the music and the atmosphere, the electric buzz which accompanies an audience filled with anticipation, and helped ourselves to free sweets and chocolates with delight. And although I want to focus on the performance, I would here like to add a note about general courtesy. If someone is coming to enjoy a performance, no matter their clothing or the language they speak, one would assume that you, as a fellow audience member, have something in common. Neither the language barrier nor your fancy clothes give you the right to loudly tell the general area that the uneducated foreigners are taking over your theatre and should not appear at such events. You know, especially because some of these “uneducated” foreigners can actually understand you.
The show of the evening, which was accompanied by such splendour, an open buffet, free wine, and offensive clientele, was the classic La Boheme by Puccini. The Turin version was modernised, complete with laptops, phones, and sneakers. This did not make it any less believable or dramatic: especially the cold suffered by the students who had no heating was very familiar to those of us who have been suffering under heated apartments due to the “joy” of central heating.
Probably my favourite feature of the performance was the set. The stage designer had decided to play out all of the action on different levels by using scaffolding-like constructions to build a “see through” three story building. The different “rooms” were connected and disconnected, moved forwards and back to create different settings- multi-storeyed apartments, floor level cafe, dingy clubs. It allowed us as viewers to contrast Mimi’s small, attic apartment with the expansive shared flat of the artists and provided the actors space to all be on stage even when they weren’t singing. These silent interactions built up the layers of the story and letting us understand where the people lived and moved about in relation to each other.
The orchestra played beautifully and the performers sang well, even if they lacked a certain dedication. It was like they were all being careful with their voices on opening night, getting ready for many back-to-back performances. The disappointment of the final agonizing “MIMIIIII” lacking drama stuck with me, but overall I enjoyed my night of culture, with the beautiful music and interesting visuals. I will also remember, though, that the company cultured or not, lacked class.