The return to Parma was uneventful (minus hearing that apparently our Tuesday and Thursday Italian classes are mandatory, something I’m trying to change). I slept a lot. Hung out at home a lot and did my best to catch up on work. Wednesday, though, the group of University of Parma students went to the Comune (town hall) to see how the civil processes work in Italy. The building was built in the Middle Ages and is gorgeous, very unlike the town halls of America. There were frescoes on the walls, statues and oil paintings lining the halls. Like all other buildings in Italy, it seems, they went all out to decorate the place. Can America please catch up on this trend?
We were given a “lecture” by one of the mayor’s associates about what the government does, how it functions and how happy they are to have American students come to study in Parma. It was nice, but the problem were the reporters. There was one with a camera, several with notebooks and one with a video camera. Great…I had neglected to take a shower that morning and now would be put onto TV. After we listened to fifteen minutes of the associate’s lesson on Parma (including the history and things important to the city) he asked which one of us would be willing to do an interview for TV. Well, guess who was chosen? Immediately all of the girls and Betta screamed ‘Giacomo!’ I had no choice. At first I had no idea what they wanted me to say, but then I figured out that they just wanted me to say some basic things about Parma and whether it was everything that I had expected. So, I was interviewed for Italian TV, and apparently put on the nighttime news. I haven’t found the link and am not even sure it made it to press, but it was on TV Parma on Wednesday October 27th, if anyone wants to search.
Once our Comune experience was over I went to go meet Giordano for lunch. We had a wonderful panino at Pepen, but more importantly enjoyed good conversation. He was surprised at my Italian skills because the last time that we had met I had spoken mostly in English being that we were hanging around Americans! My phone rang as we were having coffee (tea for me). I didn’t recognize the number, but when I picked up it was my cousin Angelina from the Greci in the south of Italy! I had visited her three years ago on my first trip to Italy and really want to go see her again! Unfortunately, I barely understood anything in this phone conversation. It was hard and she hung up before I could ask her to kindly repeat what the hell she had just said to me! Oh well, I’ll have to call her back.
That night we had Anna’s again! Yes! I had heard good reports on the food this week (oriecchette con broccoli and the usual meats and vegetables), which made me extremely excited to have some of her wonderful cooking. Per usual, the food did not disappoint! In fact, it was amazing. After the pasta, which was simple and flavorful, we had chicken marsala, salad and sweetened bell peppers. Great meal, but still the best part of the weekly meetings are the conversations with Aldo and Anna. It’s a chance to practice Italian while hanging out with some of the nicest people in the world. Nothing better.
Thursday night our Italian class was cancelled because we had a group trip to the opera! It was closing night and our group had tickets. Unfortunately there was no group dinner beforehand, or afterwards, so we went to have risotto at Hosteria del Beppe before the show. This is the same risotto place that I went with the parents and it was just as marvelous as before. The owner and chef even remembered me! Sweet! Then we went to the opera, arriving just in time to take our seats and take some pictures before the show began.
The Opera House itself was splendid in its aristocratic glory. The boxes surrounded the floor level seats allowing us to see into the orchestra and the entire stage. It looked exactly as I had envisioned an opera house would look. It was ornate and over-the-top. But I guess that’s the point of an opera house because of the type of shows that it displays. The play, Il Trovatore, began and immediately I understood almost nothing. Old, poetic Italian is extraordinarily different from the modern language. Luckily there were “sopratitole” (over-titles) which flashed the words being sung. From these, along with the prior knowledge of the play, I could piece together what was going on. The singing and music were spectacular, but the box seats were uncomfortable and a bit hot. By intermission many of the others were falling asleep and/or bored. We spent the fifteen minutes exploring the old building and taking pictures of each other in our Sunday best.
The second half of the opera was much easier for me to understand for some reason. In fact, I would say that I followed 80% of the story and by the end understood almost everything. Maybe I had accustomed myself to the old Italian or maybe it simply became easier. Whichever way I found myself following along, able to translate the plot to the others.
The Opera itself reminded me of a soap opera, but I guess that’s because they are of the same genre. It was so unbelievably over-dramatic that at times it seemed quite ridiculous. I found myself laughing at the “serious” points. The story line could very well be described as stupid, but that does not change how wonderful the singing and music were. I enjoyed it quite a lot, but could not help leaving with the feeling that operas are the kind of cultural event which people attend simply because they have the stigma of high culture. They’re wonderful sure, but not worth sitting there for nearly 4 hours. It was like pleasant torture.
I went home, talked to Courtney, talked to Dad and went to bed at 3:30 even though I had to wake up at 4:45 to catch a 5:12 train to Milan to leave for Spain to see Courtney!!