Wednesday, March 7, 2012

La Scala: Aida Part One

As I mentioned in my blog post on Saturday after discussing my desire to visit the world-famous La Scala opera house with my mother, she surprised me with a ticket to see my very first opera, Aida, on Sunday. Following a great deal of excitement, along with momentary panic over what to wear to the event, I began to plan my trip to the nearby city of Milan where La Scala is located.

I decided to stay in a moderately-priced hotel overnight because the opera was scheduled to finish shortly before midnight and the final train for Lodi leaves Milan around ten minutes after that. There were a lot of hotels located mostly near Milano Centrale train station that were within my price range and after an extensive search I managed to select the one which I believed to be the best value for money. The Hotel Demidoff is a three star hotel which is located literally ten seconds away from the Lima underground station in Milan. At only 65 Euros a night when booked on the internet, single rooms are a steal considering that most hotels in Milan charge well over 100 Euros for a night’s stay.

On the day of the opera, I made my way into the city at around four in the afternoon. Although Aida did not start until seven thirty in the evening, I decided that I wanted to settle into my hotel first and then head out for a quick meal before it began. Upon my arrival I was pleasantly surprised, not only was the hotel amazingly near to the underground station, but it was both clean and safe. While it is true that my room was a little on the small side and the paper thin walls meant that I could hear everything going on next door, I was extremely satisfied with my selection. After the mandatory exploring of my room and scavenging for free soap and shampoo (admit it, you do it too) I put my pre-selected opera outfit on and paraded around in front of the mirror for several minutes. I felt like a million dollars even though it was just a collection of old bits and pieces from my wardrobe and as I headed to the underground station I felt butterflies of anticipation fluttering around in my stomach.

The Teatro alla Scala is located a few minutes away from the Duomo underground station in Milan. Those of you who have visited the city before will surely be familiar with it as it is home to both the Milano Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The area is a hot spot for tourists and is always busting with activity. When you exit the underground station, you immediately come face to face with the impressive Duomo. Its intricate façade, covered in carefully carved statues, always leaves me in awe no matter how many times I see it. On this occasion, however, I only paused to stare for a brief moment before heading into the Galleria for dinner.

It may seem a bit strange, but after living in Italy for over half a year sometimes the one thing that I find myself craving more than anything is a nice, greasy Big Mac. Luckily for me, amongst the fine restaurants and cafes that are located in the Galleria there is also a McDonalds. As tacky as it may be to wolf down some fast food before attending an opera, I couldn’t help myself and made a beeline for the artery-clogging establishment. To my great amusement once inside I discovered that I wasn’t the only person who planned to devour a hamburger in my best. Men in suits and groups of women wearing elegant dresses and pearl necklaces perched on the uncomfortable chairs in as dignified a manner as possible. I couldn’t help but laugh as I licked a big glob of special sauce off of the tip of my finger. McDonalds, who would have guessed it?

After my rather unconventional pre-opera meal, I ventured through the Galleria towards La Scala, which is located just outside the exit. The building itself does not look overly breathtaking from the outside and one could easily walk right by without ever knowing that it was of particular importance. On this night, however, a crowd of people congregated outside its doors and the few scalpers who were attempting to sell tickets made it obvious that this was the place to be.

When the doors finally opened at around seven o’clock, the audience began to pour into the modest, chandelier-lit foyer and I clutched my ticket firmly. An usher greeted me and pointed me towards the direction of a locked door that was guarded by another attendant. The attendant then unlocked the door and told me to head up the stairs to find my seat. It was all a bit confusing and I began to wonder how on earth I would find the cloak room, let alone my place when there were no real signs pointing me in the right direction. When I saw another attendant, I handed her my ticket and expected to be directed somewhere else. Instead she began to lead me towards yet another locked door and inquired if I wanted to hang my coat up. When I said that I did, she unlocked the room to reveal my own personal walk-in closet. It was all so civilised, with little hooks for my coat and scarf and a stool to sit upon if I needed to change my shoes. I had only been in the building for several moments and already La Scala was making me feel like a queen.

After already being impressed by the convenience of the closet, I continued following the woman towards a short, white door nearby. Once this door was unlocked, I was immediately overwhelmed and I think that I gasped quite loudly. Behind it was a beautiful little room adorned with rich dark red wallpaper that had a direct view of the enormous performance stage. Inside the room were six places to sit; two dark red chairs that were trimmed in gold, two small stools made with the same fabric and two larger stools at the back of the room which matched the rest of the décor. I took a seat in one of the chairs at the front of the room and began to feast my eyes upon the surrounding opera house.

The Teatro alla Scala was huge and there were six floors of rooms exactly like mine which surrounded the stage. People were settling into their seats, chattering amongst one another while excitedly leaning over their balconies and experiencing the atmosphere just like I was. There was a huge chandelier in the middle of the ceiling above that illuminated most of the area below where patrons weaved their way towards the many rows of galleria seats. It was fun to watch their reactions as they entered the theatre for the very first time and I rested my head on the comfortable cushioned velvet ledge in front of me as I took in the beauty. I couldn’t stop smiling and checked my ticket one more time in disbelief. Could my seat really be this fabulous? I felt so incredibly fortunate to be experiencing something that many people all over the world dream about and had to remind myself that this was only just the beginning. There was still an opera to see and it was scheduled to start in less than five minutes.

To be continued…

Be sure to read part two of my La Scala experience on Friday.


  1. Hey Danielle!
    Your way of narrating things is outstanding for once it felt that I'm there with you witnessing it alive in the La Scala Opera. The photography you did speaks well about the Opera. Nice Work!

  2. Thank you for taking an interest in my blog and also for the lovely compliment! I am so glad that you enjoyed the article and photographs. Are you an opera fan yourself?