Saturday evening was opening night of the opera season here in Roma and the “beautiful people” of Roman society were out in full force. The great, the use to be great, the not so great and the I’m a nobody but I’m decorative and with someone great.
The opera house lobby was tastefully decorated in trees created from masses of Spathiphyllum
that wonderful red flower I can never remember the name of, students from the ballet school lined the staircase bowing to each of us as we ascended, further massive bouquets adorned the front of the boxes, the Caribinari were in full dress guarding President and Mrs Napolitano, he’s an opera lover, who sat in the Royal box with Signore Allemano, our mayor and de facto director of the opera. At the first interval presseco and delicious de Grisogono chocolates where set out on brocade covered tables and the “beautiful people” air kissed, hugged, shrugged, glad-handed and shoved their way to the freebies in the various lobbies.
Shoving seems to be a trait of the “beautiful people” here – they shoved to get into the theatre, shoved to get to the coat check and shoved their way into the sala – stopping every so often to air kiss, hug, shrug, glad-hand and then resume the shoving. And they shoved their way in front of the cameras that were constantly flashing during the intervals in both the lobbies and the theatre proper. We have tickets this year on the parterre and there was much attention being paid to palco 14 directly behind us. Given my own age I am not an ageist but I swear that the combined tally for the inhabitants was in the hundreds. Swathed in mauve from head to toe holding court at the front of the box sat Valentina Cortese, doyenne of the Italian cinema, with director Franco Zeffirelli and ballet director Carla Fracci and several other worthies a bit more discretely behind. The only reason the age average was lower than I expected was the presence of a not unpretty young man who attended to their various whims and wants.
What was unpretty was the number of people – men and women alike – sporting botoxed lips and brows, too even to have been from St Moritz tans and hair of no shade actually on the colour wheel. The requisite number of bungled face lifts – most of which ended at the chin giving that appearance of a teenage face, if teenagers really do have faces as smooth as bowling balls, attached to a museum body. Though many of the dresses where haute couture in most cases they were designed to be worn by the daughters and in some cases the grand-daughters of the wearers. Some of the exposed flesh should not have been! That is not to say that there were not some beautifully gowned, coiffed and bejeweled ladies nor some handsome elegant perfectly turned out gentlemen – just that given the venue, the city and the country they seemed to be in the minority.
And as an audience they were rude and inattentive. Bejeweled cell phones rang, expensive wrist watches chimed and chatter ensued. It took forever to get people seated and quiet for each act to begin so that with the lengthy scene changes the evening stretched to Wagnerian lengths if not depths.
The opera? Oh yes there was an opera! And one of my favorites, Verdi’s last great masterpiece: Falstaff. That I will be commenting on very shortly. At this point I am heading off to the local church to light a candle asking that – imploring that – begging that – the rest of the season’s openings not be the same. I’ve already had my fill of the “beautiful people” for this season!
25 gennaio – Conversione di San Paolo