Friday, 7 September 2012

La Scala

We are home again after our eight days abroad. My head is swimming from side to side rather, from so much rail travel - six different trains today alone. It's swimming, too, from many rich experiences.

This time yesterday, we were enjoying (very much) a Debussy/Ravel concert in the wondrous setting of Milan's great opera house. I had seen it before from the outside, but it was closed for repair in 2001, when Thomas and I spent Easter Monday exploring the city.

Our train from Florence arrived in time for a pavement lunch near the Brera yesterday: thus fortified, we tackled what for me (despite only one previous visit) rates as a favourite collection. It's not too large, but nearly all top notch. And amazingly almost empty. We then set off for an ice cream, and to show Caroline a different sort of gallery, the Vittorio Emanuele arcade.

En route, you can't miss La Scala, and there outside was one of its characteristic yellow bills announcing that the Orchestre National de France (under music director Daniele Gatti) were in town - and playing at 9 p.m. that evening as part of the MITO Festival.

Returning at 8.30, you could see at once that this was a high fashion occasion. I felt a little under-dressed in my shorts, but despite the plentiful décolleté all round us, there were no armed soldiers turning away the scantily clad, as at the entrance to the Duomo earlier. The box office seemed more than happy to let us in to the Gallery - the tickets, a mere five euro each. What's more, the concert began with a bonne bouche: to commemorate the life of Milan's late beloved Cardinal Martini, there was the Ave Maria from Otello, Act IV. I can't think of any religious leader whose passing might attract quite such treatment at our Royal Opera House.

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