Big surprise, we were running late.
Clothes were flying in all directions as Rosie and I whirled around our small room in Milan trying to get ready. How do you make a backpacker look like they belong at the most famous opera house in the world?! With a towel wrapped around my waist and only my Victoria Secret bra on, I plug in the hair dryer and turn my head upside down. A cloud of smoke emerged from the back of the dryer and then nothing. No, no, no!! This could not be happening now! I turn it off and try again. This time something happened; Fire accompanied the smoke out the back. Damn!
“Rosie!!” I yelled out of the bathroom.
See poked her head in as she was doing the one leg hop into her tights.
“The blow dryer just died” I told her, looking helpless.
“Are you sure?” She asked, as she walked over and turned it on. Fire emerged from inside the dryer like an angry dragon from a cave.
“WOW” she said, as she turned it off and threw it in the sink. “I can't go to La Scala with wet hair. I can't go out in Milan, the most fashion forward city, with wet hair.” She said to me, while pacing back and forth.
“I will buy a new one, but I can't leave the room like this.” I said, throwing my arms in the air.
Rosie, with the determination of a drill sergeant, put my cute Irish cap over her wet hair, threw on her black coat and stormed out the door. Luckily we were staying on a street lined with shops. Fifteen minutes later she came back, empty handed.
“No one sells hair dryers!!” she said, tossing the hat on one of the thirteen piles of clothes in our room.
Time was running out; we had to leave in the next 10 minutes or we would not make it there in time. This was something we had been looking forward to for months; they will not let you in once the ballet has started so we had to make it there on time! We were going to see the Raymonda ballet at Teatro alla Scala (known by most of the world as La Scala), the world's most famous opera house.
Once again, Rosie marched out the door as I sat on the bed looking defeated. Three minutes later she came back with a hair dryer in hand.
I was so confused.
“I went into the common room and pleaded with everyone there. Please don't let me go to La Scala like this!”
I laughed, very impressive, now we had to move! We emerged 10 minutes later, red carpet ready, thanking the hair dryer savior for rescuing our night. We moved at the speed of light through the streets of Milan, map in hand. That didn’t seem to prevent us from getting lost though! We didn’t have time to be financially logical, so we got a cab. We had a ballet to catch! We hopped in the back seat and politely asked the cab driver to takes us to La Scala. He smiled a very beautiful smile and nodded. Our cab driver was very cute, things were looking up! We rounded the corner and came face to face with an accident. Grid lock. I could feel my heart beat getting faster and faster with each minute that ticked by. My breathing started to increase. Tiny beads of sweat began forming on my forehead. Rosie leaned over the backseat;
“Excuse me sir, I know there is traffic, but we only have 10 minutes to make our show, is there anything you can do?” He looked in the rearview mirror at the four giant, pleading blue eyes staring back at him and smiled that oh so cute smile.
“Si, hold on” he said as he made a bold move by driving on the other side of the road and then made a hairpin turn. We were free! I swear it felt like we were flying. In no time, we were at a red light and I could see the theater to our right. “We can get out here” I declare.
“Oh no”, the driver said shaking his head, “I will stop the meter here, but I must pull up to the front door and let you out like celebrities”. He smiled and so did we. We were going to make it.
We rushed into the lobby. Since we booked out tickets rather late we were not sitting together. We previously heard that some of the seats are really bad here. We made a deal to meet back in the lobby at intermission and if one of us had a bad seat we would switch for the second half.
The ushers pointed us in different directions; we had 2 minutes until it started. I sprinted up two staircases to a long hallway full of gold doors. A woman was standing at the top of the staircase who guided me down the length of the hallway to the very last door. She unlocked it, opened it and led me inside, “Enjoy” she said as she left and closed the door behind her.
I stood in shock, I could not move. I was in a box and I was all alone. This could not be right. The floor was made of white marble, as were the walls, and there were two huge gold framed mirrors on one side. The ceiling was a gold mosaic design. There were ten small chairs in the box that were covered in red velvet, with golden legs and backs. As I stood staring forward, I was looking at the two huge gold framed openings that overlooked the inside of the opera house. The railings by the openings were covered in deep red velvet. It gave the illusion of two beautiful live pictures of La Scala.
The orchestra started to play and I slowly walked up to the front of the box and looked out at the interior of the opera house. Absolutely incredible! It was a circle of the deepest, richest red and most vibrant gold I had ever seen. I felt like royalty just looking at it. All around the entire theater were six tiers of perfectly square gold boxes just like the one I was in. In the center on the ground floor were rows of velvet chairs. At the front and almost directly below me was the orchestra.
While the conductor dipped and twirled his arm like a soaring bird, men and women musicians in tuxes and black cocktail outfits sat perfectly straight with intense focus on the flowing music. The stage was daunting, with a massive red velvet curtain and was a mere twenty feet away. This was incredible. I couldn't blink for fear of missing something. The people who own this box had to be arriving soon to claim it and push me back to my rightful seat. I wanted to take it all in before that happened.
Just when I thought I couldn't be any more impressed, I looked up. Hanging in the middle of the opera house was a massive gold and crystal chandelier that looked like it had been dropped from Heaven.
Picture from tripadvisor.com www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotos-g187849-d198970-w2-La_Scala_ Opera_Teatro_alla_Scala-Milan_Lombardy.html
I couldn’t believe I was here, in Milan, at La Scala, in my own private box about to watch Raymonda. I took a deep breath and began to look around the theater again while whispering to myself, “Please, always remember this moment.” I already knew it would be one of my most favourite memories, and one I will cherish forever.
I sat down in one of the red and gold chairs and faced the stage. I rested my arm on the plush velvet railing and smiled. I felt like I was directly in the middle of a fairytale. As the orchestra music danced over me and I admired the beauty of where I was, I started to imagine the nobility of days gone by who may have sat in this very spot. Back when the chandelier would not have been lit by electricity, but candles, when the guests would not have arrived in cab, but horse drawn carriage. Women with gloved hands and men in top hats would greet each other in the lobby, speaking of art and the politics of the time. Sitting in that box in La Scala I felt like I could almost be transported back to that time. The lights dimmed and the curtain rose. I looked around the box, had the owners of it come in while I was in my 19th century dream? No, I was still alone. Was I really going to get to watch the ballet from here? A huge smile stretched across my face. This was epic.
Just when I thought my wonderfully magical night could not get any better, the ballet started. The costumes were works of art, the sets where so colourful and realistic they pulled you in and made you feel as if you were part of the story. The dancers… Oh the dancers were magnificent, brilliant, amazing! I was practically hanging over the railing in awe. As the curtain came down for intermission I clapped so hard, my hands went numb. Rosie is not going to believe this, I thought as I left the box and headed to the lobby. She is going to love it when I tell her she is spending the second half of the ballet in her own box.
As I strolled into the lobby I saw Rosie already waiting for me. I resisted the urge to run to her in my elated state and calmly walked up to her, “Are you liking it?” I asked.
“Oh yes, it's amazing” she said, her eyes wide with excitement.
“Do you have a good seat?” I asked, knowing that no matter what, it will not be as good as the one she was going to have.
Rosie looked around and leaned into me, she lowered her voice. “I have my own box” she said with a guilty smile.
“What?!” I shouted.
“Shhh, people are looking” she said as she grabbed my arm.
“But... but so do I!” I said in utter amazement.
“Really? How did this happen?” she asked me.
I remembered reading that people buy boxes for the season. The last two chairs in the box were sometimes used for the general public; those are the seats we were supposed to have. The aforementioned “not good seats” as you would really not be able to see anything from there. Sometimes the people who own the boxes don't show up and that is what happened, to both of us. Stranger still when we went back to our seats we promised to peer out and look for each other. It turns out we were right on top of one another. Since we both loved our seats so much, we decided not to switch and not to sit together. We wanted to keep the magic of the fairytale alive for as long as possible.
At the next intermission we cheers our good fortune with a glass of champagne. The owners of our boxes never did show up.
As we left the opera house after the ballet we were met by the warm sweet air of a perfect September night. We decided to walk back, but I honestly think we floated.
Grazie Tetra alla Scalla, stasera vivrà nel mio cuore per sempre
Picture from: /www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotos-g187849-d198970-w3-La_Scala_Opera_Teatro_alla_Scala-Milan_Lombardy.html#30382267