All of us here in Portland know that this is one of the best places to live on Earth - the most livable city, fantastic transit, amazing cuisine, astounding craft beer and wine and breathtaking natural beauty. Oh, and did I forget to mention our fervent belief that some of the best opera in the world happens right here in Portland.
Yet, being true Portlanders and Oregonians, we also believe that even less civilized parts of the world deserve their place in the opera world. So, several years ago, General Director Christopher Mattaliano began mounting a series of expeditions to opera destinations along with a number of our friends - our Portland Opera Travel Adventures. So far, we've visited New York (twice) to take in shows at the Met and City Opera, and we visited the Santa Fe Opera Festival last summer. We've seen some fantastic opera at these leading companies and had a lot of fun together on the tours.
The question on everyone's mind at last year's Santa Fe tour was "When are we going international?" Well, you can bet with a name like Mattaliano and when the subject is opera, the first place that came to mind was ITALY!
So, last Friday, July 1st, Chris and nearly twenty Portland Opera friends embarked on Portland Opera's Italian Adventure. They are off on an incredible ten day trip combining three of the most prestigious opera venues in Northern Italy – Turin, Milan and Verona, including five classic operas from three of the greatest Italian masters. Chris started sending back his travelogue and photos this morning, so here's his latest report.
By the way, the weather here is even nicer than there!
Peter J. Bilotta, CFRE
Director of Development
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Our "viaggio operatico in Italia" began on Saturday, July 2, in Turin. The hotel has a lovely garden where our group met for a glass of prosecco prior to dinner:
We soon discovered there were other inhabitants sharing the garden with us:
Actually, there are five turtles - I'm told they are a family of two parents and three kids - living in the hotel garden! Since this trip is about seeing great Italian opera in Italy, I named the turtles after the five great Italian opera composers - Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi, and Puccini.
This is the fourth trip we've done with Act I Tours, a travel agency specializing in tours for opera lovers. They are a pleasure to work with - very organized, professional, warm and attentive. We've had the same guide, Jaqueline Sale, for each tour, and she has become part of the family. Thank you, Peter Bilotta, for finding this excellent agency!
The participants on this tour are a nice mix of long-time Portland Opera subscribers, donors and board members, and a number of folks who are new to me. It's a great opportunity to deepen the friendships we have with our patrons, and make new friends with fellow opera lovers.
Here we are at dinner the first evening:
Louis and Judy McCraw share a laugh:
A number of people provided a toast or anecdote during the meal, and Tom Denny even sang an impromtu, heartfelt song. Isn't it wonderful what a few rounds of good Italian vino will do...?
Sunday morning we enjoyed a walking tour of Turin with a local guide. Turin is the headquarters of Fiat, and also famous for its chocolate. Here the group listens to our guide introduce one of Turin's great chocolate shops:
Pamela and Paul DeBoni pause inside one of Turin's beautiful gallerias:
Dolores and Fernando Leon sample the delicious local hot chocolate:
We happen to be in Turin during the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy - the period in Italy history known as the Risorgimento, when Italy threw over foreign rule and became a unified state. There were on-going celebrations throughout the city - concerts, sky-divers with parachutes of the Italian flag landing in the piazzas, and many parades:
Our first opera was Lucia di Lammermoor at the Teatro Regio. This theater is quite modern compared to the classic Italian opera houses, and uniquely beautiful. The performance was excellent - with good singing, and a fresh, interesting production by Graham Vick.
Here is George and Lee Anne Carter during the curtain call:
And a happy group of opera lovers afterwards: