Should you take your child to the opera in Verona? We had to ask ourselves this question during our trip to Italy this Summer. When visiting Verona, we decided we would take Miss M to see Vivaldi’s opera Aida in the Arena. We were a little apprehensive but decided it was time to see how she would go.
This is what we learnt.
What’s Aida about?
Verona is known for its opera and Vivaldi’s Aida is synonymous with opera in Verona. Aida was first performed in the Arena in 1913 and has been performed regularly ever since. It is also one of Vivaldi’s best known and most loved operas.
Aida is an opera in four acts in Italian. It is a story of love and loyalty and the struggle to choose between the two.
Aida, an Ethiopian princess, was captured and enslaved by the Egyptians. Radamès, an Egyptian military commander has fallen in love with Aida. He is chosen to lead the Egyptian army into battle against the Ethiopians This forced both Aida and Radamès to question their loyalty to each other and their countries.
As an additional twist, Amneris, the Egyptian princess who Aida serves, loves Radamès although he does not return her feelings. She is none too happy when she discovers the relationship between Aida and Ramadès.
What did we learn from taking our 4-year-old to the opera in Verona?
So to our question: should you take your child to the opera? Our experiment was a success. Miss M enjoyed the night and proved that you can take a 4-year-old to the opera in Verona. However, we did learn a few things from our experiment that we can share here.
Choose your opera carefully
Why did we choose Aida over Carmen or La Traviata?
Peter and I have seen Aida at least three times together. This familiarity was important because:
- We could whisper in Miss M’s ear and describe what was happening or what they were singing to help her follow the story
- Our focus was primarily on Miss M and not on seeing a new (to us) opera, and
- If we left early, we would not be too upset.
While Aida is set in the Old Kingdom of Egypt, it feels like it was made to be performed in the Arena in Verona. The performances utilise the Arena backdrop as much as possible. Guards holding torches stand at the top of the Arena in some scenes. Choruses and trumpet players sit part of the way up the steps in the wings for other scenes.
This combination of familiarity and incredible setting made it the perfect first opera for Miss M. After all, go big or go home, right?
Make a night of it
I am not afraid to admit that we used reverse psychology on our child.
We talked up the night as something special, dressed up in our party dresses and went out to dinner beforehand. Miss M was excited before we got to the arena and was ready for something special that she had never experienced before.
Get the cheap seats
For some reason, four seems very young to go to the opera for the first time. We did not find anything on the website about age, but security members asked us about Miss M’s age least three times when we went.
Of course, we purchased a separate ticket for Miss M. We also made sure to purchase the cheapest tickets that we could find, so that we would not feel bad if our opera in Verona experiment didn’t work and we had to leave early.
Tip: the seats get quite hard and uncomfortable. Bring or hire pillows.
Get there early
In Verona, the cheap seats means sitting on the stone steps around the arena. You ticket just specifies a block. Seating is first come, best served.
We made sure to get there early enough that we could get a seat near the exit steps to ensure a quick getaway. It was a balancing act between being early enough to get a suitable seat and not being too early as we would have to entertain Miss M until the opera started.
We knew we were going to have a wait until the opera started and planned accordingly. Miss M had ice cream at the Arena and we took a colouring book and pencils with us to make sure Miss M had something to do while we waited. We also let her take photos ‘for her journal‘.
These few distractions kept her busy but excited for the 45 minutes that we had to wait until the opera started.
In the end
Miss M loved it. She preferred the dancing to the singing and was amazed at how loud the singers were without microphones. She enjoyed the ceremony of the whole experience and wants to go again one day.
We left before it was over – somewhere near the end of Act 3.
Miss M wasn’t bored, she was tired. The opera in Verona does not start until the sun goes down, which meant about 9 p.m. in our case. Miss M had tried to get comfortable and was quite happy to nap while we watched the opera to the end. In the end, the ‘opera singers’ were too loud and kept waking her up, forcing us to leave.
We had our escape route planned so our departure was swift. Miss M was asleep in Peter’s arms before we got back to the car.
Should you take a child to the opera? Would we do it again?
Of course, it depends on your child and whether they can sit still and focus for a longer period of time. However, there is no need not to take your child to the opera in Verona just because your child is young! A child who has just turned four is perfectly capable of enjoying the opera, as Miss M proved.
Choose your opera carefully, make it a real occasion, plan your distractions and pick your seats to allow for a quick getaway and you will be fine.
Miss M still talks about how loud the opera singers were.