“Young soprano Elizabeth Gentner…has a supple, full-bodied voice perhaps better suited for a larger venue, but displayed a confidence and command of comedy unusual in a performer at such an early stage in her career.” ~Kathleen Whalen, Daily Republic Correspondent
Well, Prague is not a place for the faint of heart.
I arrived at the main Prague train station running late for a performance I wanted to attend. I ran by an ATM and got some Czech Koruna, and headed to the taxi stand.
Now, I speak exactly zero Czech. I’ve sung in Czech a few times but that has very little to do with asking for directions in the language…
I walked up to the first cabbie and said “Dvořák Hall” then pointed to the map I had pulled up on my tablet. (Master level communicating, right?)
He just writes down 680 K on a little pad of paper he has with him… Fortunately, I am good at math to figure very quickly that he is asking for over $35 for a 2-3 mile ride….
So, I laughed at him and said no, shook my head and started to walk away.
Right then another cabbie comes running up to me asking “how much, how much?,” in fragmented English
So, I responded “150”
The second cabbie frowned, but nodded. So, I got a quick ride to where I needed to go for $8!
I learned later that this is a modus operandi for cab drivers in eastern Europe. Get a price before you get in! Buyer beware!
After my audition yesterday, I went out to explore Milan. The obvious first destination for any opera singer is La Scala. Well, when I got there they had just closed for the afternoon. So I was forced to wait a bit for my first entrance to La Scala. I found a nice pizzeria in the Galleria and had a nice leisurely lunch with the one of the best desserts I’ve had in a while.
It gave me a little time to daydream as about my future life as a traveling international opera star. The daydream is not that far off from my current reality of traveling and singing. The big differences come with the accommodations and the longer stays in a city, as well as a difference in purpose from desperately finding work, to enjoying making music. Rather than a local hostel and the occasional discount hotel, my imagination upgrades my travels to 5 star hotels and furnished flats with more time working on performances and less time on auditions.
The real difference between fantasy and really isn’t the core of what I’m am trying to accomplish. While my fantasy is lovely, I can live without the creature comforts and still make my dreams come true!
After my dreamy lunch, I went back to the theater.
All the way up the stairs, there are marquee posters for operas of the past with all of the big names Caruso, Callas, Toscanini you name it! Finally I get to the theater, and what a fascinating and bizarre experience — they are striking the set from the Ring Cycle they just finished. As I walk into the theater itself, I am oddly struck by how much smaller this theater is than I expected. For a place so embedded in the history of opera, it must be on a grand scale as well, right?
While La Scala is certainly not a small theater, it wasn’t as big as I had built it up to be. The way that this theater and what it has meant to Opera has built a reputation and an impression on me that has made it larger than life!
I took the moment and sang some lines of a couple arias. So, I have sung La Scala, however unfortunately, I wasn’t on stage. 😉
I am swiftly falling in love with this place.
Maybe, just maybe, I like it better than Riva del Guarda because I also have internet.
Maybe it’s because I took some time on the train to remind myself of some of my rudimentary Italian. It sure makes getting around easier…
The proprietor of the lovely little hostel where I am staying has been hugely helpful. At the slightest provocation she will give you lists of “mai suggestione” for what to do, where to eat and what to see. This morning (I got to the hostel earlier than check in to drop off my luggage) she literally told me to get lost… because she thinks that’s the best way to see new things in the city, but was careful to warn me not to do the same thing at night. “Boys is stupido” I nearly lost it laughing.
So I did get lost and found again in just a few hours. I kept finding all of these beautiful contradictions in the most unexpected places. Ancient buildings surrounding industrial ports, modern shops and restaurants built into Ancient architecture… sang in a couple churches and shocked some tourists. You know, the usual.
Some of the sights included the most gorgeous elderly women I’ve ever seen…and some of the ugliest old men…lol. It’s so wonderfully Italian. I’m sure I could spend weeks uncovering hidden corners here but I’ve only got 2 and 1/2 days with a competition in there…this is one of those places I am definitely going to have to see again.
My directions clearly state that I should get off the train here. There are 4 people here and none of them work here.
No WiFi, no ATM, no nothing.
Oh, and yes, of course…no escalator or elevator. Soooo we carry my 100 lbs of luggage down three flights of stairs and up three flights of stairs. Nope…nothing in the main station either. Closed teller boxes and automated machines to buy train tickets…
I walk out to a small city center and there no direct sign for the bus. I finally ask a young woman “Dove sono the bus a la Rival del Garda?” (I guess we all know what I need to look up as soon as I get to internet tonight…..)
She points me to a sign all but behind the station off to the right, and helps me find the one I need.
I proceed to thank her in 4 languages — I think I even threw in Spanish by mistake.
Welcome to Italia!!!!!
First let me say that there is no way I would have been packed and ready to go on time without Laura Gentner (my sister) Thank you so much!
I have been actively working on condensing my life for about a year so my decisions on what to pack and what not to were not as complicated as they might have been a year ago. That being said, I have probably still packed to much but we will see soon enough.
6 dresses, 4 pair of jeans 10 each of casual and dressy tops, a pair of slacks “the audition dress” (and a backup), 3 pairs of comfy flats, 2 pairs of dress shoes, hiking boots and toiletries, makeup, converters, laptop, tablet & phone, audition folder, Traviata score, and paperwork for Eurail pass. End result? One rolling backpack, a carry-on roller bag and one carry on “mega-purse.”
And I think I over packed…..
After an arduous journey from Dayton to Columbus to Chicago to LaGuardia to JFK, I endured a 5 hour layover and now I am finally on the plane that will take me accross the ocean to Europe!
It may be trite, but at this moment it seems real!
I am leaving all of my details distractions and disolutions behind. To tackle my life long objectives.
Strangely enough, I am watching “Der Hobbit – Eine eunerwartete Reise” in German….mostly….while waiting to taxi out.
While I am certain that my “Reise” will have far fewer near death experiences, I hope to have half so good a story to tell.
So here goes nothing… in 5…4…3…2…1…