November 12-18, 2016: Rigoletto and the Chocolate Festival

I have been putting it off, but I knew midterms were coming. I spent the full weekend writing my papers for Soft Power. I took a break Saturday night to go to a party at Adam, Victor and Kevin’s place literally on the other side of the city past Pratello. It was a 30-minute walk. It is the furthest possible place from my apartment that I will ever walk to, just outside the southwestern city walls. It was really cold and I hadn’t left my apartment all day. I was just glad to be getting outside. I didn’t know how cold it was because my apartment is really warm. As usual, their place is nicer than mine. And they have a piano! It is super out of tune and not all the keys work, but they do have it. I wouldn’t want to live so far from school though. It’s not worth it.

After I finished my papers on Sunday, I attended a cinema society screening of The Greta Beauty. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film a few years ago. It is Paolo Sorrentino’s masterpiece, his ode to Berlusconi-era Rome. His movies are always really pretty, very well shot but I didn’t really know what to make of it. He is a kind of over the top for me. But everyone else at SAIS seemed to love it. I don’t know if they really love it or if they pretend to love it because it is this supposedly perfect specimen of modern Italian cinema.

When I went to Soft Power class on Tuesday, Professor Ellwood called me out to talk about the conference. I didn’t really get a chance to say anything though, but he expected me to go to tea after class and chat about it. So I went, but I didn’t even get to talk to him because he was talking to other people about their papers. He was talking about the pope with someone else. But I was at least seen. I made my appearance and that’s what counts. I stayed for 30 minutes, suffering through a migraine. I hadn’t had a migraine in a very long time, and finally the stress was catching up to me.

I rushed home and cooked a quick dinner so I could take Advil on a full stomach. I ate half and then couldn’t take it anymore. I was in so much pain. Even when I had migraines in the past, it was rarely this bad. I stripped down and went straight to sleep. I literally stumbled into bed. And then I slept for 3 hours and woke back up at 10. I reheated the rest of my dinner and then went right back to studying. I had to start studying for economics because the midterm was in just two days and I didn’t want to stay up late the night before the exam. I was actually supposed to take the exam on Monday, but the professor rescheduled it for Thursday because someone else also had to take the make-up. I studied until 4:30am, no longer tired since I already had 3 hours of sleep. I was actually very productive, but then I couldn’t fall asleep again for at least another hour. I didn’t look at the clock for fear of knowing how late/early it was.

I finally went to Trattoria Rosso before 8 after all these months of planning on going before 8. They supposedly have the prix fixe menu before 8, but we got there and they didn’t have it. It is only for lunch and it is only on the weekdays. They just never want us to have it. They did used to do it for dinner too according to their outdated website and a city guide that I had read in the beginning of the year.

The economics exam wasn’t hard. But I couldn’t figure out the last section for the life of me until it magically clicked with 5 minutes left. I rushed to fix all my answers and then I was all good. Apparently, everyone else did really poorly. The professor was very unhappy with us. When I got the exam back I got a few points off here and there for stupid things. One was literally a typo on my part. It was obvious what I meant. And then the others were stupid where I gave the right answer, he just didn’t like my reasoning because it didn’t match his exactly, though perfectly valid. Needless to say, I am sick of this class.

In Bologna this week, there is a chocolate festival in Piazza Maggiore. There are booths all set up with chocolate vendors selling all sorts of truffles and bon bons and molded chocolates and hot chocolate (spiked with alcohol) and chocolate covered fruit and nuts and chocolate spreads and fruit compotes. It is magical! They have these tool boxes that look absolutely real. They are shiny like metallic tools and everything, but they are pure chocolate. The most incredible thing is the shoes. They had chocolate shoes that look like real shoes. I had some chocolate covered pineapples and a chocolate donut. And of course, I had a ton of samples. Chocolate is fun.

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We had a Bologna art history trip this week too. The first stop was Palazzo Poggi at UniBo, which I walk by every day on my way too school. There is a museum inside. There is a really pretty classroom that we weren’t able to access but the professor told us about it. The museum was closing as we got there and even the art history professor couldn’t get them to stay open (cause Italy) but she gave us 20 minutes. We pretended we were UniBo students and got in for free. It is like a natural history museum with lots of animal specimens. But there is also a room full of wax anatomy models. It is really gross. They have real human kidneys. There was a whole room of fetus models to teach students how to birth a baby depending on the position of the fetus. There was this medieval looking birthing machine. Wax anatomy was important because it was forbidden by the church to cut open human bodies.

Afterwards, we went to the Pinacoteca in Belle Arti, which I also walk by all the time. Bologna has the best 13th and 17th century art. It is not the most popular eras for Italian art from a tourist perspective, but it has prime examples for those eras. The lone Rafael in the collection was on loan. Of course that is my luck. But there is a Giotto. They have lots of very heavy religious painting. They are literally heavy, painted on these huge slabs of wood. There is a room of faded frescoes that were removed from old churches and reconstructed on the walls of the museum. The walls are basically blank though because they are so faded and piecemeal. The museum is well done though. We didn’t even get a chance to see the first floor sculptures. I’ve seen it from the outside though. It is this pretty grand room that looks perfect for hosting cocktail parties.

I would’ve liked to stay at the museum for a bit but I had to rush back to school for the meeting for the Geneva career trek. It was boring as hell. It was so pointless and unnecessarily long, as many things in Italy are. It was basically finding out info about the organizations we are going to visit. But we are going to hear these things in the actual presentations from people with actual knowledge and authority. And then they got mad at us for not asking questions. But Q&A should be spontaneous. And it is not that difficult to come up with questions on the spot. It’s stupid to come up with all our questions before we’ve seen the real presentation. What does she want us to ask each other? It just seems to get more and more pointless and stupid. And then the most ridiculous thing is that she wouldn’t give us her phone number. She is the advisor for the trip and she wouldn’t give us her phone number. What if something happened and we needed to find her? Her excuse was that she didn’t want to give out her personal number, like we want to call her…

Also my partner is getting on my nerves. We presented on the UN World Food Programme. She is taking this presentation so seriously. But we don’t get a grade for it, I couldn’t care less. I am going to read my part straight from my sheet. She spent an hour making a powerpoint that we did not need. And then she wanted to meet and discuss it. I was not about to waste my time on this pointless activity, especially during my midterms. And then she tried to get me to split the presentation between the two of us. And I’m just like “split it in half.” I don’t understand what the problem was. I do half, and you do half. How difficult is that? She got on my nerves.

Europeans are just ridiculous in general. They are long winded and stress all these networking things that are no big deal.  There’s no spontaneity to their process. Why should I research these people before I meet them? What will we talk about if I already know everything about them? That’s not a natural way to have a conversation. It’s the same thing about coming up with questions before seeing the presentation.

One last thing, Julia and I went to Teatro Comunale to see their production of the opera Rigoletto. The opera house is just two blocks from my apartment, so I have to go once. The tickets were cheap for students too, just 25 euros for excellent seats in the orchestra. The process of buying tickets though, was ridiculous. Something as simple as standing in a line at a box office is made unnecessarily difficult. We were put in a waiting room where we had to put our name down. Why can’t we juts line up at the box office? We waited there for a solid 45 minutes. We thought we had plenty of time but we were almost late to Italian. Audrey was going to come with us too, but she ended up not using her ticket because she had to study.

The day of the show, I forgot my ticket at home so I had to rush back and get it. Luckily I live so close. The opera house is beautiful on the inside. You would not be able to tell from the outside because the outside is a dump. That’s where all the drug dealers hang out. The chandelier is grand and there are tiers and beautiful lamps in the room.

I also forgot to look up the show beforehand. Because I did not understand it. For one, there was no program, so I couldn’t read a synopsis. The Italian was hard for me because it’s a different language, but operatic Italian is drawn out and just impossible to understand. There were supertitles above the stage to read. Sometimes it kind of looked like Spanish, like “ella” and sometimes they’d cut off the last letter of infinitive verbs, making them look like Spanish. But I think that’s just how old Italian was, which was not easy for me to decipher.

The Met has been doing a production of Rigoletto lately that takes place in Vegas. I never understood it but I get it now. The opening scene was a strange operatic orgy. Some of the characters cross dress and you can’t tell if that is intentional of if they didn’t have enough female cast members. And it was actually pretty graphic for the opera. There was no applause after the opening scene. Maybe you just don’t clap in between scenes at the opera like you do in theater? There was no standing ovation at the end either. The famous aria “la donna e mobile” is immediately recognizable. But the piece doesn’t leave any room for applause. Even when it comes the second time, there is no place to clap for the iconic aria.

The actor that played Rigoletto messed up in the first act, I think. I’m not entirely sure what happened, cause of the language barrier (the English people behind us thought we were bilingual, but we knew just as little as they did). I think he missed his entrance and he stopped the whole production. And at that point he said something and everyone applauded. That they applaud. But in the second act, he didn’t return. Maybe he fell ill? Someone else replaced him, but I had difficulty figuring out if this was a new character or just a new actor. It took me a little while.

I did enjoy the opera. It is certainly an experience to be had when you’re in Europe. Even if just to see the interior of the opera house. But maybe I won’t go back. I’m glad to have had the experience but the opera was about 2.5 hours of confusion. I prefer the symphony personally.

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