Sorry, Marie! We got back from Italy late July 29th, caught our breath for two days, then went to Chicago for 8 days for a big business trip. Then it was getting my son ready for the start of school and doing the recital, wanting to take sufficient time to do this write-up justice, etc. etc.
In other words, lots of excuses! Sorry for the delay.
The concert was simply wonderful.
As you all know, I was terrified that we would go to the great expense of this trip only to arrive and have the concert rained out. Hubby Jonathan assured me that we should simply consider it to be a trip to Italy to celebrate our anniversary, and if we got to see Einaudi, that would just be the frosting on the cake. But I was still quite worried, so I was delighted when two days before the concert there was a post on Facebook saying that the show would go on, rain or shine.
I'll skip details of Venice and Florence, both of which were fabulous. We arrived in Verona the day of the concert. The city is dominated by the Verona Arena, where the concert was going to be held. It is an ancient Roman amphitheater that is used now for various opera performances and other concerts. Here's a shot of me outside the arena:
It's in the center of town, in a plaza lined by numerous restaurants and a park. We had lunch, then went to tour an old castle that housed an art museum. Walking back to the hotel I was startled to hear the unmistakable sounds of Einaudi emanating from the amphitheater. For a brief second I thought I had gotten the starting time wrong!
But then I realized it was just the sound check. Phew!
Although it was sunny and quite hot most of the day, the forecast continued to call for thunderstorms that evening. So Jonathan and I prepared ourselves by buying official Verona Arena souvenir ponchos. This is me holding the poncho under the banner advertising the concert:
Now that I had the rain thing under control, the only remaining worry I had was some nagging doubts about the tickets, as I had bought them online from an Italian ticket venue, laboriously copying and pasting each part of the website into Google Translate. And, of course, the tickets were printed in Italian. So when we checked into the hotel, I showed them to the desk clerk and asked her to translate, just to make sure there wasn't any remaining step we had to do to get inside the concert. She assured me that we were good to go and commented that we had excellent seats. Which we did indeed, row five, slightly left of center, as you can see by this pic, which also shows the tent protecting the piano from any potential rain. That's hubby Jon in the lower right, looking toward the camera.
We got to the concert half an hour early, a time I spent eagerly buying concert memorabilia: A poster of the event, a canvas bag with Einaudi's photo on it, a "Nightbook" t-shirt, a "Time Lapse" booklet, etc. etc.
The arena kept filling up. It seats around 25,000 people, and I'm pretty sure this concert was a sell-out. Here's a shot taken about 15 minutes before the start of the concert to give you an idea of the crowd. It certainly makes it clear that Einaudi is a much-revered and well-known musician in his home country.
Finally, the moment we had been waiting for arrived, and the musicians walked on stage to thunderous applause. Einaudi sat down at the piano and began the haunting intro to "Waterways," one of my favorite pieces from the "In a Time Lapse" album. Roughly 30 seconds later, the threatening clouds that had been gathering the past hour opened up and a downpour commenced. The next five minutes were marred by the sounds of 25,000 people putting on rain ponchos and/or opening umbrellas. Everybody was trying to be quiet, of course, but you can't mask the sounds of 25,000 crinkling ponchos.
Jonathan and I disagree on how long the rain lasted (I thought only about 25 minutes, he thought nearly an hour), but rain it did for some time. I had to crane my neck sideways to glimpse the stage through the umbrellas in front of me, but the music as always was captivating. And I should mention that this was no gentle summer rain but a full blown thunderstorm. The lightning and thunder actually added to the atmosphere, as during that time Einaudi was playing several tracks from "Nightbook," which have a somewhat edgy, intense tone matching well the show Mother Nature was giving us.
Finally, though, the rain let up (for the most part). Einaudi and his ensemble played for 2 1/2 hours, much longer than any of his concerts I have seen in the past (including the Time Lapse show I saw in Chicago). I don't know if that's because of the venue, the large crowd, or making up for the rain. Or, likely, it may have had something to do with the fact that the concert was being professionally videotaped, with several dollies or booms (? videocamera-holding things that move up and down and all around) moving about throughout the performance. I sure hope they release a DVD of the show, but I'm thinking that the ambient noise caused by the rain probably upset those plans.
I wish I could tell you a setlist for the show, but I was too mesmerized by the music to try to take notes. But he played most of my favorites, with a heavy emphasis on his two most recent albums: Waterways, Time Lapse, Life, Experience (which was FANTASTIC live!), Underwood, Newton's Cradle (ditto!), Nightbook, Eros, Berlin Song, Tu Sei, Divenire, Andare, etc. etc. I know I'm missing a lot and/or confusing some.
About halfway through "Divenire," although the rain had stopped by then, a gust of wind somehow picked up a section of the large awning that had protected the stage and dumped gallons of water on the stage, right next to the piano, splashing both Einaudi himself and the top half of the keyboard. He stopped for a second, looking at the water in disbelief, while the audience roared in surprise and laughter. He then finished the phrase he was on, wiped a considerable amount of water off the keys with a flourish, and then returned to playing.
I wasn't trying to record the concert (my Zoom's not waterproof!), but I found a clip on YouTube that shows Divenire and the waterfall event (which starts at about the 5:15 mark):
After about 2 hours of amazing music, including some spectacular tambourine work, Einaudi and his ensemble left the stage to a standing ovation. The crowd hooted and whooped and clapped our little hearts out for what had to have been a solid ten minutes straight... but still no encore! Just when I was starting to believe that they were going to skip the encore given the rain, wet stage, and waterlogged piano, we heard the gentle intro notes to "Nuvole Bianche" off to the right of the stage, where the crew had hastily set up an upright piano for Einaudi to play a few solo pieces while they wiped off the main stage and instruments.
After the delightful interlude of Einaudi playing solos on an upright (amazingly good sound despite the upright, which only proves further that it's the musician, and not the instrument, that accounts for 95% of the variance in sound), he and the ensemble returned to the stage for another encore set. The finale was an extended arrangement of "Eden Roc," and right at the end six drummers dressed in traditional Italian Renaissance garb appeared on the stage playing drums. It was amazing.
Einaudi then introduced all the musicians in his ensemble, who were greeted with standing ovations and cheers (especially the tambourine dude) and then launched into an edgy final finale piece that includes a whole lot of rhythm and snippets from various "Nightbook" pieces. Here's a pretty good video somebody took of this:
And then it was over... truly a marvelous experience. While I had seen a very similar version of the show in Chicago, this one was even more special given its greater length, the energy of the huge crowd, and the beauty of the Verona Arena amphitheater. Would I have preferred that it didn't rain on us, and would I have preferred not to hear the crinkle crinkle of rain ponchos throughout the show? Sure. But even with the rain it was a special night, and one that I am so grateful I was able to share with my husband... who is rapidly becoming just as much of an Einaudi fan as I am. The trip definitely counts as one of my peak life experiences.