- Contributed by
- Wilfred Hoyle
- People in story:
- Wilfred Hoyle
- Location of story:
- Naples, Italy
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 27 January 2006
This reminiscence was taped and transcribed by my daughter.
I was not interested in opera before the War. We didn't have any classical records or anything at home in Manchester.
When we went over to Italy from North Africa early in 1944, we were billeted at San Giovanni and they immediately rented a hall for troops entertainment. Some opera singers arrived from the San Carlo Opera House in Naples. I went with my friend Private Arthur Robinson ('Robbo'); but he couldn’t see anything in it at all. I was fascinated by it - especially when one of the ladies sang 'One Fine day' from 'Madam Butterfly'. I thought it was wonderful! Immediately afterwards a corporal started arranging for a lorry to go down one night a week to the opera house and he booked the tickets each week. The opera house still carried on during the War, but it was only for army people - no civilians. To start off with, I think they just did it arias- then later on we saw full operas. I went to see them all. My wife sent me an 'Opera Stories' book so that I could follow the plot because I didn’t know any Italian.
Once or twice we saw the singer Gigli and Renate, his daughter. I remember they would play three national anthems - USA, France, UK - not Italian though. I also remember that on the marble staircase, there was a sign in English, which said, "within these walls Lord Nelson first met Lady Hamilton".
I couldn’t really understand the Italian language although I learnt odd phrases. After the War, in the 1960s-80s I started to learn Italian properly and went back to the Naples area for many lovely holidays.
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