I don’t mean to be irreverent about what is ritually a breathtaking experience, but Ennio Morricone rocked the Terme di Caracalla so hard last week that I still catch myself thinking about it in the in-between moments of my days. I’ll be running down a hallway praying that I’m not late to a meeting and an image will float along serenely into my brain, unbidden, and I’m back at the Terme at twilight as the soft lights chase each other amongst the rising ruins. It’s that kind of place. It’s that kind of composer. Hell, it’s that kind of city.
Every year, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, or Rome Opera House, gathers up its skirts and plunks itself down in the ancient thermal baths of Caracalla, the ruins of which are so mythical and grandiose that you start to think that if this is how exquisitely the Romans set up a place they bathed in, then it’s no surprise that they once waged war like gods. During the summer the walls of the majestic Terme reverberate with the music of the greats, and you can go see a variety of concerts, operas, and ballet performances at entirely affordable rates (tickets range from 25–135 euro). The shows usually run from mid-June to early August, and… look, just go. Whether you live here or you’re flying through Rome on a whirlwind tour, there is nothing in the world that will make you feel as completely alive and full of awe as being a part of an experience like this. To be completely truthful, I generally don’t even really like the opera, and I still go every year just because it is so cleanly beautiful that I will sit through a 4-hour rendition of Aida and I will be grateful. Hungry, but grateful.
Ennio Morricone is one of those artists that make me dizzyingly proud to be Italian, and his concert completely swept me away. I’m the first to admit I was a little worried that I might be bored during a 3-hour concert that involved an orchestra, but I’m also the first to gladly eat my words. I want to tell you about how he is truly revolutionizing his genre, about the twists and unexpected instruments he weaves into his music, about that moment when the electric guitar kicks in and you turn to whomever you’re with, completely forgetting to be cool, and just grin like a fool because the music has completely swept you away. I want to tell you about how I found myself standing up at the end of his concert and chanting “encore!” (well, “bis!”) with everyone else, my dignity be damned, about how I fell in love with this city all over again just by spending a few hours in its ancient, enthralling grasp. But if you’ve been to Rome, and especially if you’ve lived here, you already know she has a way of grabbing you back just when you’re sick to death of the buses never coming by, the trains always being late, the challenges of everyday living in a city so eternal it struggles with the mundane and the efficient, with the modern – you already know that one gauzy night it’ll be you and Rome strolling along the lungotevere, walking down a tiny street in Trastevere, or tiptoeing into the Terme di Caracalla bursting with music, and you’ll be hers again, just like that.