To be at Teatro San Carlo, the oldest opera house in Europe (1737), is a world class experience, but when you add in the splendid music of Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and the brilliant conducting of  Zubin Mehta, get ready to be transported to another universe.

And so, guess who got transported for 5 blissful hours of listening enjoyment? That’s right, your two favorite Neapolitan authors, Bonnie Alberts, the “Napoli Unplugged Guide to Naples” and Ann Pizzorusso “Tweeting Da Vinci.” They had the honor of going back stage to meet the Maestro between Acts II and III of this grueling, emotionally exhausting performance. His kindness, generosity, sense of humor and approachability were as impressive as his schedule. Here in Napoli, he is conducting Tristan and Isolde and Mahler’s 3rd symphony. On his days “off” he is commuting to Milan, where he is conducting Aida at Teatro alla Scala. Wow, I am tired just thinking about it.

Since I think that geology influences everything, I took this opportunity to ask him if he could think of an example where geology influenced music. Without missing a beat, he said that I should start by looking at all the different types of beautiful stone at the Beijing Opera House, “stunning,” as he put it. I chided him, saying that I was impressed that he had actually noticed the stone, with everything else he had to think about. However, I quickly looked it up and found that the architects placed 22 different types of marble from the various Chinese provinces into a magnificent patterned floor.

Marble floor of Beijing Opera House
photo: Paul Andreu Architects

Last week, speaking from the stage of San Carlo, Maestro Mehta talked about his youth. He had arrived in Naples from his native India by ship. As he walked up from the dock, he saw the famed Teatro San Carlo for the first time. He was very moved and vowed that one day he would be  conducting there. Now on stage, he paused a moment, and in perfect Italian joked that San Carlo was incredibly beautiful… and he was enjoying seeing it…because while conducting he always had his back to the audience.

If you would like a truly memorable experience, go to Teatro San Carlo. Zubin Mehta is conducting there until March 5. Here is the schedule.