Rome, Italy | AFP |
Diego Maradona steps into the world of high culture on Monday when epic tales of World Cup glory as well as reflections on his colourful private life are played out at Naples’ famed Teatro di San Carlo.
Sadly for the Argentine, who was idolised when he starred for Napoli 30 years ago, his presence at the world’s oldest active opera house has sparked an angry reaction amongst the country’s artistic community.
“The San Carlo has a rich history, it has welcomed the greatest singers and orchestras. There is music, opera and ballet — it is not the place for football. It is totally inappropriate,” sniffed leading composer Roberto De Simone.
Maradona, characteristically, has shrugged off the controversy, as have his fans.
Tickets for Monday’s one-night show, entitled ‘Three times 10′ sold out in just a few hours despite a top cost of 350 euros.
“It’s very emotional to see how much love there is for me,” said 56-year-old Maradona on Sunday as he met the press.
“I have seen young people who weren’t even born when I was playing cry because they had a photo with me.”
Monday’s show, written by Alessandro Siani, will tell the Maradona story through recitals, songs and images with video input from other legendary players to have worn the famous number 10 shirt in the Italian leagues such as Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero.
“Tomorrow will not be a theatre show. It’s the story of what’s inside Maradona. Tomorrow at San Carlo, I will tell everything I have in my heart,” he explained in the third person.
“I will not keep anything back and I know that all Neapolitans will understand everything.”
On Saturday night, Maradona was given a rousing reception by fans at his city hotel who sang, “Diego, Diego!” or the famous “Ho visto Maradona” (“I saw Maradona”).
In response, he blew kisses to the crowd below his window.
On Sunday night, he had hoped to be at the San Paolo stadium where Napoli, who he helped to the Serie A title in 1987 and 1990, beat Pescara 3-1.
But despite an invitation from the coach Maurizio Sarri, he did not attend the match.
“Despite the beauty of this city, Maradona is Naples’ finest monument,” said Sarri.
“Tomorrow, I will not be able to go to the theatre and I think he will have a very busy schedule. But once in my life I would like to speak to him face to face.”