• Musicians in Milan: Finding Inspiration in Unexpected Places

    by  • November 10, 2015 • Music Program, Student Life, Uncategorized, Undergraduate Programs • 0 Comments

    This past week, our music students took a two-day trip to Milan! We asked Jonathan, Sandy, Caroline, and Lattie to give us some insight into what they did there, and how this trip may have changed their perspective as artists and students.


    IMG_7379Jonathan Painter (Furman University, SC)

    During orur trip to Milan this past week, I was able to see the Museum at La Scala. Part of the museum tour allows for the visitors to see the theater. We were coming back later that, night to see the opera Falstaff, but were told that a rehearsal was happening for a ballet. To begin our tour, the group watched this rehearsal.

    The dancers moved with such grace. Most of what I was able to see was during a break, but the dancers continued to rehearse individually. As a singer, my job is to portray a story through music, and a dancer has the same job, but without words. I was able to understand what was happening in the story without a single word being spoken. I had never experienced anything like this before. Being able to see the rehearsal was truly an inspiration. After about 20 minutes, we were asked to move on so that others could watch as well. I wanted to stay for longer, but had to move on.

    Inside of the actual museum, there are countless artifacts from famous composers. I was able to learn about the history of La Scala and its importance to opera. La Scala is one of the best, if not the best, opera house in the world. The museum contained playbills of all of the operas performed there, many of the most well known operas composed. There were pictures of famous performers, most notably, Maria Callas. Among the most inspiring artifacts was a piano owned by the great composer and pianist, Franz Liszt. Franz Liszt was German composer, yet his piano is in La Scala. Other composers such as Joseph Haydn visited La Scala. La Scala has been, and continues to be a center for classical art. There were also statues of commedia characters in the museum. I would have looked over these statues, having no idea what they were before traveling to Italy. I recognized the characters because of what I have learned from the theater students at the Accademia. All in one museum, I experienced all three types of art taught at the Accademia Dell’Arte: Music, Theater, and Dance. Located upstairs in the museum was a library that contained costumes from recent productions at La Scala. One display was from a production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. I found this display very interesting, because Furman University’s Lyric Theater is producing Die Zauberflöte in the spring semester. I will be involved in the production.

    The La Scala museum was one of the highlights of my trip to Milan. Being in La Scala was an inspiration in and of itself, but the history behind the theater made it even more interesting. I never thought that I would get the opportunity to see a production at La Scala or get to experience so much history.

    Pictured from left: Lilla Keith, Kerby Baier

    Pictured from left: Lilla Keith, Kerby Baier

    Sandy Sharis (Furman University, SC)

    On Wednesday morning, we woke up before 5am to walk to the train station and take a 6:09 train to Florence and another to Milan! After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we stood in line outside of La Scala waiting to buy tickets. Though the man working at the front office told us we were in the right place to buy standing tickets for that night’s show, the final performance of Falstaff, a nice man came up and told us he believed that standing tickets were not normally sold for closing nights. Long story short, that man was correct, and another very nice Italian man who frequents La Scala and who had also stood in line with us took us to the correct ticket office and helped us get tickets. We sat in box seats because the cheaper tickets were sold out (oh, darn!) and it was an amazing show. Needless to say, we were all, to a certain extent, dragging through that day because of the early morning traveling and activities in Milan. Unfortunately, I did not like the risotto I tried, but I ate the best hazelnut and fondente gelatos I’ve ever had – the fondente was thick and matte, which seemed to add even more to the richness of the dark chocolate. The hazelnut was light and creamy, and I’ve come to appreciate when different flavors at the same gelateria have different textures – that’s how you know they tailor each recipe to its specific flavor. The next day I had a pumpkin gelato that tasted not like pumpkin pie, but like the squash – it looked like it came straight from the pumpkin, and the texture was more like pumpkin than ice cream. How do they do it??

    A group of us got a little lost on our way to dinner that evening, so we found a place to get aperitivo, which happened to be right across from the hotel where PENELOPE CRUZ was staying before releasing her new fashion line in Milan. While Kevin, Sully, and Mackenzie stayed at the restaurant, I took Mackenzie’s phone across the street, having already started the video (with commentary). When I got there I saw the chauffeur waiting for her in the car. About 5 minutes later I saw a man signal to the driver to start the car, and then he motioned for Penelope and her two security guards to come. It all happened so fast! There were camera flashes everywhere, and I was probably about 5 feet away from her. Penelope looked pretty disturbed, so though I was one of many people holding up their cameras, I realized how invasive that was. I can honestly say that just from those few seconds when I saw her face, I gained a lot more sympathy for celebrities.

    On Thursday, Jonathan, Sully, Kevin, Mackenzie and I went to the Museo di Scienze e Technologia di Leonardo Da Vinci – I’ve always had an interest in Da Vinci, though I’ve never gotten the chance to really study him. The museum contained structures based on his drawings (such as boats, airplanes, tools, etc.), and the large, long hall that contained these models was where I learned the most about him. He studied and made advances in cartography, art, distillery, cosmology, math, anatomy, and many other areas. Something that was very impressive to me was a map of Italy that he drew with an approximation of where they should ideally build a canal…then he drew a structure and said, “Use this to dig the canal.” Needless to say, he’s the “Renaissance man of Renaissance men” as Jonathan says. There were also a number of exhibits that were more indirectly related to him, such as expos on astronomy, food, and musical instruments. I’m hoping to read a biography on him sometime soon!

    The trip to Milan was an exciting and fulfilling two days for us all. I, having been extremely exhausted the whole time, personally did not realize how much I got out of the trip until after the fact, but I’m really grateful for the experiences we had there!

    Pictured: Caroline Owen

    Pictured: Caroline Owen

    Finding Home: Caroline Owen (Furman University, SC)

    After our glamorous night at the opera, our Furman group was given the opportunity to freely explore Milan on Thursday until we departed for home sweet home (AKA Arezzo) in the afternoon. I spent the morning with Lilla, Kerby, Stephanie, and Lattie in Milan’s magnificent Duomo. Since it’s so colossal and ornate on the outside, we were all curious about what could possibly be on the inside.

    As soon as I walked through the doors, my mouth gaped wide open. I gazed up at the ceiling, which seemed to stretch upward for miles and was adorned with intricate designs in plaster. Very much in the Gothic style, the church brought back memories of when I visited Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Filled with beautiful art, numerous tombs and relics, and even an underground chapel, it was a sacred space yet also appeared to display the wealth and grandeur of Milan.

    After visiting the Duomo, we all decided that we didn’t need to rush anywhere–we had no place that we had to be. So with our trusty guide–the one and only Rick Steves–we allowed ourselves to just be… to just explore the little things in such a large, metropolitan city. While Milan certainly doesn’t have the old, rustic charm of Tuscany, it’s beautiful in its own way. In fact, it reminded me of home (Atlanta, for me) with its busy streets and tall buildings all covered by a bright blue sky. After grabbing a DELICIOUS lunch (something that resembled a fried calzone filled with cheesy goodness), we headed over to the large castle and picnicked, soaking up the sunshine. Lattie and I even discovered that the castle was inhabited by several cats and EVEN a hedgehog.

    We all started wandering around the castle, and Lattie and I noticed a large arch in the distance. We kept walking toward it and suddenly found ourselves on the edge of the massive Parco Sempione (basically the equivalent of New York’s Central Park). Filled with joggers, picnickers, children, and modern art, this place was beautiful and vibrant with culture and life. Lattie and I let go of any previous agenda we had made in our heads and said, “Let’s just walk around here the rest of the day.”

    Something that I have missed about home in the U.S. is the season of fall. It has a crispness and coziness that can’t fully be described, but when I think of it, I think HOME. Well, as we walked around that park, HOME hit me like a ton of bricks. The leaves were at their peak, boasting shades of red, orange, and yellow against the green grass. People were taking pictures, mothers were holding their children’s hands, and people smiled as they strolled by. I didn’t have to be back home to experience this season; instead I found it in a park in Milan, Italy. My heart was bursting with this sense of peace. Here I was, getting to explore art and learn more about life and who I am, in such an unfamiliar place–but in that moment, I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I can’t put it into words very easily, but sometimes the air and the leaves and music and art and the love of the people around you can explain everything.

    Pictured: Lattie Reddoch

    Pictured: Lattie Reddoch

    Lattie Reddoch (Furman University, SC)

    The Furman music students travelled as a collective unit of 15 to Milan on November 4th and 5th. The primary goal of the trip was to see Verdi’s Falstaff at La Scala – a dream for any musician. However, the ticket process was rather intense, complicated, and Italian. We originally sat in line outside of La Scala for a couple hours in front of the queue for standing tickets that La Scala *typically* sells the day of a performance. However, after 2.25 hours of waiting, a very kind Italian man (not associated with the theater – just someone else trying to get a ticket) informed us that because the performance was the last one of the Falstaff production, La Scala was not offering standing tickets. So, we had to book it to a different ticket booth to buy seated (!) tickets, which were significantly more expensive than the standing tickets we were initially attempting to buy. Luckily, La Scala still had some seats left, so we all got box seats from which to watch that night’s production of Falstaff.

    So, besides being a somewhat typical experience in Italy, this potentially frustrating event turned into a moment of inspiration for me. The kindness and helpful spirit of our Italian friend was so humbling; many people would have turned a cold cheek to a group of thirteen American students with their two chaperones.

    We were not only shown grace by this man, but we were also helped through the entire process. When we eventually got to the second ticket sale point, he had a very heated exchange with the employee at the ticket booth, saying things like, “This is not good for La Scala! These students traveled all the way from Arezzo to see this opera – this is not good for Italy!” I realized that music and art in Italy are strong symbols of Italian pride. Places like La Scala and other cultural landmarks are considered a direct reflection on Italy. This attitude is not as prevalent in America, and it was eye-opening to see someone so passionate about how the arts are tied to a country’s identity.

    This three-hour window of time in Milan showed me kindness, grace, and passion for the arts in the spirit of an older man who wasn’t obligated to pay our group any attention at all. I hope that I can develop that type of spirit one day. I think everyone in our group realized that if it were not for the grace of one man, we would not have experienced one of the most impressive, inspiring shows of our lives in the world’s most prestigious opera house. To me, that small act of kindness is more inspiring than anything that could ever go on in a theater.

    Pictured: Physical Theatre students during their previous trip to Milano

    Pictured: Physical Theatre students during their previous trip to Milano


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