This week has been the most busy so far, and I'm slightly exhausted, although very happy. Monday evening was our Laude concert in the church of Sant Cristoforo. Donna, with whom I worked with at Interlochen, coached us on these 14th century pieces and also accompanied us on the organ. These pieces were written by common people in Toscana because they were not allowed to sing in church. But they're beautiful songs, and I love singing them. Most of the voice faculty here hadn't heard me sing since sending in the audition CD this winter, so I was a little nervous, like taking the frist test from a new professor. To top it off, I'd had a sore throad and a slight cough for a few days. But everything turned out fine, and I got some very good feedback from the faculty, which, of course, made me happy.
Tuesday was our first opera scenes prgram. For this, I sang a duet from Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte, playing Dorabella to Stephanie K's Fiordiligi. Our voices work very well together, and we look like we could possibly be sisters. She's working on Strauss's Presentation of the Rose and gave me an extra copy to learn Octavian's part. Again, I was nervous because of my health, but we were first on the program, and I kenw I'd be fine. Working with Stephanie was great fun, and I felt we did a good job with Mozart's beautiful music. After the concert, Cate and I went to a cafe for a bit. Now, everyone has warned me about the "dangers" of being a blonde in Italy, and I really haven't had much trouble. However, Tuesday night I had the experience of being followed to the bathroom by an Italian who claimed to be 20. Like I believed that for 1 second. The guys he was with are definetly sketchy, so I knew to turn him down. Yes, the attention is a bit flattering, but following a girl to the bathroom and then leering at her all night is not the way to win her over. So there. Cate and I have gotten to know quite a few of the older men in Urbania, who are far from the scetchy "20" year old discussed previously. That same Tuesday, we met another friend of Benvenuto's, Agusto. From him I learned something about my name; apperently, although my name is of Greek origin, it was also a common name among Roman nobility. So I have a Roman name, but look like a nothern Italian, kind of. Another friend of Benvenuto's (I think he knows everyone) was talking to us about music, and mentioned the singer Fred Buscolglione, and gave us a CD the following evening. I actually really like the music!
Wednesday, my Italian teacher, Lucia, invited a few of the students to go to Sant Angelo in Vado, her hometown, for the evening. Wednesdays in Sant Angelo are like Thursdays in Urbania, and she wanted us to see. So, 4 of us climbed into her cream and purple car and went. Sant Angelo is about 9k from Urbania, and has a very style. The roads in Sant Angelo are more winding, and everything is a little closer together. Sant Angelo has an interesting history; Pope Clement XIV was from there, and the words of Mussolini are painted on the inside of the city gates, although they are now covered in red paint to resemble blood. But we had a great time; real Italian pizza (freaking awesome), walking around town, and just hanging out. We got back a little later than I would have liked, but it was most definetly worth it.
This weekend marked the festival of Sant Cristoforo, the patron saint of Urbania. Friday, there was a special mass, and music by John, our Nemorino. Saturday was another mass, which I sang at with the choir, and a very long sermon. Very long. After Mass there was a procession through the town. About 6 men picked up the large statue of Sant Cristoforo, and with the clergy, musicians, and townspeople, we walked through the streets. Children were dressed up as angels, but I wasn't able to see them. Cate and I saw Francesco, Leonarda, their daughter Gretta, son-in-law Walter, and granddaughter Viola and joined them. I think I was supposed to go back to the church after the processional, but I didn't, and instead joined my host family for some coffee and conversation. I think this was the better choice.
I sang in the Performance Class Saturday morning. Since we didn't have great amounts of time, I had to make some cuts in my aria, "Parto, ma tu ben mio", which is my favorite aria. Judy, one of our teachers, gave me some wonderful feedback, and also some things to work on, especially with coloratura. After the class, I nearly ran to the bus station to catch the bus to Urbino, where I was meeting Cate. I got there in time, but met a young man from another music program here who had slept through his alarm and had been left in Urbania. He was more calm than I would have been in the situation, but he was still nervous about getting to Rome by himself with no contact information or anything. I hope he got there.
While in Urbino, I saw the Palazzo Ducale, which was the home of Frederico di Montefeltro and Battista Sforza (yes, of THOSE Sforzas), and is now the Galleria Nazionale Delle Marche. It was most definetly worth the 2 Euros to get in. Sadly, the furnishings of the Palazzo are no longer housed there, but are in Paris (I think). But there are paintings by Raffaello, his father, and other important artists. Since Cate and been through the Palazzo 4 or 5 times, I went through by myself. There wern't many people there, and at times I had whole rooms to myself. Just me, the history, and the art. It was overwhelming to think of the history of this place, and how important Urbino, and il duca Frederico are. Frederico di Montefeltro baisicly brought the Renaissance to this region on his own will, and is a very important figure in the history of this part of Italy. And I walked on the same floors, looked out the same windows, and touched the same doors he did. I noticed many painting of Sant Francesco as well; Assisi really isn't that far from here, and between him, Frederico di Montefeltro, and Raffaello, you realize how important this region has been to history.
In Urbania, the Sunday after Sant Cristoforo Day is the Blessing of the Cars (Cristoforo is the patron saint of travelers and cars). So, at 6.00, the statue of S. Cristoforo was again brought out of the church and taken to the piazza. A large group of clergymen also brought the relics of S. Cristoforo, a piece of his shoulder, supposedly. But after a prayer was said, the priests took turns holding up the relics as anyone in a car or motorcycle drove by. And there were hundreds of poeple. First a group of motorcycles went by (because every man in this region with a motorcycle imagines himself to be Valentino Rossi)
I saw people I knew drive by, including Donna, Carlo the choir director, and Cate's friends from Wales. Small towns in Italy take their patron saints very seriously, and it showed in the numbers of people who had their cars blessed; you even saw some go through twice, and sometimes in the same car. I enjoyed watching, because I'd never seen anything like it in the States.
I only have two more weeks left in Italy, and I'm shocked at how quickly the time has gone by. I was told many times that after a few weeks I would be sick of living in a different culture and trying to communicate every day in a different language, but that has proven to be anything but true. Sliding into Italian culture was a fairly simple process, and I'm picking up more of the language every day. There are new adventures in abundance, from eating something new to talking with the 92-year-old lady down the road to discovering that I've been saying "hooker" instead of "market" for two weeks ("marcato" meaning "hooker" and "mercato" meaning "market"...say that three times fast). But its worth it. Every single day.