The Best Weekend Ever Part 1: Masterclass 1, Pisa, Il Latini, Birthday
Friday morning started off with a masterclass held by Piergiorgio del Nunzio, a very active Italian conductor who specializes in Italian recitativi. He was a wealth of information, and a very fun and engaging man to work with. Some amazing little bits of information he shared with us are that in the Florentine dialect, therefore the standard operatic dialect, all "sh" sounds are treated as double consonants. This is something that even the coaches here were excited to know, since people have been trying to figure out for the longest time why the head diction coach at the Met has been seemingly changing the rules of diction lately by doubling every single "sh" in his published IPA transcriptions. As an Italian, Piergiorgio was able to tell us when we didn't sound perfectly native/when he couldn't understand words and then help us to say it just like a real Italian would. He also has a perfect sense of the flow of Italian recit, and he has been able to help us tremendously with our flow. Friday's masterclass was only one of two masterclass he is giving us, the other of which will be held on Saturday morning. I will be singing in that class again, doing part of my other scene.
Right after the masterclass, a group of us grabbed a bite to eat, changed, and headed to the train station! Though we would only get a short time in Pisa, we all considered it worth it to make the journey. Pisa is such a beautiful town, albeit flooded with tourists and people trying to sell cheap gimmicks to those tourists. The way that the train station is situated, you have to walk all the way through the town (20 minutes maybe) to get to the tower. So along that route, it is shopping, café, and souvenir shop central. However, once you are actually on the site of the tower, the atmosphere becomes much more relaxing. There were tons of tourists doing the whole "pretend to hold the tower up" pose, as we did once as well, but there were also lots of people laying in the exceedingly green grass and taking in everything they could about the moment. There were also lots of people walking through the cathedral and baptistry on site. The day was absolutely gorgeous - 73 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.
After spending about two and a half hours in Pisa, we took the train home and then got ready for dinner! But not just any dinner, this was THE Florence Voice Seminar dinner. Every year since the program's inaugural season fifteen years ago, part of the price of the seminar has gone toward a fabulous seven course meal at one of Florence's finest restaurants, Il Latini. In fact, the program has built up such a fine relationship with the restaurant that we get special reserved seating in a gorgeous courtyard, and we sing to the staff every year. This year, the dinner just happened to coincide with my birthday. This dinner included almost every food you can think of as well as the best house wine in Florence. There was Gnocchi and bread and pasta ravioli and soup and salad and mozzarella and prosciutto and Biscotti and potatoes, and just when you think you can't eat any more, they bring out the Florentine Steak. It was quite easily one of the best meals I have ever had. Yes, someone did tip off the waiters that it was my birthday, and yes, I got a flaming ice cream bowl while people sang. It was a good time.
After this exhausting, four-hour-long, €4000 meal, it was time to go home and rest up for Piergiorgio's second masterclass at 10am sharp the next morning.