Living La Scala

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Rehearsal at La Scala, that’s me, second tier private box on the right.

It’s been quite the week here in Milan. I have the incredible privilege to attend the Accademia Teatro alla Scala. As I walk through the entrance to the Accademia every morning, I am in awe that I am even here. The music that I am hearing through the halls and in the grand Teatro is an experience in itself. I had the great pleasure today to watch the rehearsal of Handel’s “Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno”, which is traditionally an oratorio but premiering as a staged production this January 2016 at La Scala. You must know that I did not arrive here with the intention to use my singing voice, that will come later, but for the sole reason to learn, understand, and support the arts as a cultural importance. The program is a combined Masters degree in Management of the Performing Arts, in collaboration with the MIP Business School and the Piccolo Teatro.

As I am being exposed to the program coursework day by day, meeting new faces with varying backgrounds, navigating the transit of this busy city, listening to the lectures of directors and cultural heads of important arts organizations, I wonder how to solve on a larger scale, the problem we face in support of the classical arts. I think there is a quote that says you cannot fight for peace, well the arts being the same, I would have to agree it is an up-hill battle to approach it that way. You only have to pursue it, to let it engulf you, to raise it up to create a welcoming path for all audiences in order to generate the interest. 

I consider myself a classically trained musician, in piano and in singing, but there is something greater than myself that I have been passionate about both on and off the stage. It is the importance of these art forms, classical music and opera, throughout every nation, every culture, every person, as a necessary emotional didactic of human nature. Again, more on that later in a future post. To give an example if you remember in 2014, I ran a crowdfunding campaign called  “Send to me Italy to sing Opera for $25”, I recommend everyone go through this very humbling and inspiring experience of asking people to support you and your efforts, monetarily, at least once in your life. It can be done, and successfully, for something that you truly believe in.

When I finished, I thanked one person in particular that did not donate money, but rather gave miles for airfare travel. It was the biggest compliment and unexpected contribution of my fundraiser. When I asked how I could ever repay for such a gesture, this was the reply: “I want nothing in return other than for you to have a good time and make the world better.” That seemed like an impossible feat as I was only singing Cherubino for the first time and joining my counterpart Christina Hourihan, among others, in Sicily to perform more opera. Of course, I think it meant something more than just that literally speaking.

To give one lasting and final note, when I went to a masterclass held at Hunter College in New York City, I had the unique opportunity to briefly meet the legendary soprano, Martina Arroyo. We talked for a bit and I said that I was thinking about auditioning for an opera again after having been away from singing for some time. She said, without missing a beat, “Well, don’t wait too long, we need you.” I was employed as chorus in her program later that year where I met other singers who’ve gone on to even greater stages. The point is, that we as singers, musicians, artists, at any and every level have a deep commitment to share our art. In a very big way, that is what Ms. Arroyo was encouraging me to do at that moment.

I see the problem not with everyone else coming or not coming to the opera, but within ourselves. Within the ‘opera world’ as a whole. We have to find the positives in our art, about where we are at right now. Maybe it’s not where we want to be, or we wish that we had this role or that role or this opportunity or another, or maybe we are mulling over someone else’s joys and successes. No, we must be collaborative. Inclusive. Be open to new ideas and new suggestions and by all means, keep singing and playing. Yesterday at the Accademia, the first week of classes ended with the General Manager of the Opéra de Rennes bringing up this idea of lateral communication in live theater performances. It’s the belief that the energy flowing out from a live singer or musician, without any enhancements, can offer an audience member special waves that can affect his or her emotional sensitivity. I now know what the airfare patron meant, that by sharing my own joys it can spread the same energy to others. This is what I will explore, as a living breathing artist, to bring value to this art where I am at right now.

Yours truly,

~ Jennie

Teatro alla Scala, January 2016

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