It has been an amazing and busy day! We began with a wonderful breakfast in our hotel--all grateful to see eggs again! Then we marched through Florence, enjoying the bright spring sunshine. We paused on the Ponte Vecchio to admire gold, and break into a rousing rendition of O Mio Babbino Caro, to honor our location. The surrounding crowds cheered and shouted "Do it again! Do it again!" Never ones to leave a crowd hungry, they did. Next off to the Pitti Palace to enter the world of the Medici family. We were wowed by the fashion exhibit, and enjoyed many conversations about the statues, paintings, and colorful décor. It was so great to hear everyone debating politics, religion, and history with such fervency--all in the context of art.
We relaxed in the sunshine of the Boboli Gardens before starting off across town to the new gorgeous Opera di Firenze.
After a brief lunch we met the General Director at the opera, who served as our gracious guide through a stimulating, art-filled afternoon and evening. The beautiful state-of-the-art opera house was built in 2011--a far cry from the early architecture to which we had grown accustomed over the past week. The next treat was a masterclass with Richard Barker--one of the primo coaches and accompanists in Italy. We observed his coaching of a baritone and mezzo, and then he invited the Scouts to join in and sing for him. Which they did--with gusto. Kyra, Anais, Angel, Kimy, and Aljon sang in the hall, and did so beautifully.
We were then whisked off to a staging class, where we watched a soprano get an intensive interpretation coaching on a pivotal scene from I Puritani. While both the coach and the opera were in Italian, everyone in the room understood the scene by the passionate way the music was captured in gesture and expression. The coach explained to us how the engagement of character on the soul level had to be the basis of any performance, and that connecting to the music with movement first comes from the heart and must correspond to the text to keep the audience from becoming confused. Bellini was never so compelling as this afternoon for this audience.
We had dinner near the opera and then returned to hear the symphony--Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky with an exquisite violin soloist. Grazie mille to Opera di Firenze--the most gracious hosts we could ask for. Somehow we got through the day without gelato and no one complained--the art was just that good! Tomorrow on to the Uffizi, and then Rome!