Here we go again! I’m teaching History of Venetian Theater and Music, with the cooperation of my colleague, Prof. Stephania Franceschini, as last year. With “some” news: First, this new amazing, smart, nice group I think I am really lucky to teach and enjoy at the same time! Secondly: I am trying to focus the course more on concerning the continuity between the past and present in performing arts, comparing Ancient Greek-Roman theater with Renaissance, Commedia dell’Arte, Goldoni up to the contemporary Musicals and movies. I’m giving the students a lot of plays to read and I feel like really impressed how they sound “hungry” to read, compare, and learn as much as they can. Last Saturday we had our first fieldtrip to visit the Arena di Verona and it was awesome! Because the weather was freezing the Arena was almost a “desert”; it was like making a trip in the past, feeling like a part of the Ancient Roman period, hearing the huge stones screaming to the grey sky. Simply unique…
Ok, let’s go in class to start the second week of our journey (Wow! Already second week).
Un grande ciao da Venezia!
Professoressa of Performing Arts, Venezia
Ciao! Week three in Venice was very eerie and wet but still a quality week. We started our music and theatre class this week and have already taken a couple field trips. We were able to see inside St.Mark’s Basilica where the choir would have performed and where the massive organs are. Some of us are hoping to check out a mass some Sunday at the Basilica to listen to the present day choir and observe how the domes and rounded walls create echoes. We also travelled to Verona for our theatre class to see the ancient Roman theatre where gladiators used to fight wild beasts and where orchestra performances and plays were hosted. Also the Spanish bull fighting took place there. Witnessing these ancient ruins was breathtaking. Back in the lagoon, Carnevale is only ramping up more. All over the city there are people in neat costumes, street performances, and events going on. While leaving to go grocery shopping, Libby and I heard music around the corner. We peeked around the corner to find performers dressed up in funny hats, socks, etc, playing the accordion and other instruments. It was a neat and quaint experience.
One of my favorite memories of this week was our attempt at a taco night. It was interesting, to say the least, finding taco ingredients at the supermarket. That was only the beginning- the tortillas are very thick and unless reheated, they just rip. Everyone was eating their taco shell like a salad basically. And we still haven’t determined why tortillas are only sold in pack of three here. The taco seasoning, or burrito seasoning, was all clumped together probably because it had been on the shelf a while. Also, we’re pretty sure that the yellow cheddar cheese we gorge ourselves on in America is non-existent here. Whatever white cheese we bought, we couldn’t translate the name, turned out to be delicious. It was all tasty but we decided we might try something different, like pizza, next time we get together. Slowly but surely, I’m figuring things out here but we still make some mistakes at the supermarket occasionally, such as buying poppy seeds instead of chia seeds. On the contrary, I had some time to bake this week to see how the flour here might differ from back home. Despite not having the proper measuring tools and lacking ideal cookware, my loaf of bread turned out great! I was ecstatic as I was certain something would be off since flour here is bred differently than in America. Libby and I decided we need to bake some more though just to be sure that we got things down you know. Another positive is people at the market and people we walk by everyday are beginning to remember us. It’s a nice feeling and I still feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to live abroad.
This week has flown by even faster than the others. Carnevale is in full swing now with everyone in period costume and masks. My group and I have had a little more time to explore, so we’ve found some pretty interesting places and people. Just by walking around during our free evenings we discovered that Americans will just be happy to talk to anyone they understand. From New York to Minnesota, there are tons of young adults studying abroad around Italy just like us. My favorite group we’ve met, however, is from London, England. They go to the same college here as our FVCC group does to learn Italian. Hopefully we’ll be able to get to know their full group better as the months go on. Earlier this week my roomies and I also hosted our first dinner; seems we flew all the way to Venice to make tacos. A couple friends from our group and new one we met at the Istituto Venezia, Francesca, stopped by. It was a night full of games, good food, and learning a little more about each other. We also bonded over all the homework we had yet to do that night and knocked some of it out together. Abby even took it upon herself to bake home-made bread, which was AMAZING. I actually ate about seven slices for dinner alone one night because it was just that good. I hope she makes more soon.
Along with the night life we’re slowly becoming more familiar with, we have just finished our first week of theatre and music class. Walking around St. Mark’s Basilica a second time I really got a chance to understand how the acoustics inside work with the many choirs that have performed there. Our professor, Stefania, showed us the massive organs surrounding the alter and even where she had a chance to sing in the golden cathedral. I would die if I was ever given the opportunity to sing in as grand a place as that. We’ve also been studying the typical theatre of Carnevale, Commedia dell’Arte. It’s characters and quirks never fail to surprise me, especially the 16th century eroticism that has been unveiled in some of the plays we’ve read so far. Just the other day we also took a trip to Verona for class and visited a real Roman Arena. Seeing where people would fight to the death or perform grand operas was awe-inspiring. I’ve made it a goal to go back again and visit the places my group has seen so I can explore them even further. I never want to leave.
Update for week three, I’m still struggling with Italian class. There is so much information, it gives me a new respect for language in general. Between the pronunciations and the exceptions, it has me pulling out my hair out. Between our teacher, Deborah, and our student teacher Francesca, I keep them both busy with my many questions. With four hour classes each day, we go over so much information, I have quite a bit of notes to review each night. I enjoy the challenge of learning a new language, it’s something I’ve never done before and I really want to be able to speak to the locals in their own language fluently.
This week we also learned about some of the history behind music and theater here in Venice. I never realized the whole idea behind plays and theater today was based off of Greek theater. It’s was such an important part of life back in the 500 B.C. and has continued to affect culture and society throughout the ages. We also learned about music, which is more up my alley. It helps that I played in Orchestra since the 6th grade so I’ve already been exposed to a lot of the music already which is very nice. Both our teacher and myself play the cello so it’s nice to talk to her about music and what kind of Orchestras they have here in Venice and she told me about a local group who I’d love to go watch perform. So, it’s been a really fun week of learning, and I’m excited to learn even more about the music history here in Italy.
This week we had a sort of taco party at Libby, Dorothy, and Abby’s apartment. It seems silly to make tacos when your living in Italy but we just had a funny craving for tacos and salsa. The only bad part about having tacos in Italy is that Italians make bad taco shells. They just fell apart, so it wasn’t much of a taco. However, it was really fun to sit down and have dinner with the other kids in the group and eat and then later play card games. Francesca even came over and tried tacos or what was an attempt at a taco for the first time in her life. After dinner she sat down with me and help me with Italian, which was a tremendous help. She explained how verbs work in Italian and showed me some great ways to study. I would say it’s been another great week, in this pretty cool city, with a great group of people. So until next week,
Well, it has been one fun week! We have begun our theater and music class with Anna and Stephania, and it sure has been something special.
Currently in our theater class, we’re learning all about the history of Venetian theater, the importance of the masks that were worn, and what the plays symbolized during the Renaissance. Originally, theater began in Athens, but then the Romans conquered Greece and even took the concept of theater with them. Venetian theater was a symbol for tragedy and comedy at the time because it served as a distraction for the people from global issues. Finally, the masks served as an outlet for people to act out whatever part they wanted in the plays. These accessories also helped the audience distinguish characters from each other, and since women were not allowed to be a part of theater during this time, the masks helped give men the ability to act out any female roles. Furthermore, the music during this era was composed of beautiful symphonies in the basilicas, and choirs were becoming popular as well. We learned that there were two separate choirs that were equally important because they balanced each other out with their melodic, opposite voices.
Also, Carnevale has now officially began! Though we haven’t seen an incredible amount of crazy costumes and masks, that’s all about to change soon enough. Our group is very excited to watch and take part in some of the fun celebrations! San Marco’s Square is decorated with more festive venues, and there’s literally so many people around, it’s just outrageous.
Well, I could go on forever about all the exciting things happening here, but I think I’ll just save that for the next blog.
Until next time! Ciao!
I have just completed my third week in Venice, time has really flown by! Living in Venice seems almost routine now and my body naturally knows the way to the majority of places. I am feeling more at home now; the butcher knows my roommates and I by sight and so does a waiter which means we get cheerful hellos every time we buy chicken and walk by the restaurant. It was rather rainy this week and gloomy, but I spent my time indoors reading plays for our new class. Yesterday we visited Verona to see the ancient Roman theatre. It was a spectacular sight that I very much enjoyed. This was a theatre that held everything from gladiators fighting lions to orchestras. It was by far my favorite excursion that we have taken for a class so far. The other place we visited this week was St. Mark’s Basilica. I had already been there during the first week of class, but this time we popped in to see the areas were the choir had sung. Venice was the first place to split the choir up into two sections because of the echoes within the churches. So much history has happened here it blows my mind.
After a week of rain the sun finally emerged. I had a blast this weekend. Saturday night I went to restaurant and ordered a plate of cheeses. Savannah discovered that she loves cheese with jam and honey. It was very delicious and the company was even better. Sunday was the first day that I felt hot under all my layers. I actually took my jacket off for the first time since I got here. The day was gorgeous and it was perfect for a morning stroll. The streets were very crowed though with many tourists, but it was still nice. My favorite part about it besides the sunshine was the dark chocolate gelato that Abby and I split. It was like heaven in my mouth. With every day spent here I think the memories and food just keep getting sweeter and sweeter.
On Saturday’s we meet for class, but what’s cool about Saturday class is that we usually visit another city or town near Venice. So far, we’ve visited The Lido, Murano, Padova, and yesterday we went to Verona.
I was very excited for Verona because it is also the city that the Shakespeare play, Romeo and Juliet, takes place at. Our History of Theater teacher Anna guided us through the city and showed us some Ancient Roman Ruins: The Arena di Verona. The arena looked like what I imagined the colosseum would look like. It was oval shaped with seating all around. I can only imagine what the venue looks like when it’s full. Anna said it seated about 2,000 people. It was funny because Anna said that she has been to many concerts at the arena one of which was a Sting concert.
The Arena is definitely one of my favorite locations that we have visited. Standing in the center of it was very thrilling and I couldn’t help but imagine what it was like during ancient times. Under the stadium seating are a series of tunnels and chambers that I assume held whatever the focus of the spectacle would have been. On the stone walls was some red dried substance dripping down. We joked that it was blood left over from a Roman Soldier who had fought a dragon or something. Unfortunately, I think it was just paint.
At the arena we took lots of photos and recreated some fight scenes. Walking up and down The Arena steps, we worked up an appetite so we left to go enjoy some food at a nearby restaurant. After that Anna treated us to a dessert or coffee at The Romeo and Juliet cafe. It was a beautiful day and a lot of fun.
Another week has passed, it’s hard to believe we have already been here for so long. This week we saw the beginning of Carnevale. Streets that were crowded before now are so full of people that it seems to take ages to walk down them. Amongst the many tourists are people in grand elaborate costumes. It’s amazing just walking home we see amazing costumes that look like they’re straight of a movie or play. On Sunday there was the big kick off event of Carnevale in St. Mark’s square. Savannah and I got up early and went to the square that quickly filled with people. We got a good spot near the edge of the walkway where we had a great view of the precession of people in full costumes going past. Each costume had tones of detain the lace or embroidery. Many of the people wore beautiful masks and some even wore beautiful styled wigs. Last of all was the actual flight of the angel. A girl in full costume with feathered wings slowly descend from the tower to the stage at the end of the square using a zip line. As she slowly glided down she tossed confetti that looked almost magical. It was a very fun experience and well worth giving up the chance to sleep in to good see.
This week we started our class on history of theater and music class. So far we’ve read some comedies, and listened to some amazing music. We also got to go to Verona on Saturday and see the arena where both plays and other events were held. I knew that arena like the one we visited had excellent acoustics to allow large audiences to hear actors in times before they had technology to amplify voices. It was really cool to actually be there standing at the top and able to hear people speaking below where the actors would have been. It’s amazing to me that they figured out how to build the arena so the sound is amplified, it was almost like magic in how well everything could be heard below.
Every morning in Venice I wake up to the smell of pastries from the café below which can be considered both a blessing and a curse. Then my roommates and I have the usual morning banter that goes on until we finally decide to get up for school. The hardest part of the day is getting up but luckily we live very close to the Institute, so we have successfully made it to class relatively on time to begin our extensive four hour course of Italian every day. We have also had a lot of practice getting lost in the maze-like alleyways of Venice because a single wrong turn and you’ll find yourself in a very familiar yet completely unknown part of Venice. We started our first week of history of music and theater class where learned about the differences between Roman and Greek theaters. Apparently, theater was more than entertainment, it was an art used to portray an educational message or celebration of wars, battles, victories, life and death. My favorite memory about this lesson was the fieldtrip to the Verona Arena, a Roman amphitheater built in the first century. I could feel the history behind the brick stones that could hold two thousand Romans seeking to uncover the complex answers of life, such as their purpose and the mysteries of nature. Although it is now used for opera performances and concerts you can still feel the Roman pride in the Arena and the surrounding area. If you’re looking for a memorable experience full of history and life I would highly recommend the Verona Arena.
Hello Kalispell from the wet and rainy city of Venice. This was the first week of being without our lovely Susan, but it was no less eventful. We began theatre class this week which means that after four hours of Italian we get a short break then are privileged with two more hours of class or shorter tours of churches and theatres. Sometimes it is a nice addition to the day where we can walk around and try out the acoustics or listen to different opera styles. Other times though, it is admittedly hard to keep one’s eyes fully open and alert, but there are always days like that regardless of the material. The class also falls into the weekend with Saturday train rides through Italy to see fighting arenas and cathedrals. These are truly a gift allowing for some shut eye during the train ride and educational exploration in a new town with an amazing teacher and other companions.
For the first Saturday, third of February, we went to Verona to see the fighting arena which was an hour and half train ride. Upon entering the arena, it was impossible not to wonder how much blood was underfoot for each step in the sandy arena and how many people were packed into the circular rock cell cheering on their death. If one listened hard enough one could swear she or he heard the faint roaring cheers of an ancient audience. Afterwards, myself and two companions took a stroll through the park and ate at a friendly café called Julius Meinl where we had a very thick hot chocolate with a delectable sandwich and a hard-shelled brownie. It was a day that could not be replaced with anything it just had to be lived in the moment to the fullest. Thanks for tuning in this week and stay classy until next time. Ciao.