Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Out and about in Bologna: Culture under every portico (Part I)

Eugene Karl Montoya Alessandri (BC13/DC14) took the trouble to provide us with a sweeping rundown of night life in Bologna before finishing his year of studies at SAIS Bologna. Eugene gives new meaning to multi-disciplinary learning: His account is so packed with detail and covers so much ground that we will offer it in two parts. Today he takes a look at the the classical music scene. Next week he'll fill us in on hot spots for aperitivi, bars, clubs and festivals.

Bologna has dozens of classical music institutions ranging from small churches to madrigal societies to full-scale opera productions to chamber ensembles.

Some students join choirs and chamber ensembles; others bring their keyboards and instruments to school and jam in jazz, opera and other genres.

The two most prominent fixtures on the professional scene are the Teatro Comunale, which has its own philharmonic and opera seasons, and Orchestra Mozart, which travels Europe with its unique and exemplary evenings of musical traditions.

Before arriving in the fall of 2012, I had heard some impressive opera recordings made at the Teatro Comunale (www.tcbo.it, Largo Respighi, 1) under the conductorship of Jesus Lopez-Cobos and more recently Roberto Abbado.

I enjoyed every production from the season opener of "Pagliacci - Cavalleria rusticana" through "Il Trionfo di Clelia", with the highlights being Verdi’s "MacBeth" and Wagner’s "Der Fliegende Holländer". After all, this was the 200-year anniversary of the births of both Verdi and Wagner, and opera houses throughout Europe paid their respects.

Opera in Bologna is more enjoyable for students when compared with the Teatro alla Scala in Milano because it’s more financially accessible, the quality of the set design and costumes is equally world class and fewer works are performed. Anyone under 30 can purchase a ticket for anywhere in the house for 25 euros before the performance.

It’s quite typical that young patrons such as us sit in the first two rows and get a chance to speak with SAIS alumni and professors. I met an alumnus from the Class of 1957 and often compared notes with Director Kenneth Keller in the elegant ante room, which, by the way, offers aperitivi superior to those at La Scala.

Ottorino Respighi is Bologna’s most famous homegrown composer, and he is commemorated with a statue in the foyer of the Teatro Comunale and by the name of Largo Respighi street, which faces Piazza Verdi.
"Der Fliegende Holländer" in Bologna
The Orchestra Mozart Bologna (www.orchestramozart.com, via Dè Monari, 1/2) performs select concerts throughout the year in its centro storico home of Teatro Manzoni. The concerts conducted by Claudio Abbado sell out literally in minutes, but students can take advantage of fantastic evenings with guest conductors such as Diego Matheuz or James Conlon or guest soloists like Emanuel Ax or Maria João Pires.

The orchestra was formed in 2004 and has already become one of the most esteemed in Italy’s classical music scene. It performed at the inauguration of the Auditorium L’Aquila in Fall 2012 in a moment of musical ambassadorship as the town’s former auditorium had been destroyed by an earthquake in 2009.

The highlight of the year for me was seeing the rarely performed "Kammersymphonie" by Austrian composer Franz Schreker, directed by James Conlon, who is the artistic director of the Los Angeles Opera.

I learned about the OMB by walking down via Guerrazzi to school every day. It turns out that the OMB was formed and still practices in the same philharmonic academy where a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart received a certificate in 1771.

- Eugene Karl Montoya Alessandri (BC13/DC14)

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