CLA Italy 2019: Mondays in Novafeltria

Written by Arthi Nandakumar

I thought I knew what hectic meant.

When I say that almost two weeks have passed in a blur, I mean that I literally don’t know what day it is anymore. As many events have occurred between the first post and now, I will try to briefly share with you some events that occurred over the first week of CLA Italy.

Firstly, Novafeltria Mondays are market day.

I thought I could anticipate what this would mean and imagined something on a small scale with a couple of fruit stands and some other miscellaneous booths. When I woke up that first morning, I groggily dragged myself out of the apartment and made my way to the streets. I soon realized that whatever small scale market I had in mind was not the reality. Racks upon racks of, colorful clothing were put out, every kind of shoe on display, and piles of fresh fruit and vegetables filled our vision. Purses, fans, jewelry were placed neatly in rows and the smell of food filled my nostrils. There seemed to be no end to the variety of merchandise and each stall seemed to have something different. The town was completely unrecognizable from the day before and was filled with smiling faces glazed with sweat from setting up shop in the summer heat. Loud chatter filled the air and as we made our way through the many stalls, it became difficult to decide what we wanted to buy. Eventually, even despite the language barrier (I knew literally five words in Italian, but the vendors were super patient and understanding), we were finally able to purchase several items for an astonishingly low price (which made my bank account very happy).

In the past week, there has been already been enough opportunities to explore the area. Not only that, but evenings in Novafeltria sometimes bring unexpected and exciting things. One of these was a fashion show in the main piazza one night. Several of us had heard about “la festa” in Italian class that morning but knew little about it except that it was occurring that night. When we arrived a large, scarlet carpet sat in the middle of the square leading up to a small stage with live music. The area was filled with chairs, and as the sun set, people slowly started filing in. We took a gander at the little booths that had popped up and soon all the seats were filled and an amazing display of live sand art began. This was followed by many other events (some I didn’t get to see, but I saw the belly dancers somewhere in the piazza), and as the night reached a climax, the fashion show started. Amazing, almost “campy” outfits were put on display. We saw gorgeous gowns that were reminiscent of tables with full silver wear atop them and other glorious oddities. But the festivities didn’t end there as the next night there was a small circus show. We watched as someone balanced on top of plates and when a life-sized robot came out and started dancing I didn’t even know what to think anymore, but boy was it a blast.

With the exception of Monday mornings (and all evenings), Novafeltria can be a considerably sleepy town during the day. However, I’ve found that this is by no means a problem, especially with the schedule that participants of CLA Italy follow. A typical schedule may consist of 9:00 am Italian Class, followed by 3 half-hour rehearsals and a 45-minute coaching. This does not include masterclasses, movement classes on other days or even just personal practice time. With such jam-packed days and the non-stop influx of transformative information, it was no wonder that I felt as though I had grown so much already as a performer and musician in the first week.

As of right now, we have had masterclasses with the wonderful Piero Corradino Giovanni, Sandra Hormozi, and Yunah Lee. I’ve always loved attending masterclasses as there is so much to learn just from watching your peers and seeing how other professionals approach similar issues. Mr. Giovanni’s input on how to create a beautiful Italian legato and vowels, Ms. Hormozi’s advice on what to do in the professional world and how to present yourself, and Ms. Lee’s insight on connection to character and text became a powerful catalyst for discussion and thought.

Some food for thought:

There is such joy in music. Oftentimes, when we get into the grind of a chaotic week or an upcoming performance, musicians can fall into a practice stupor where we simply go through the motions of what is “necessary.” But what is necessary? Is it to have all the notes and rhythms correct at all time? To never crack on a high note? To get through a piece of music following every single written direction and singing perfect legato? Sure. However, something I learned, and something I believe in is that one must really want to learn. Delve into the history of the piece. Ask yourself— why THIS dynamic marking as opposed to another? What was important about the subject matter of which I am singing in relevance to the age in which it was written and (maybe even more importantly) why is still important now? These tools are also a necessity, and when you are surrounded by wonderful teachers/mentors who are so passionate about what they do, it inspires you to really remember why and how to love music.