Music Update and Starting a Fire

I realized that I might want to talk about music in this little Italian blog of mine since that was the driving force behind me moving here.

Exactly one week after I arrived back in Lucca, I had my first Italian audition.  I am so blessed with having an amazing support system here, which includes, Marco.  He was one of our accompanists for “Canta in Italia” this past June and on top of being one of the funniest people I know, he is a superb piano player and a phenomenal coach.  For singers, finding a good accompanist is like finding a treasure chest filled with gold.  You feel such security and ease as they play alongside you and can in a sense read your mind.  That unspoken communication is something Marco absolutely excels in.  So I was ecstatic when he offered to help me before my audition with a coaching at his home.

It was a very new and very exciting experience to have a vocal coaching in Italian.  Marco had sent me a list of vocal terms the week before for me to translate so I would know what he was talking about as he quickly threw advice on technique at me while I was singing.  We worked for over an hour and I was feeling really great about what we had accomplished and the new methods I was trying per his suggestion.


Marco and I made new friends at the audition

That next Monday was my audition at the Teatro Goldoni in Livorno.  I got to the theatre, signed in, was taken to a room to warm up (see “Parola del Giorno” for how I asked about this…), and then to my utter delight found out that I got to work with my accompanist before the audition!  This is how all auditions should be!  Brilliant!  Right before I began, Marco arrived (there for moral support, what a champ) and listened to my session with Angela, my accompanist for the audition.

And then…we waited.  This is always the worst part.  And somehow, impossibly, I was not nervous.  Those who know him from school know that when I’m not nervous I become nervous that I’m not nervous.  Thus making me nervous.

That made sense, right?

I actually had a really good time at the audition (WHAT?!).  I walked up onto the stage and just being back on a stage was so exciting that I got lost in happiness.  There were maybe 12 men in the audience passing around my information and all were very attentive and friendly.  I sang Menotti’s “The Black Swan” from “The Medium” (This song is never going to leave me alone).  Afterwards I was asked a few questions, one of them being, “Di dove sei? (where are you from?)” to which I answered, “Sono di gli stati uniti…ovviamente con il mio accento terribile (I am from the United States…obviously, with my terrible accent)”.  To which they laughed and continued with a few more questions.  They were incredibly nice and I had a nice experience at my first audition here.

A few days later, I found out that I had not been accepted into the program and it was fine!  I got wonderfully kind messages of encouragement from friends here and back home.  Having done musical theatre for almost five years before switching to classical music, I have developed a very tough skin.  And rejection in this career is more common than not so you give yourself five or ten minutes to be sad and then it is on to the next venture!  And you look at the positives.  For me, I was really happy that I had a good experience and hopefully made some new networking contacts, this also now allows me to take language classes which is really important to me, I have more time to travel and see all of Italy which was another huge reason I wanted to move back, and I can have a steady voice lesson schedule while I look for other programs.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.  This could lead into a whole new post, but the things in my past that seemed bad at the time, whether it be related to music, family, love, school, etc, have all led to me to where I am at this moment.  And I am in Italy.  So….there is not much to be upset about.

This leads me to my next journey.  One that is daunting after graduating having had an absolutely marvelous voice teacher.  I needed to find someone close to me here (and preferably American) who taught voice.  Amazingly and luckily for me, this ended up being incredibly easy.

Our group who was here in June was introduced to an extraordinary woman named Deborah, who decided to move here or rather stay here after coming for an opera program.  She and I literally bumped into each other on the street in Lucca a few weeks ago right before she moved to Florence.  Fate?  Perhaps.  Very convenient?  Absolutely.  After learning that she has taught voice in grad schools and privately I could not wait to have a lesson with her!  We set a time and I hopped on the train to Florence this past week.



This is only my second time going to Florence and it was no less brilliant than the first.  I had some free time before my lesson and immediately wanted to go see Brunelleschi’s Duomo.  The first time I was in Florence I kept crying because every turn was so overwhelming and I wanted to see everything in one day.  The Duomo hit me the hardest.  I have admired this miraculous architectural feat ever since high school when I began studying art history.  Seeing it in person was surreal even this second time.  It is suddenly right in front of you, or really, above you and you just sort of stand there in awe because there is no other emotion you can muster to understand how this was constructed when it was.  It is beautiful.  I lingered near it, beneath it for a while trying to wrap my mind around its majesty.  Eventually I realized I needed to head over to Deborah’s!

We had a really wonderful time.  It is reassuring to say the least to meet another American who has moved here and made it work.  Deborah is so lovely and open to talking about her experiences here.  We got around to the voice lesson even though I could have talked to her all day long.  I love working with her.  Again, it is nerve wracking shopping around for a voice teacher you like and this turned out to be a one-stop excursion.  Thank goodness.  I am really looking forward to working with her and going back to the basics- building and molding the instrument I have.

We said “a presto” and I headed back into the heart of the city.  There was something I needed to see…or in this case, stand on…


Savonarola- on fiyyyaaa

I have been watching “The Borgias” a series about…guess…Yes!  The Borgias!  It is really neat to watch it while I am in the middle of where it took place.  The season two finale culminates in the death of Savonarola, the monk who famously ordered all of Florence to burn their material items in the “Bonfire of the Vanities” in 1497.  A few months later, the monk faced his own end ironically in the same manor when he was hung over a giant bonfire.  There is a plaque in the spot where he died outside of the Palazzo Vecchio.  Having watched that episode just the night before, it was amazing to stand in that very spot.  My feet gingerly stepped onto the metal as if it was still hot from the fire hundreds of years ago.  Savonarola, you bastard.  To think that there are paintings by Botticelli that were forced to be tossed into the flames is infuriating.  There were relics and works of art that we will never know because of this man.  Selfish.

Although I was quietly cursing his name, standing right on top of such immense history pulled my mind away from my distain and back to utter contentment.  I was in a city filled with history in every brick, cobblestone, and H&M (KIDDING).  So I continued to wander through the streets for a few hours, across the bridges and back again until it got dark and my feet found their way to the train station.

I am so happy to have an excuse to come to Florence once a week.  My voice lessons with Deborah and then I get to explore this city a little more every time.


Practically perfect in every way

I can’t really believe I am writing right now considering I almost fell asleep on the train home from Florence.  Alas, here I am.  I had the most wonderful couple of days.

I went to my favorite place in the whole world (that I’ve seen so far) this past weekend- Cinque Terre.  Or a little outside of Cinque Terre which literally translates to “Five Earths”.  It is exactly what paradise looks and feels like.  Before the cold weather sets in permanently, Roberto, Massimiliano and I drove to our beach destination.


View from where we ate breakfast

The drive itself is worth the entire day.  The Tuscan mountains envelop you and visible from the highway are the marble mountains that yielded Michelangelo’s “David”.  The road continues into this stunning scenic route that takes you high above the sea and the islands.  The water is the kind of blue that you just do not believe is real.  However, when you walk into it and it’s cold then you really do not want to believe it’s real.

After soaking in the sun and going for a brief swim, we made our way to St. Peter’s church of the rocks at Portovenere.  Even perched precariously high over the sea, when the water churns, the waves actually crash over the Medieval structure.  I decided to keep this fun fact in the back of my mind as I climbed the steep steps!  And I promptly forgot my apprehension as soon as I stepped foot inside.  It was breath taking and was only trumped by the views it offered.  Wide open water for miles.  It is like a dream…Image

And now for something completely different!

The apartment I live in is kind of like a hotel.  There is a beautiful view, an abundance of privacy and it seems like every week there are new people staying.  Riccardo, hosts students who take classes from the local language school, Koinè and also has colleagues of his from all over Italy.  The day our Austrian friend, Hans, departed, two new visitors arrived!

I came back to my room one night after dinner and a little while later heard a knock on my door.  When I opened it, there were two Italian men- one with guitar in hand- beckoning me to eat dinner with them…I’m sorry, but could there possibly be anything more wonderful?  Sadly, I had already eaten I told them.  “Then you just are going have to eat again” one of them told me in broken English.  Well then!  I guess, there is no arguing!

So I sat with Mario, Riccardo (a different one than my landlord), and Chiara while they cooked dinner.  I will never get over the hospitality of this country.  “Have some wine!”  “Try this and tell me- is it good?”  “More wine!”.  Then our dear Riccardo (landlord) returned home just in time of dinner followed by an impromptu guitar concert on the terrace.  Who knew Italians knew Radiohead (?!) Amazing.


Just a typical dinner at our apartment

Dinner (round two) was scrumptious.  And the company was equally as wonderful as we talked to the wee hours of the morning.  And then Calabrian liquor came out.  “Forte” took on a whole new meaning that night.  I think jets are powered by this.  Proceed with caution if ever offered.

So speaking of hospitality, the next day I hopped on the train over to the next town to meet someone I’d never met before.  No, fear not, they did not turn out to me an axe murderer.  There is a wonderful group on Facebook of people who live in this area and one of them contacted me and was nice enough to adopt me for the day!  Chiara, (a different one- wow, a lot of repeating names!!) is a young Italian woman who lives one town over from me.  She is is training to be a tour guide and has worked at both the opera company at Torre de Lago here and also in Germany so she speaks Italian, English, German and French!  The second I stepped off the train she said, “Do you want to come to my Tai Chi class tonight?”.  “Sure!”.  I’ve never done Tai Chi…  But!  Why not?

We drove to the next town over and walked up to the amphitheatre that overlooks the valley.  I…I literally…truly was overwhelmed.  I keep wondering if one day, things here will cease to evoke so much awe from me but I completely doubt that will ever happen.  The view was just incredible.  You could see Livorno, Pisa, and Lucca all in one shot.  You could even see the Leaning Tower of Pisa!  How cool is that?!


Roman Baths at San Giuliano Terme

For the next few hours she took me around the city showing me beautiful site after beautiful site and telling me the history behind each place we walked.  We went to the Roman Baths high up above the city where all of poets from the Romantic period would come to write.  I understand why.  The earth just sprawls out in front of you, stopped only by the Tuscan mountains off in the distance.  It’s glorious.

That evening, we climbed back up to the amphitheatre and did Tai Chi as the sun was setting over the valley.  My mind is usually racing- refer to blog entry 2- but for an hour, I was completely lost in bliss.  The constant flow of energy and movement from the Tai Chi paired with the view and topped off my the glowing sunset was something I will never forget.  It was all I could do to keep from weeping because I felt as though I would burst from content-ness.  And I was so happy to have made a new friend!  All of my friends except one here are guys, which is fine!  But a girl needs girlfriends to talk about the guy friends with!


Pizza Calabrese- molto piccante

Speaking of guy friends, the next night I was once again summoned to dinner with Riccardo (not landlord Riccardo) and Mario.  We went to a Calabrese pizza place outside The Wall and I had my first Calabrian pizza.  I have decided this time around in Italy, I want to do as the locals do so whenever I go out, I let whomever I am with order for me.  I have yet to be steered wrong.  All I had to say was, “I want something spicy” and I got the perfect pizza.

Perfect pizza in perfect Italy.  I am perfectly happy here.  And I didn’t even get to my day in Florence.  That will be for another post because now I am perfectly tired.

Buona notte.

Parola del giorno

I feel frantic to keep these going because I have already been here for two weeks and every single day has been an adventure.  So I’m trying to catch up on highlights on what has happened.  I also need to say that it is incredibly difficult to not write an entire BOOK about my time here in June with the summer program I did.  The friendships I made and knowledge bestowed upon me is worthy of a trilogy and movie series based off of that trilogy.  So, I will have to squelch that temptation for now at least.  But I had had a few people tell me to start a blog when I got here and in true Hannah Moss fashion, I procrastinated so now I have to catch up.

This post is just something funny that I am sure I will end up adding to as time goes on here.  In fact, I feel like this deserves it’s own blog, but let’s not go crazy.

I learned recently that I have a special talent.  No, my dear friends, not singing.  Not cooking not even baton twirling.  No, this talent comes from deep within…from where?  I know not.  But it seems to have become a part of my everyday life.  Thus I share with you my talent for making up Italian words.

Last week I used a word several times before my dear friend Marco told me very kindly, “Anna (my real name doesn’t exist here), that isn’t a word.  You keep saying it and it’s not word!”  Well, I was shocked.  Until the next day when I made up another word.  And once again was corrected, this time by my other dear friend, Massimiliano.  So now it has become a running joke called: Anna’s Parola del giorno (Hannah’s Word of the day) where we all pause wherever we are and acknowledge that I have yet again made up another word to add to the list.  I literally cannot stop laughing as I write this.

 So far we have:

-Dangeroso.  I thought meant “dangerous.  Actual word for dangerous: periculoso

-Usualmente.  I thought it meant “usually”.  Actual word for usually: di solito.

-Corrupto.  I thought it meant “corrupt”.  Actual word for corrupt: corotto.  (Ok, I was not terribly far off with this one).

-Gesticulazione.  I thought it meant “gesticulate”.  Actual word for gesticulate: gesticolare.

-Caldare la voce.  I missed the “s” at the beginning of “scaldare” which means to warm up the voice.  When I went to my audition and said: C’è una sala per caldare la mia voce? (Is there a room to warm up my voice?)  I got a few strange looks.

This next one was a crowd pleaser.  I was trying to say “on the sun” in what I thought was the correct Italian, “Sulla la sole”.  What is actually correct is “sul sole”.  But we decided that “sulla la sole” actually sounds prettier so I got away with this one.

I think I had a bunch at the beach the other day that I can’t remember.  I can’t keep track of the words I make up.  I must be a genius.  I need to get out of the mindset that if I just add a vowel or “zione” to the end of an English word that it will instantly make it Italian.  If that was the case then I would have been fluent for 5 years already

The big 5…no, not arias.

I feel as though my senses are magnified being here.  Maybe it is because my brain is always on, always more alert because I’m in a foreign country.  It is easy to just open your mouth and talk or take the same route you take every morning when you are at home.  Almost like being on autopilot.  But I’m on my toes here.  I need to watch my back when bikes and even cars come down these tiny streets.  I really don’t think there are any driving laws in Italy.  I mean, I know there are…but I don’t think there are…  Truly, cars will come around these miniscule corners and nearly pin you up against the wall.  I am used to it after being here in June but it still takes me by surprise some times.

So, senses.  It’s a feast.  I guess touch is covered- trying not to be hit by cars and bikes.  You can smell the Jasmine trees on The Wall (Le Mura) especially when there’s a gentle breeze.  Perhaps the people who live here are used to it, but to me it is intoxicating.  ImageWhen it is mixed with the scent of fresh bread wafting through the air it is all that much better.  Leading me to taste.  I feel as though this is a given- I’m in Italy.  The food is incredible.  An example, you say?  Well, before I came here, I hated tomatoes.  I tried.  I really did, but could not stand them.  Here, I eat them gladly, willingly, even.  Everything is so fresh and not being imported from some other country.

Touch.  I do have to come back to this one.  Those who have known me for quite some time (god help you), are fully aware that I love to feel things.  My phrase, “That looks soft, can I touch it?” has made me famous (maybe…infamous?) amongst the masses.  Sometimes, I don’t even ask.  I haven’t gotten in trouble yet.  Here, I cannot keep my hands off of anything.  The trees, the stones, the buildings…There are hundreds of thousands of years of history beneath my feet, over my head, to my left…dare I say, to my right?  How can I NOT touch?  Every time I encounter a Medieval ruin or palace I feel obliged to truly encounter it.  I put my hand on it and place my ear up to it to listen.  I don’t know if I will hear anything, but I wonder what it would sound like back then.  The history, it is overwhelming.  Imagining all of the people and historical figures who lived here or passed through.  This is the city of Napoleon and Puccini.  What a dycotamy….war and music in the same place.  But, it is all here, right at my fingertips.


Skylight I found while exploring beneath The Wall. Look up!

And seeing these monuments is just as unfathomable.  When you walk along The Wall and look into the city, you feel as though you are in Medieval times.  I have seen this city when I lived here in June.  That does not make every single moment more exciting than the last.  I see new things everyday!  I had a friend at school say to me one time, “I wish I could see the world through your eyes.  Everything is so exciting and beautiful to you”.  She said this after I had commented on what a cool trail a plane had left when it flew over the buildings.  It really is simple- I will even let you all know my secret: Look up.  I always walk around looking up.  Now that I think about it, this must be part of the reason I fall all the time.  HOWEVER, it is worth it.  There are so many things that were purposely built above the ground and they are just waiting up there for someone to see them.  I told a friend of mine here this.  He has lived here far longer than I have and started seeing things he had never seen before this week.  He is even pointing things out to me now!  Look up.

I save sound for last perhaps because as a singer this sense is especially keen.  I don’t even know where to start.  Italy is the birth place of opera- don’t worry, I’m not starting there, oh my god….18 days and a hand gun later….- Italy is the birth place of opera and Italy does not let you forget that.  In fact, when I was here last time I was floored by how imbedded opera is in the culture here.  When I first arrived at the station in June, trying frantically to remember my Italian, I got into a taxi with a man who quite literally spoke no English.  Instead, when he heard that I was here for an opera program he started to sing “La donna e mobile” from “Rigoletto”.  He knew all the words and for the next five minutes as we sang and soared through the streets (again, what are the driving laws in Italy?), we spoke the same language.

This similar experience happened a few more times when I was here last.  Riccardo’s friend, Roberto, does not work in the world of music in any capacity and yet sang pieces from “La Traviata” and the lyrics to “Va Pensiero” by heart on the way to a discoteque one night.  Maybe my favorite instance was with the construction workers who would stop their jobs and sing pieces of Puccini’s music to me, their hands pressed to their hearts as I walked to class every morning.

The whole place is filled with music.  They ring of bicycle bells when you are in their way or the cars rushing around the outside of the walls blaring their horns (especially when Italy wins a soccer match).  The language is musical.  Our fabulous director, Marie from “Canta in Italia” said,- and I will never forget this-“go sit on The Wall and listen to the way people here speak.  It’s a continuous flow of words.  Even when they cannot think of a word, they continue the sound.  It’s like they’re singing”.  It’s true.  Every sentence is this string of beautiful sounds.

And the concerts!  One night last week there was an enormous choir practicing on the steps of the Duomo.  The next night, I went to the concert physically even though I could have easily heard it from our terrace.  This choir was really quite large.

Choir Concert

I do not know how many people but well over a hundred.  The concert also featured a soprano, baritone and tenor (soloists) and this wonderful man who read Italian poetry between some of the pieces.  They performed ensemble pieces from operas right there on the steps as the sun set and turned the stones of the cathedral above them gold.  Hearing Puccini’s music in his hometown is…unreal.  And then the other night while I was walking to get groceries in the evening, I saw a few people gathered outside of a little doorway and heard music pouring out.  I walked up and inside this tiny chapel or gallery were about 20 seats that were filled and more people standing listening to a piano and cello concert.  ImageThis seems to happen at every corner here, but it never ceases to amaze me.  There is always music coming from a window or open doorway.

Five senses.  All of which are completely overwhelmed by this environment.  But happy to be so.

Getting here.

Literally?  It took me 3 planes and a bus.  Emotionally, it took a little more.

Coming back to Lucca felt like I had never left.  I didn’t realize that until I was back though, so the plane ride(ssss) over were strange.  My thoughts were all over the place.  I could not grasp them so I let them run around.  Allowing their legs to tire out like a puppy or vivacious toddlers.  I couldn’t control them so I just let them exhaust themselves.  I was aided in distraction by the fact that on two of my plane rides I was next to really friendly foreigners.  Two Russian women sat next to me on the first and were lovely.  They talked to me for a little bit and when I turned to my book they spoke and gesticulated wildly for the rest of the flight, it was really quite endearing.  From New York to Germany I was next to a young French guy who could not have been funnier or kinder.  The French have gotten this strange reputation for being rude but when I was living in France last year, I found that that could not have been farther from the truth.  And this guy- he kept making jokes about his experience in New York and making me laugh long before the plane had even closed its doors.  And then I was off!  No turning back.

When I finally landed in Florence (I’m so excited about this, can you feel it?), the people in the airport- SPOKE TO ME IN ITALIAN!  I must have looked crazy because every time I asked a question and they responded in Italian I couldn’t stop smiling.  Even when I got lost for like the 7th time on the way to the bus stop and had to ask for directions, I had this huge grin on my face.  FINALLY!!  Is my Italian convincing enough?!  Probably not, HOWEVER, this was a step up from last time when I’d open my mouth and everyone would speak to me in English.

I missed this language more than I can say.  The way it feels on your tongue when you speak it.  How it sounds from native speakers.  It’s delicious and juicy and so sexy and I only got to speak it once the entire time I was home for 2 months…if you don’t count speaking it under my breath or in my mind to try and quench the thirst for it.

My friend Riccardo- who I am renting a room from- picked me up from the bus station and drove me and my luggage (god help us) back to his apartment.  This is where I lived when I was here during June and it hadn’t changed a bit.  It was truly as though I never left and that feeling of ease and constancy was exactly what I needed after making this huge move.  My room.  My wonderful room with the Duomo gently towering outside was just as I had left it.

Hans is the current occupant of the next room over, a really kind Austrian man who is here for two weeks taking language classes.  Hans and Hannah- poor Riccardo, ha!  That night we ate dinner and talked for over two hours.  All in Italian.   I will never need chocolate or sex again if I get to speak this language everyday (except that I’m in Italy and both of these things are hopefully inevitable, but I digress).  It’s succulent and mouth watering.  Speaking it for two hours and only having to pause occasionally if one of us was lost in translation was something that….I cannot describe.  It was really fulfilling.

I never thought I would be at this level with any language and now here I am…asking for directions 18 times…. BUT IN ITALIAN!

Oh boy…

I have always wanted to start blogging.  I have also always wanted to time travel back to the Renaissance and that hasn’t happened.  Unlike my eagerness to frolic in a corset and be a courtesan in Venice circa 1540, writing a blog seems more attainable….for the moment.

When I made the decision to move to Italy back in June, a few people said I should keep a blog about my experiences here.  I always keep journals when I go abroad or do summer music programs to document things I’ve learned, new places I’ve seen or really incredible experiences I’ve had.  However, these have always been very personal and I generally choose to keep these moments to myself to go back and pour over a year or two after the trip.  When I arrived in Lucca in June, however, for a really phenomenal summer program called “Canta in Italia” (shameless plug!), I started to realize that the moments I was having should not be tucked away solely in a journal for only my eyes.  Maybe other people could read about these and find some sort of connection to them.  Whether it be that they had had a similar experience or have always wanted to have that experience.

I’m nervous because again, I have not ever blogged before.  I feel like it’s a secret society that I need to do Masonic rituals to be accepted in to.  But!  I am going to give it a try and hopefully it will appease my need to live in the Renaissance…at least for now because I’m going to find a way some day.

PS  below is the website for Canta in Italia with Wichita State University.  If you are a young singer looking for summer programs- DO IT.