by Melinda Gallo

Carmina Burana at the Abbazia di San Galgano

At around 5pm yesterday I was already on a bus to go to the Abbazia di San Galgano. It wasn't an ordinary bus, but one that was filled with the coro (chorus) for Carmina Burana. I was invited by my friend Jenufa to come see her perform in San Galgano to take a few more foto (pictures). I was excited to not only see the same performance that I saw in the Giardino di Boboli, but also because I was going to one of my favorite places in Tuscany.

Living in Florence :: Carmina Burana at the Abbazia di San Galgano

After a long bus ride on winding roads through the Tuscan countryside where we spotted lavender and sunflowers, we arrived in front of the abbazia (abbey). I hadn't been back to this special place in years and was excited to see it again.

We went upstairs into the monastery where the main roles for the performers were written on post-its outside the door. On Jenufa's door it said, "Soprano." We walked into the austere room where there was only one small window about 8 inches wide by 20 inches long. She had a sing, an area to hang her clothes, a long desk, and two chairs. After we dropped off all of our stuff, we headed to the snack bar/restaurant to get a bite to eat.

We sat outside at a picnic table eating our lasagna wit the abbazia in front of us across fields with large rolls of hay that seem so typical here in Tuscany.

Jennifer went back to her dressing room so her assistant and I walked around the abbazia. We were both surprised by the dark clouds making their way toward us, and both made a little wish that they'd go by and not stick around.

After they opened the doors to the abbazia, we sat in our seats with the stage in front of us. The space was much smaller than in the Giardino di Boboli, but I couldn't see a single empty seat in the roofless church. There were even bleachers in the back, which allowed others to have a better view.

The orchestra was led to play Bolero again and it was even more magical. The sound bounced off the stone walls and pierced my heart. I was enchanted by the musicisti (musicians) as they played. Their fingers and limbs danced almost of their own volition while they bodies swayed to the rhythm of the music. I always imagined musicisti to be much stiffer, but there was a beauty in watching them use their bodies to create such beautiful music together.

The direttore d'orchestra (conductor) impressed me as well with his playful body movements and expressive face. He seemed to be more of a motivator to the musicisti than just the leader of the orchestra. He would smile at them, raise his eyebrows when he looked in their direction, direct them when to begin, and then nod his head as a sign of validation. He seemed to gently guide them to play their part in the piece as he interprets it. While I listened to the music and watched the musicisti, I couldn't help but be drawn to watch the direttore d'orchestra.

It wasn't until the cantanti d'opera (opera singers) came out that it began to sprinkle lightly. I watched as the violinists clutched their instruments and made gestures to the direttore d'orchestra that they couldn't play. After a few minutes when the rain became a little more consistent, the direttore d'orchestra stopped the musicisti from playing and informed the public that they were taking a 10 minute break to see if the weather would clear up or not.

I could see the light rain coming down as the drops of water passed in front of the stage lights. All the musicisti darted off stage and took cover.

The rain stopped and slowly the musicians came back out. The audience had some say in their returning when they all began to applaud.

It sprinkled a little bit, but the performance continued even though many violinists tried to keep their instruments dry when they weren't playing. This time when the cantanti d'opera sang. I could really hear them and feel their voices. The acoustics were much better in the abbazia because of the numerous stone walls and columns all around.

I enjoyed watching the performance for the second time because I knew the pieces much better and couldn't wait for certain parts. I filmed the last two pieces that Jenufa sang. As soon as Jenufa was about to sing, I leaped out of my seat and stood with my back against one of the structure's columns so as not to disturb anyone.

Once again I didn't want the performance to end because the performance was so pleasurable to me, and tickled all of my senses.

We arrived back in Florence around 1am with a brief storm along the way. It was a long day for me, but between the beautiful Abbazia di San Galgano and the amazing performance, I was overjoyed with my trip.

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