September 2013

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September 2013


Adventures in Bella Italia

Alessia Carpoca Tour Director

Opera Theatre of Rome's scene shop.

Photo/Alessia Carpoca

Costume designers and makers at the Piccolo Teatro discuss their processes and techniques with tour members. From left are Costume Designer Chiara Donato, Costume Shop Manager Roberta Mangano, Professor Grazia Manigrasso and PR Executive Vanina Sanfilippo

Photo/Barbara E.R. Lucas

A costume designed by Pablo Picasso is on display at the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma shop.

Photo/A. Clark

The USITT Study Tour of Italy this summer started from Milan on June 29 and ended in Rome July 12. The primary interest for this tour was to learn more about theatre in the host country while experiencing the famous tourist sites, monuments, food, and culture. Twelve participants and one coordinator took part in the adventure.

Theatre visits in Milan included La Scala (theatre, museum, and shops) and an impressive talk with members of the costume shop at the Piccolo Teatro Streheler. A visit with Professors Grazia Manigrasso and Emiliano Viscardi from the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera was another highlight of Milan.

The largest theatre shop in the world, La Scala's Ansaldo Workshops, operates in a former train factory. The space alone could contain a small university! The group's guide, Angelo Lodi, is the head of the paint shop and five generations removed from the first charge artist and scenic designer that ever worked for La Scala.

In Verona, the group visited the Museum of the Opera and later saw a new production of Aida at the Arena. Participants also visited two historical theaters -- the Teatro all'Antica in Sabbioneta and the Teatro Farnese in Parma. In Florence, they visited the shops of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino where they met with Franco Venturi, resident designer. Members also explored the Costume Gallery of Palazzo Pitti.

In Rome, the group was invited by Professor Maurizio Varamo, director of scene shop of the Teatro dell' Opera, to the opening party for Altaroma (Rome Fashion week) at the shops of the Opera Theatre. They had the chance to see several of the historical costumes from the 70,000-costume collection, many of which were designed by some of the most famous modern visual artists, like Picasso. They also admired several painted backdrops as well as scene statuary. While in Rome, participants visited the Sartoria Farani, a private costume shop famous for Farani's historical costume collection and experiments with textiles. There, they spoke with Lina Cardone, head of the costume shop, and saw two original Watteaus.

The ruins of the Circus Maximus can be seen from the scene shop at the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome perfectly displaying how different layers of history blend together in the city.

Photo/A. Clark

Italian cuisine was a big part of the USITT Italy Study Tour. The group took a short break and relaxed at the Armani Emporium Caffe in Milan.

Photo/A. Clark

The use of different sized casks in producing different wines is explained during a tour at the Villa Vignamaggio in the Chianti region of Italy.

Photo/Barbara E.R. Lucas

Of course, no trip to Italy is complete without visits to famous sites and and monuments. In addition to Milan, Verona, Florence, and Rome, the group spent a few hours in Siena and visited the romantic and picturesque town of Sirmione on Lake Garda. The group also spent a morning in Chianti wine country region, stopping in a Renaissance villa for an escorted tour of the Italian wine cellars and a wine tasting. Villa di Vignamaggio is the place where Leonardo painted La Gioconda (the Mona Lisa) and where Kenneth Branagh set the movie Much Ado About Nothing.

The diverse group got along well and learned to board subways and trains at peak times, to order food and wine in Italian, and to recognize the best ice cream (gelato) in town. The tour company, Eco Italia, set up wonderful accommodations, and the tour guides were all art historians with excellent language skills. As always with international travel, there were minor problems. USITT's name even appeared in a foreign newspaper when group members were interviewed and photographed in Verona.

All enjoyed their time in Italy and, hopefully, will be back soon if the tradition of tossing coins in the Trevi Fountain proves correct.

Alessia Carpoca is Professor of Scenery and Costume Design at the University of Montana and a member of USITT's Board of Directors.

A set model on display at the Academy of Brera. Photo/Alessia Carpoca