University music students learn and perform in Italy

Through travel-abroad experiences and playing in the Tuscia Operafestival, students immerse themselves in history and culture

7/27/2011 - By: Kate Dunlap
Tuscia Operafestival Ashley Merriner, a music major with a minor in European history and Matthew Faque, an applied music major in the School of the Arts, traveled to Viterbo this past May through the University Studies Abroad Consortium in order to take place in the Operafestival.

The Tuscia Operafestival is held annually in Viterbo, Italy during July and August and this summer, two University of Nevada, Reno students are fortunate to perform in this famous Italian event. Ashley Merriner, a music major with a minor in European history and Matthew Facque, an applied music major in the School of the Arts, traveled to Viterbo this past May through the University Studies Abroad Consortium in order to take place in the Operafestival, where the pair will be performing in several pieces throughout the summer.

Their audition process for the festival required a private audition with an applied music teacher and maestro from Italy, as well as Stefano Vignati, the artistic director for the Operafestival.

While performing in Italy may be different for the students than performing at home here in Reno, Merriner claimed that her music education at the University of Nevada, Reno has well prepared her for the opportunity.

“My education at UNR has helped a lot with playing in the Operafestival,” she said. “The applied lessons I've taken the past four years and the multiple large and chamber ensembles I've been in have been a great preparation.”

Facque and Merriner perform in an arrangement of an Albinoni Violin sonata for flute and bassoon, Telemann Sonata in F Major for bassoon, Schubert Theme and Variations on “Trockne Blumen” for flute and piano, and a Beethoven Trio for flute, bassoon and piano.

Though performing in the Operafestival will definitely be the highlight of these students’ time in Italy, they are also spending their time in Vitero focusing on their classes, which for Merriner, include Italian, history of Italian music, society and culture in Renaissance Italy, and of course, ensemble classes. Despite the fact that the students do not receive class credit for performing in the Operafestival, they claim that “it has definitely been worth it to be involved.”

The entire experience of living in Vitero, Italy, has been a new and exciting one for the students spending their summers abroad.  The students are living in simplistic flats within the city of Viterbo.

“It is very small, with no dishwasher, clothes dryer—all our clothes are hung outside to dry—and a tiny kitchenette,” Merriner said.  “But we are really never home, and it works well for what we need.”

When the students are not performing, either in the Operafestival or outside in a piazza for the public, they have been taking in the vibrant culture of Italy and enjoying the country’s rich history by visiting famous landmarks, including the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel.  The students will be returning home this August, just in time for the fall semester classes to begin at the University.

Go to the Operafestival for more information. For more information about USAC and the study-abroad opportunities, visit the University's USAC homepage.


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