Snow in Florence: Prologue from “Snow Maiden”, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
The ethereal voice of Anna Netrebko, echoed by the light tones of the flute, begin this beautiful Korsakov piece. The composition contains an unmistakable force yet remains subdued, without a thundering orchestra supporting the vocals, resembling the snow which fell in Florence this March. While the icy wind slashed everything in its path, the snow covered the city much like a blanket, softening the landscape.
Park Güell, Barcellona // Lustiges Zusammensien der Landleut from “Pastoral Symphony”, Ludwig van Beethoven
Barcellona’s Park Guell, designed by Antonio Gaudi, is a welcome respite from the bustling city around it. The architect’s colorful ceramics and buildings are surrounded by blooming flowers and tiny, green parrots which zigzag through the park without fear of the visitors. The third movement of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, perfectly represents the hustle and bustle of the park and the excitement which accompanied one of the warmest, sunniest days of the week. The title itself, Lustiges Zusammensien der Landleut, translates to “merry gathering of the country folk”.
Aquarium, Lisboa // Aquarium from “The Carnival of the Animals”, Camille Saint-Saëns
Lisboa’s aquarium is hailed as one of the best in the world, and we were determined to see it during our visit. One large, cylindrical tank is surrounded by dark pathways and smaller pools, each containing different aquatic animals and environments. At each turn, you are met with ghostly, glowing jellyfish or penguins diving through the rocks, leaving a trail of sparkling bubbles behind them. No piece better suits the beautiful yet mysterious atmosphere of the sea than Sant-Saën’s Aquarium.
Sintra // O Pastor, Madredeus
The Portuguese group Madredeus is a must-listen whenever visiting Portugal, especially while winding through the picturesque streets of Sintra. Full of castles, palaces, and forests, Sintra resembles the enchanted landscape of Narnia. Each hilltop is marked by a castle in ruins or a palace painted in bright yellows and red. Bordered on one side by the Pacific and on the other by Lisboa, Sintra is one of the most unforgettable parts of the country.
Cabo de Roca // Ella’s Lullaby, Enna Aare
Sitting on the cliffside watching the sun set on the Pacific Ocean evoked a sense of calm and peacefulness I had never experienced before. While standing at the edge of Europe and seeing the rays of the sun change color behind a curtain of clouds reminded me immediately of Enna Aare’s lullaby. Aare composed a simple piano piece that never fails to relax, while still filling every note and chord with emotion.
Vatican Museums // Cantique de Jean Racine Op. 11, Gabriel Fauré
As a Catholic, visiting St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums was an important moment for me. Stepping into the Sistine Chapel or standing in front of the Pietà was an unforgettable experience. Fauré captures the awe, admiration, and longing felt by so many while visiting the Vatican in the Cantique de Jean Racine, composed when Fauré was just 19. The voices begin singing one after the other, forming a crescendo of emotion that peaks with the words “Divin sauveur, jette sur nous les yeux”, or, “Savior Divine, cast your eyes upon us!”
Galleria Borghese, Rome // Entrance of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon, George Frederic Handel
The elaborate decorations of the Galleria Borghese perfectly complement the dramatic art of Bernini and Caravaggio displayed inside. From the dynamic compositions Bernini carved out of marble to the intense chiaroscuro in Caravaggio’s paintings, the museum is full of emotion and energy. The Entrance of the Queen of Sheba marks the beginning of the third act of Handel’s oratorio “Solomon”, marked by all the pomp and regality that of the arrival of a royal. The rapid succession of notes and light air of the piece make it uniquely suited to accompany the art of the Galleria Borghese.
Francesca Bisi is studying Art History and Italian at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and is a study abroad student with SRISA for the Spring 2018 semester. Francesca blogs at firstladyoftherenaissance.tumblr.com and you can find her on Istagram at @francescadaferrara