My Sunday morning routine is to settle in at a wonderful local bakery café for a read & write before heading off the church. Today, seated at the counter, struck up a conversation with a regular I’ve spotted many times but had never met. What a delightful conversation! A recent transplant from nearby Philadelphia, she’s been enjoying the social & cultural treasures in her new neighborhood.
She was interested in my work as a playfulness coach, my vision of a culture that supports aging expansively across the life spectrum. Had I read the NY Times article on a retirement home in Milan for older musicians? I had missed it!
Casa Verdi isn’t merely named for the great composer – it was founded by him in 1899, a place for “old singers not favored by fortune, or who, when they were young, did not possess the virtue of saving.”
The musicians & singers who live there today include ones who haven’t a Euro to their name & others who are financially secure, even well off (residents pay on a sliding scale, according to their means). It’s run by the Giuseppe Verdi Foundation & funded through investments made with royalties from his operas.
Naturally, there is a long waiting list of hopeful applicants – all of whom “exercise the art of music as a profession” – offering up songs of prayer to be tapped as a resident. The process is daunting. Proving their professional bona vides is the easy part; even those who easily make the cut face the big question – are they a good fit? That is for the music gods – and Casa Verdi’s board – to decide.
Those blessed to Casa Verdi home receive room & board, medical treatment plus 15 pianos, an organ, drum sets, music rooms, concerts – and the company of their peers.
Roberto Ruozi, president of the Foundation, says Casa Verdi has “60 old musicians and 60 stars.” For their part, the guests feel a sense of place, with colleagues from their performing days, fellow residents who share their passion for music & staff who make them feel respected, loved.
Bravo, Casa Verdi for going intergenerational! Twenty years ago, recognizing a win-win situation, the Foundation started renting rooms to music students! There are currently sixteen student-residents who pay a low rent & join the olders at mealtime. As the article notes, “Old and young agreed that the arrangement was a good one: Younger musicians learned from the older ones, while the older musicians said they were happy to have young people who shared their love of music around.” Cosimo Moretti de Angelis, 25, noted, “We talk about everything — music, but also everyday problems, politics, elections, technologies.”
Am smiling, thinking how our beloved Anne Hyatt would have loved a place filled with musicians. How she would have wallowed in their regular concerts & the singers sent of by La Scala several times a year.
Many of the residents continue to teach & occasionally perform for their fellow residents. Some have family & friends, others have made a family of their musical connections, but all appreciate being surrounded by music & fellow artists, in a place designed as sanctuary & a final performance space, offering a wonderful coda to life’s symphony.
My thanks to the delightful new friend for introducing me to Casa Verdi & getting me thinking how it could inspire something lyrical in senior residences. Imagine a mini Casa Verde experience for professionals & devoted lovers of the lyrical – what fun that would be! Thoughts & suggestions welcome.