Friday, June 30, 2017

Tuesday, 6 June 2017: Sacra Liturgia Milano

This was the fourth Sacra Liturgia Conference, and my third. It was held at the University of the Sacred Heart which is next to the Basilica of St. Ambrose. Speakers gave their papers in either English or Italian and we had headphones to hear translations.

 The main entrance to the University.
(The Basilica of St. Ambrose is
just to the right out of the photo.)

It is a beautiful campus,
all contained within a double cloister.

The entrance to our conference hall.

Our conference hall.

There were only a couple of companies exhibiting the products.
This custom vestment maker had some really beautiful pieces!

The above Requiem chasuble includes
the text of the Introit in its medallions!

We had coffee and pastries at morning and afternoon breaks, and more than an hour to find lunch each day. Dinners were quite interesting, with various groups of old and new friends, from all over the world.

The Liturgies included both Mass and Vespers, each in both the contemporary and historic forms of the Ambrosian Rite. These are really quite different from our Latin Rite, based on earlier Rites of Jerusalem and other Byzantine Rites. Ambrosian Chant predates Gregorian, and is quite a bit simpler, but some use of Gregorian Chant has been adopted. This was one of my top reasons for attending this year as this Rite (also known as the Milanese Rite) is only observed in the Archdiocese of Milan. The choirs, cantors, and organists performed very well, and our worship aids provided a good guide to the orders of worship.

Monday, 5 June 2017: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

This is my next post on my trip to Milan, Italy. There was so much to do that I wasn't able to blog every night. So I will catch you up starting now.

Monday was my only other free day in Milan. I spent it mostly at the Galleria. Friends from Houston may or may not realize that the Galleria there was based on this historic shopping center. It is a beautiful piece of architecture with many interesting stores and restaurants. I found two shops with men's shirts and ties, and bought a bow-tie from each of them.

I also had a very nice pasta lunch at the Galleria Restaurant & Pizza.

Here is a view of the Duomo Piazza including the Galleria and La Scala Opera House near the upper-left corner.

There is so much to see and do just in this very center of the city!

Monday, June 05, 2017

Sunday, 4 June 2017: Duomo di Milano

I made it to the 1100 Sung Mass of Pentecost at the Duomo. All of us had to be wanded by security and have contents of bags checked. It was not a problem, and didn't take a lot of time, but I think it is sad that we have come to this. I also hope that we never do come to that in the USA.

The Diocese of Milan is the only region that uses the Ambrosian Rite for their Liturgies. Almost everything is slightly different from the regular Roman Rite that most of us Americans are used to. And they do have both a current version of the Rite and the historic version. Both use a set of chants that are different from Gregorian Chant. Also, the order in which things happen is different. We will be concentrating on both forms of the Amtorsian Rite during the Sacra Liturgia Milano Conference, which begins tomorrow morning (Tuesday, June 6th).

I had planned to take the tour of the Duomo that included the terraces on the rooftop. But those tours are not offered every day. And the Sunday tours are limited to families with children. If I do get to take the tour, it will probably be Friday, between the last speaker at the Conference and the beginning of the final Liturgy which will be at the Duomo. Meanwhile, here are photos that I've taken so far.

The front looks very "busy",
but on closer look,
there are statues.

Every flat surface.

And every corner.

And at the top of each
and every spire.

Many of the stained glass windows
have stone tracery midway,
with more stained glass above.

West Front and Bronze Doors

I'll see about taking more photos on the inside later in the week. I didn't want to take any photos during Mass. It was enough to take in the differences between the Rites. Much more on that later.

Some General Thoughts on Milan

This being my first venture to a non-English speaking country, I find it quite enjoyable. I am getting more comfortable with using some Italian phrases and replies, and signage is not a problem.

The architecture is a mix of modern and various historic eras, as I expected. And there is a flavor of "Italian" to it all. There is a lot of color. The area where I'm staying has a lot of apartment buildings, most of which have hanging gardens. I've heard a song bird that I don't recognize, but it's so hard to find it among the thick green of the leaves!

The Metro is easy to use, and everything is clearly marked. Seeing the names of the stops and hearing them announced on the speaker is helping me get used to the Italian language. I do hope to be more comfortable by the end of the week!

I have taken the Metro to the San Amborsio stop so I know where I am going tomorrow for the Conference.

I found an ATM of the Italian bank that is part of the network of ATMs where I can use my BofA debit cards without extra charges. I don't like using the debit card for every single transaction. I like to carry at least some cash.

I found a laundromat right around the corner from the nearest Metro station to my lodgings. I plan to take a load to them Thursday morning, and either pick them up that evening, or Friday morning before heading to the Conference.

My flight from Milan to London will leave from Milan Linate Airport. It is very close to downtown Milan, much like London City Airport is to the City Centre of London. Unfortunately, the Metro does not go all the way there. I would have to change trains a couple of times, and still be a quarter-mile from the terminal. I think I will use a taxi from my lodgings here.

P.S. Some of you may have read a FaceBook post/comment on the presence of armed police and military personnel here in Milan. I believe it is unfortunate that it has to be that way, but it did not detract from my visit in any way. Whatever the overall cause of it here, or possibility of it being elsewhere here in Europe, I do pray that we can avoid this in the USA.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Saturday, 3 June 2017: Mozart's "Don Giovanni" at La Scala

Not knowing whether or not this would be my only trip to Milano, I had decided months ago that I needed to see an opera at La Scala.

Teatro alla Scala
(taken the next day)

It turns out the "Don Giovanni" was the one being presented at the time of my trip, so I purchased a ticket a few months ago. Actually, at that time, there were on 30 seats left for this Saturday evening performance! This was also why my first order of business was a nap in the afternoon.


If you are a lover of any music or stage production, you really cannot pass up going to the opera in style! La Scala is not built like most concert houses in the USA, even those considered to be for opera. There are no balconies. There is seating on the orchestra floor, and then there are six layers of boxes - from one side of the stage around to the other! Each box has five or six seats, in three rows. The front two are regular chairs, upholstered in red satin. The next two seats do not have backs, but are about 6" taller. The last seats don't have backs either, and are another 6" taller, almost like a bar-stool, but not quite. There is red satin wall covering including a padded rail on both sides for one to lean on.

 View from the front of my box.

 My hat on my seat.

Me in one of the front seats.

La Scala puts on modern staging of opera these days. I found it wonderful and fascinating! They treated the entire theater as part of the production. The stage props, though simple an not quite minimalist, often acted as an extension of the house all the way to the back of the stage. At times, singers would enter from the foyer via the center aisle, or sing a trio at the front of the orchestra seating, right behind the conductor's head. During the masquerade ball scene, a small contingent of the orchestra played from the far back of the stage, and a violin and bass from near the front of the stage. The interaction of the singers with the audience was fun!

This inclusion of the audience began with the first notes of the Overture. With the house lights low and the curtain bright, Don Giovanni wander onto the stage, sort of in a stupor, and grabbed the curtain, pulling it to a pile on the stage floor! It revealed a huge mylar mirror of the hall, and the house light came back on. It was thrilling from the very first moments!

At the intermission, I decided not to partake of the "adult beverages", but did venture out into the upper foyer and onto the balcony with many others for some fresh air and socializing.

The upstairs foyer.

The balcony.

The Piazza della Scalla
with the monument to Leonardo da Vinci.
You can see the central spire of the Duomo in the distance.

A telephoto of the spire.

The production was very modern, especially the costumes - evening dress for men, except for the common men who wore black work clothes. I don't know if stage hands took non singing part, or if the opera chorus was trained to move the sets. It looked like it could be either. The ladies were often scantily clad (probably a relief for singing!) If the entire production had been recorded on film, it would have a "R" rating - it was very risque, and even had a moment of nudity. The whole thing was surprising and breathtaking!

The curtain call.

I was a good boy, and only took photos before the performance began, and then this one. There were others taking photos, even a few movie shots from the privacy of the boxes.

The down-side of this fantastic evening was the timing. The opera began right at 2000, but didn't finish till 2330. The Oasi San Francesco is a Catholic retreat house, and has a very strict Midnight curfew - which I did NOT make! I had to return to the Duomo Piazza and find a taxi driver who knew an inexpensive hotel for one night. I got to bed at about 0200!

I arose at 0830, got dressed, and returned to the Oasi, and got ready to go to Mass at the Duomo.