Kelly Bixby '05 of Philadelphia wrote the following anecdote about the Florence Music Program:
One evening I joined two friends and a family member at a famous Florentine restaurant called Il Latini. We had to wait in line among diverse tourists and some native Italians for over an hour, just to get seated.
Once inside, we ordered mozzarella and tomato appetizers and giant portions of veal, complemented with house wine and bread. A long, fully occupied table took up most of the space in the room and was host to at least 15 Italians celebrating a particularly colorful woman at the head of the table.
As the night wore on they got increasingly more friendly and social, at one point grabbing an American tourist and dancing around the wooden chairs and tables clapping and shouting in rhythm. After a while, the celebrated woman found out that we were studying opera. Soon her entire party was demanding selections and performances.
My friend Ben Robinson '06 of Raleigh, North Carolina, and I stood and sang a very small excerpt from a duet from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore that we had been preparing. The room fell silent while we sang and erupted when we were finished, smiles and congratulations transcending language barriers.
For the next 20 minutes they could not get enough, and made requests of Italian favorites (mostly Italian opera tenor arias) and would allow Ben to sing the first few notes until joining him with tuneless but emphatic renditions of their own, hitting high notes and raising glasses.
They knew every word, and it was that night that I realized that being in Florence was more than just a creative way of receiving credit for a subject of study. I was part of a tradition that was deeply rooted in the pride and history of Italian life, and I was only barely beginning to understand how passionate such study could be.