Among my works, the one I like best is the Home that I have had built in Milan for accommodating old singers not favored by fortune, or who, when they were young did not possess the virtue of saving. Poor and dear companions of my life!
Is there a remedy for the isolation of old age?
What about the jolly fraternity and competitiveness of an art college dorm, as envisioned by opera composer Giuseppe Verdi?
Shortly before his death, the composer donated all royalties from his operas to the construction and administration of a luxurious retreat for retired musicians, designed by his librettist’s brother, architect Camillo Boito.
Completed in 1899, Casa Verdi still serves elderly musicians today–up to 60 at a time. Residents of Casa Verdi include alumnae of the Metropolitan Opera and the Royal Opera House. Guests have worked alongside such notables as Chet Baker and Maria Callas.
Competition for residential slots is stiff. To qualify, one must have been a professional musician or music teacher. Those selected enjoy room, board, and medical treatment in addition to, writes The New York Times, “access to concerts, music rooms, 15 pianos, a large organ, harps, drum sets and the company of their peers.” Musical programming is as constant as the fine view of Verdi’s grave.
Dining tables are named in honor of Verdi’s works. Those inclined to worship do so in a chapel named for Santa Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians.
Practice rooms are alive with the sound of music and criticism. As Casa Verdi’s music therapist told the Financial Times, “They are very competitive: they are all prima donnas.”
When memory fails, residents can tune in to such documentaries as actor Dustin Hoffman’s Tosca’s Kiss, below
Get a peek inside Verdi’s retirement home for artists, compliments of Urban Sketchers here.