A guest post by Elyse Resnick

Divertimento Ensemble asked three Italian composers to put the migration crisis to music. The first piece, “Cos’e il Mare,” written by Stefano Bulfon, premiered on May 3rd at Milan’s Teatro Litta. Vocalist Laura Catrani sang a text written by Maurizio Maggiani that described a migrant’s conflicted relationship with the sea, and how he struggles to come to terms with it. What is the sea? It is a mysterious, unknown savior offering the chance of a new life; it is a cruel tormentor separating migrants from loved ones and leaving them with fatigue, shame, bankruptcy and even death.

American university students participating in a migration-themed service learning program and representatives from the Comune di Milano Migration Services attended the inaugural concert. ‘Our students are required to write weekly journal reflections about their volunteer work with the migrants,” says IES Abroad instructor Elyse Resnick. “The idea of replacing words with musical notes and timbres and listening to – instead of reading – a musical reflection on the same topic was very intriguing.”

Divertimento Ensemble’s director, Sandro Gorli, came up with the idea for this migration-themed concert series after being moved by a scene from Shakespeare’s Sir Thomas More, in which Italians from Lombardy are the subject of a xenophobic riot in London. This is based on a historical event that took place on May 3, 1517; hence the choice of Gorli to debut this concert series on the 500th anniversary of its occurrence. As Londoners appeal to More, who is the sheriff at the time, violently demanding that he banish these Lombards from England, he responds with a beautifully humane monologue about empathy, tolerance and inclusion.

The next two pieces will premiere on May 21st at 5pm at Teatro Leonardo da Vinci in Milan. Composers Roberto Andreoni and Daniela Terranova wrote music inspired by the reflections of elementary school students who were asked to explain what it means to be a migrant. The children are part of the “Giocare La Musica” program, and will be performing the choral parts of these two pieces. Together with the composers and the ensemble, they will share their vision of “Il Mondo di Tutti” (Everyone’s World).