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Music Conservatory Benedetto Marcello

Siwen Yang tells us about her experience as a Music Conservatory student in Venice

Posted On 31/05/2021

Today we have interviewed Siwen Yang, a Chinese student currently studying Voice/Opera at the Music Conservatory Benedetto Marcello, who will be sharing her experience of studying music in Venice and her impression of this wonderful city.

What has driven you to study Opera in Italy? Why did you choose the Music Conservatory Benedetto Marcello to pursue your dreams?

After I graduated, I wanted to continue with my studies in opera performance. Since Italy is the cradle of opera, I decided to specialize in Voice/Opera here because Italy is recognized for its excellent vocal training. I actually chose to apply for the Music Conservatory Benedetto Marcello for a very simple reason, that is, its entrance tests are scheduled every year towards the end of May, which is relatively earlier than all the other Italian conservatories. The Conservatory of Venice is not only internationally well known, but it also has a remarkable teaching staff and an extraordinary artistic heritage. So, with fairly complete preparation and the desire to challenge myself, I went to Venice to take the entrance test at the Conservatory, and, luckily, I approved it!

Let's talk about your entrance test. Do you still remember that day? When did it happen? Did you share those hours with many candidates?

I remember that the weather was extremely good that day but it was also quite hot in Venice and, if I am not mistaken, it was around May 24th, 2019. I arrived at the Conservatory at 9 am and then went to the preparation room to prepare for the exam. At that time, the Conservatory had already divided all the candidates applying for our program into several groups based on alphabetical order and each group was meant to attend the exam on a different day, so there weren't too many candidates at the same time that day. During the Voice/Opera entrance exam, there were five judges and each of us had to prepare a repertoire list (about five pieces) in advance and I was chosen to perform the longest piece on the list. The judges were all very nice and patient, overall the exam was good.

Did you prepare for the test all by yourself? Any advice for those who are about to take the same entrance test in the future?

Before coming to Venice for the entrance test, I had already been taking Italian language lessons in Siena for a few months, as I was a student of the Turandot programme. At the same time, I had hired an Italian Opera teacher to help getting ready for the test. For a Chinese candidate, I think the very first thing you need to do is to learn Italian well, that is a very fundamental step, no matter what course you come to study in Italy, you must first have a good command of language. Then, you are also required to have good background knowledge, such as solfeggio and music theory, etc. Anyway, you need to lay a solid foundation. Besides, probably because I study opera performance myself, I think it is also good to have a certain amount of knowledge about the cultural background of Italian music and music history before you take the test. Of course, you also need to refine your techniques beforehand and have a thorough understanding of your strength.

How many students do you have in your class? Are they all Italian or are there any international students?

There were about a dozen students in our program that year and the competition was quite fierce. Our class is highly international, with students coming from various countries, such as Japan, South Korea, Russia, China and, of course, Italy.

How do you feel about studying music in such a multicultural environment? Would you recommend the Music Conservatory Benedetto Marcello to other young musicians?

First of all, I think being able to study in such a multicultural environment is very beneficial for anyone who wants to study music. Because in my opinion music is, first of all, an art about beauty, but it is also closely related to human emotions. Through intercultural exchange and emotional communication, it encourages us to learn from each other because everyone has their own strengths. And through creating connections with students from all over the world and studying music together, our hearts and our life experiences are both enriched a lot.
As for the second question, the answer is "Absolutely, yes!" I would like to recommend them to come and study music at the Music Conservatory Benedetto Marcello. As a current student, I am very proud of the quality of teaching of our school, as well as in all the other areas. Moreover, Venice is a unique city, both in terms of natural beauty and human landscape, and being able to study music in this city is in itself a very precious and enjoyable life experience.

How did the pandemic and the restrictions caused by Covid-19 affect your life as a student?

During the pandemic, due to the lockdown, all of our basic lessons, such as "History of Musical Theatre" and "Methodology of Vocal Teaching", shifted into online lessons, and since it was impossible to follow our vocal repertoire training online - since both the voice and the sound coming from the piano would be delayed due to the performance of the internet connection - we could not take those lessons for about two to three months, which represented a huge penalty for us. However, even though I was not very comfortable with the changes caused by Covid-19 at the beginning, the various online lessons gradually got most of my time day after day. So, it was indeed a difficult time for all of us but I managed to get through it quite peacefully.

How long have you been living in Venice and what do you like most about this city? Where is your favourite place to hang out?

I have been living in Venice for two years now. For me, Venice is a very special city and is incomparably mesmerising, both in Italy and all over the world. And what attracts me most about Venice is, of course, its landscape. In particular, I think that learning itself is not only an isolated and unilateral cognitive process. For example, in our case, music learning also requires the development of inner strength, a mature appreciation of the art of music and a rich life experience through cultural cultivation. Venice has been able to help me maximize my ability in terms of this area and my experience here has greatly enriched my inner self and gave me much professional inspiration.
My favourite place to visit in Venice is St. Mark's Square. I was so impressed when I first came to Venice three years ago and walked past St. Mark's Square on my way to school. Sitting in the square, I was shocked by the magnificent architecture in front of me. It was a unique feeling, of course, it was my first visit but I was immediately overwhelmed by a sense of déjà vu.

Please tell us about how do you spend a typical day in Venice (before Covid).

Before the pandemic, I was actually always quite busy. I had a rather regular routine: I usually got up at 7 am and had breakfast before leaving for the Conservatory at 8 am. And when I arrived at school in the morning, I would go to the rehearsal room and study by myself for a while and then start lessons. After vocal repertoire training, I went to the other basic courses and I usually left school around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. After that, I would usually go for a walk around the centre of Venice or, if I felt a bit tired that day, I would go straight home. Once back home, depending on the day, I would normally take some time to summarise what I had learned that day and then did my homework for the basic courses. After everything was done, I would go to have dinner and relax a bit, and I usually go to bed around 10 pm.

Why do you think that Venice is often called "the city of music"?

I think it is perhaps because Venice is the hometown of the famous Italian musician Antonio Vivaldi. Also, over the years many famous composers and musicians from all over the world have experienced Venice as their source of artistic inspiration. In fact, Venice is a city with a rich musical atmosphere and an extraordinary cultural and artistic heritage.

What would you recommend doing in Venice to better immerse oneself in its musical atmosphere?

For music lovers who visit Venice for the first time, I would strongly recommend going to a concert at La Fenice Theatre, the main opera house in Venice, where I personally go to the opera regularly. Further, I would also recommend coming to visit our Conservatory. The Music Conservatory Benedetto Marcello is located in the largest patrician palace in Venice, the beautiful Palazzo Pisani. During the Conservatory Open Days, you can visit and admire this fascinating building.