Within seven notes and its virtually endless nuances, music is able to embody a whole world of magic. After all, it was the famous composer Ezio Bosso, Bolognese by adoption, who once said “not by chance, conductors hold a wand in their hands as only wizards do”.
From opera to songwriting, passing from jazz to electronic music, Bologna, designated in 2006 as a creative City of Music by UNESCO, has so much to offer to music lovers. Like a true ouverture, this itinerary is going to introduce you to the most melodious side of our marvellous city.
The famous songwriter Francesco Guccini once defined Bologna as “a strong-cheekboned Emilian lady”, reason why we ought to start our journey from the city’s heart: the Basilica of San Petronio, in Piazza Maggiore. Sure enough, the church’s music chapel preserves a massive organ, built in 1470, regarded as the oldest instrument of its kind still functioning today.
Continuing along via Rizzoli up to the Two Towers, we turn into Via Zamboni to get to the Teatro Comunale, the city’s main theatre. Opened in 1763 with an opera by Gluck, the Comunale was the first Italian institution to host the premieres of Africana by Meyerbeer (1865) and of Don Carlos by Giuseppe Verdi (1867), after whom the opposite square is named. The theatre’s directors have always shown a particularly intense devotion for Richard Wagner’s works (A.Mariani, L.Mancinelli, G.Martucci), so much so that the vast majority of the German composer’s premieres in Italy were hosted precisely here.
Moving towards Strada Maggiore, make sure you don’t miss the Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica. Opened in 2004, the Museum contains an extensive collection of portraits, musical instruments and valuable documents displaying almost six centuries of European music history. Worth mentioning is undoubtedly Mozart’s “test”, i.e. the authentic antiphon drafted by the Composer for his admission to the Accademia Filarmonica. The museum itinerary is framed by the splendid frescoed halls of Palazzo Sanguinetti.
Not far from the Music Museum we encounter the Regia Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna, last stop of our first day through Bologna’s music places. Founded in 1666 with the motto “unitate melos” (music of sharing), the Accademia soon turned into one of Europe’s most prominent musical institutions of the 17th century. Certificates issued by the Accademia were regarded as a highly prestigious award by the musicians of that time, so much so that even Mozart took the uncompromising admission test when he was just 14.
Inside Palazzo Carrati the Accademia retains an important archive of books and manuscripts, an inestimable bibliographic heritage open only by appointment.
Our second day is all about those “less prestigious” places which are nonetheless worth visiting. Apart from the undoubtedly valuable historic heritage, Bologna conceals a lively and teeming musical soul all to be discovered.
Just like the hilarious cats from the Disney “Aristocats”, who loved to play jazz together, Bologna is a swarming centre for jazz music, first introduced in the city in the 30s and later spread thanks to the numerous related clubs and associations. Over the years, Bologna has become an impressive melting pot for all enthusiasts of this music genre.
Right in the old town, within the historic Quadrilatero District, you can walk along a street known as ““La strada del Jazz”, so called because of the presence of golden stars on the ground which remind us of the world’s greatest jazz musicians. It is no coincidence that such a “walk of fame” is located right next to Via Caprarie, which once hosted at number 3 the famous “Discoclub” of Alberto Alberti, founder of the Bologna Jazz Festival, who managed to turn the city into a European capital of jazz music.
Another unmissable stop of this music itinerary is Lucio Dalla's house, eclectic musician deeply in love with Bologna and profoundly reciprocated by its citizens. His house in Via D’Azeglio is located inside an elegant fifteenth-century building. Each room is a perfect representation of Dalla’s extravagant personality, depicted through a series of paintings, sculptures and valuable artistic and emotional objects.
Our journey through the Creative City of Music ends at the recording studios Fonoprint, where a lot of famous Italian singers have recorded their masterpieces, such as Zucchero, Vasco Rossi, Luca Carboni and Lucio Dalla himself. Once there, you can also visit the Sound and Song Museum with an interesting exhibition on the restoration of the original analog tapes of the main discographic productions of Italian songwriters.