This is a brief story about TCU Honors student and theater major Indigo Crandell and a chance to sing where opera was first conceived of as an idea. It is a story of learning, history, experience, love, passion, exploration, and discovery. It’s what makes Honors learning truly uncommon and memorable.
During the final days of CR10, the group had the unique pleasure of visiting Villa Aurora in Rome and being hosted by HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi. Princess Rita generously provided a magical afternoon for students, as she gracefully walked us through rooms where artistic, political, theological, and scientific history had been shaped. A beautiful building came alive with every story she told. For starters, the villa is built on the Gardens of Sallust, where Caesar reportedly romanced Cleopatra. About Villa Aurora and its role as a host to some of history’s most important thinkers, writers, and artists, Princess Rita said in her speech delivered at the Institute for Digital Archaeology Conference at Harvard University:
… it is a small miracle that the Villa Aurora even exists.
Oftentimes, I marvel when I sit beneath Guercino’s Aurora and imagine Bernini playing cards with Ludovico Ludovisi. Or Galileo gazing at the stars from our roof observatory, the highest point in Rome, where he left two of his telescopes.
Or Vittoria Archilei, the leading soprano of her day, singing solo a cappella in the Aurora room in 1602. It shocked her audience. Up until that time, everyone sang polyphonically, together to God. Her performance inspired Cavalieri to write the first opera, in 1606.
I am in awe every, single day when I think of the people who have graced our home, Tchaikowsky, Hawthorne, Stendahl, La Notre, Goethe—or more recently, Woody Allen and Madonna.
Gogol, after he finished Dead Souls, walked around our garden smoking a cigar. Henry James wrote portions of Italian Hours under a great Lebanese cedar in our back garden.
One problem with the Villa Aurora is that we keep on finding unknown treasures. For example, our Caravaggio was rediscovered only in 1968. It had been painted over, with black paint no less.
And this brings us to Indigo. At the strong urging of Princess Rita, who also filmed the performance for the Villa Aurora’s archives, Indigo sang a song under Guercino’s Aurora in the room where opera was first imagined. Here is Indigo’s impromptu performance. Enjoy the scenery, the sound, and the learning!