Some years ago, I could never guess that I would write now this article and that I would have a personal website with my biography and pictures as international solo pianist. Many years have passed since that winter evening in 2005, that literally changed my life and turned upside down every personal choice of mine afterwards.
Suddenly, I woke up in a room in the burns unit of the hospital in Parma, with my whole body covered in bandages, on a bed, at my right a big window beyond which there were red and white-bricked palaces.
For months, that window became my
source of contemplation, my source of light, to which I addressed my
thoughts and prayers. If I had the chance, I think I would have
painted it with oil colours, but I just sketched it on my journal
with a pencil.
Burns of deep 2nd degree, five operations with skin grafts on the neck and on the legs. My face was a bit reddened, but was not wounded, my hair became shorter, but my hands were left untouched.
Those days and nights at the hospital seemed not to have an end, rhythmed by the constant visits of the surgeons and the daily hour with my family, by my loneliness, by listening to the Queen’s music with the nurses, by my moments of courage, when I tried to remain seated on the bed although my muscles did not yet have the force to, until I was able again to put my feet on the ground.
I realized only after a while that I would never have the same body again, my skin stain on the the right thigh was gone, as all my certainties. My body was changed, together with my perception of pain and of joy. Even cherries in May tasted differently. The colour of the sky, the form of my grandmother’s hands, the sensation of leafing through a book, the odour of a candle, the perfume of the linden trees in my town, all felt different.
I was almost 19 years old and I could not fit anymore in the person
I was few months before, my dreams changed too, and with them my
priorities and needs. All I wanted was to turn back time and be the
one I was before. My mind and heart were so much changed, that I was
not interested anymore in the dreams I had up until few months
before, going further with the study of ballet and attending a
fashion designer course at the Marangoni school in Milan.
I always had an artistic personality; when I was ten years old, I liked to listen to the vinyl records in the garret of my house. I could listen to Beethoven’s symphonies performed by Berliner Philarmoniker – on a windy day, I saw the intense vibrato of a violin or cello in the grass shaken by wind.
On the symphonies by Brahms performed by
Bernstein with the Wiener Philarmoniker, I wore the ballerina toes
and improvised a choreography, then I would listen to Mozart’s ones.
There was an old organ with 2 keyboards at home and a very old upright piano belonging to my mother; when she was a child, she took piano classes from the parish priest of our village, so that she could play in church on Sunday mornings. Among her old scores, there was a book of exercises by Czerny, the waltzes by Chopin and a collection of songs by Francesco de Gregori.
I had had piano lessons in a music school nearby and from an old professor at the conservatory; I remember I could play everything very quickly but with no order at all, and the more quickly I could play, the more satisfied I felt, but the idea of seriously studying this instrument was very far from my aspirations at that time. I have always felt attracted to those white and black keys, though.
When I was a teenager, I won for 2 consecutive years a scholarship
as best ballet dancer at Teatro Nuovo of Turin, that helped me
study with important ballet teachers. During masterclasses, the
exercises were very hard. I was having classes five hours a day,
morning and afternoon. My toes moved graciously on the wooden
parquet of the hall. I could see my reflected image in the huge
mirror: my hair combed carefully in a chignon, my thin but strong
and tonic body, my eyes full with trust and beauty.
I still remember the name of the pianist, who, for us dancers, played marvelously a Steinway grand piano, Miguel – he was Spanish – a tall and robust man.
Every evening, I waited for my fellow coursemates to go away, so that I could get nearer to this instrument; it was something magnificent. Its ebony keys were opaque and yellowish, the black wood drew a sinuous and delicate form, the golden letters of Steinway and Sons – I did not know yet that that name was the most important brand of pianos in the world.
At school, instead of doing my homework of translating latin transations and exercises of physics, I drew soirée dresses, some had paillettes and an elegant train for a première at La Scala, some had quilts of any sorts, all very carefully combined to sophisticated pair of shoes.
I put in those drawings such a careful attention to every detail! My favourite fabrics for my dresses were the delicate and chiffon from Paris, the wavy silken georgette, the luxurious satin duchessa, macramé, taffeta, tulle...
Suddenly, all that got shattered: how could all that fit with my new body and my new way of life? I did not like myself anymore.
My legs were full of terrible scars. I hardly walked, because my skin was not so elastic as before.
For three years, I had to wear, day and night, very heavy tights with silicon pads, to prevent the formation of keloids.
I would not be able anymore to dance with those heavy tights
always on. How could I wear those beautiful white and blue tull
tutus, that I carefully held in my wardrobe? I was ashamed of my
And what about those sketches of dresses, that I drew on my stylist’s journal? I refused anything that had to do with esthetics and feminine beauty, anything that could remind me of my devastated body.
In the following months after I came back home, I had to go to Parma regularly every month for the medical checks and I would stay overnight in a cosy bed and breakfast, called “Albergo Angela”.
In its living room, after two big leather sofas, a tall iron lamp in art-déco style, and a red-wooded desk, there was a beautiful Yamaha piano. Everyday after lunch, while waiting for the health checks, they would start punctually at 16, I sat down and played what I learned some years before; my mother would put in my luggage the old scores of "Rimmel", "Sempre e per Sempre" and "Buonanotte Fiorellino", Chopin’s Waltzes, and a baroque sonata by Leonardo Leo.
I started a very intimate relationship with that piano – it was my best friend and confident of my deepest thoughts. I was totally alone, I found myself misunderstood even by my parents, not to mention my friends. They were all suddenly gone, together with the boyfriend I had at that time, who, with a hasty phone call while I was in the hospital, confessed that he was not the right person for me.
Nonetheless, I thought about them with understanding; at that age, you are not able to bear such painful situations – I used to think.
I smiled when I heard their big doubts, about booking a holiday in Formentera or Ibiza after taking their diploma, or what bikini to wear or what boy to kiss in the swimming pool.