Florence is home to many expats: those who have longed to live here, those who have found love and moved here, and those who have come to Florence and felt immediately at home here. Many people arrive here at a point in their lives when they seek to redefine themselves: whether they were not completely happy, were searching for something new, or were looking for love, it seems that those who come to Florence are reborn. Florence will always be the cradle of the Renaissance’ for the art world, but it also welcomes people of all walks of life who are seeking to follow their hearts.
Fourteen years after her agent told her ‘Americans don’t usually sing in Italy,’ Jenufa Gleich was hired to sing in an opera in Livorno. She had spent years studying Italian and getting her fraseggio italiano just right. The fraseggio is the inflection of a language that one can master but cannot fake. She didn’t want to merely pronounce the Italian words in her operas using the International Phonetic Alphabet, which most opera singers use to sing a text that is not in one of the languages they have studied. Therefore when she needed to learn the correct inflection of the language, Jenufa came to Florence to study Italian for a few months. Determined to master the language, she attended school four hours a day and studied another four hours every night at home.
A native New Yorker, Jenufa was the first in her European family to be born in the United States, and she has always felt a pull to live in the ‘old country.’ When she arrived in Florence, she was so touched and inspired by the city that she convinced her writer, director and producer husband, Rory Bain, to move here as well.
Like most opera singers, Jenufa also sings in French and German, but as a dramatic coloratura soprano, she has more possible roles in the Italian operas created by great composers such as Verdi and Donizetti. Within her first year of living in Italy, Jenufa was hired to sing in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Festival Lirico della Toscana. Since that appearance, she has been singing all over Italy and Europe.
Besides the fact that many of the operas that she loves and sings were written here in Italy, what she finds inspirational about living in Florence is that she is exposed to the Italian way of life. She loves how family ties and friendships are so important to the Italians.
Jenufa’s other passion is food: she finds cooking both nurturing and creative. She enjoys going to the open market, where she can find nature’s gifts proudly on display. With such delicious fruits and vegetables sold at their peak, she says, cooking is quite simple: when one starts with such wonderful ingredients, little effort is needed to make a dish flavorful.
One of Jenufa’s greatest joys is walking the same streets that many of the greatest minds and artists, such as Michelangelo and Dante, walked. She loves the old stone throughout the city and being surrounded by such beauty. After living here for a few years, she relishes the fact that Florence offers her the best of both worlds: beautiful buildings and monuments in the city center and countryside within walking distance. Another way she enjoys getting around is riding her bike, feeling a great sense of freedom and joy in navigating the streets.
Even though people can thrive in many places, maybe we are fortunate to find the one place on earth where we feel connected as Jenufa has. ‘Florence nurtures the artist,’ Jenufa states. Besides the city’s obvious beauty, Jenufa says, she finds that being surrounded by its history is comforting. ‘Florence is a good place to find your soul.’
Florence is not only where Jenufa’s soul is nurtured and supported, but it is also where she plans to stay as long as her singing career permits. As the list on her website (http://www.jenufa.com/) indicates, this year her schedule is already filling up with operatic roles and performances throughout Europe.