Inside Milan’s Opulent Retirement Home for Musicians


Nonetheless, Casa Verdi is inundated each year with applications from composers, conductors, singers, orchestral players, music teachers and anyone else who has “exercised the art of music as a profession,” as the foundation’s website puts it. Once applicants establish their professional bona fides, Casa Verdi’s board makes choices based on who they think will be a good fit.

The successful applicants get to spend their last years in a place where, in addition to room, board and medical treatment, they have access to concerts, music rooms, 15 pianos, a large organ, harps, drum sets and the company of their peers.

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A pianist performing at a concert in Casa Verdi’s Hall of Honor.

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Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

“Now, the majority of our clients are not in very bad economic condition, but wish to continue to play, and be involved with, music,” Mr. Ruozi said. Casa Verdi’s talented clientele have the same needs as other old people, with some exceptions, he added: “First, they need music. Second, they want to be treated not as common guests, but as special guests — as a star.” Mr. Ruozi sighed. “We have 60 old musicians and 60 stars.”

Upstairs, in an elegant sitting room, two residents waited for the lunch hour. Sitting in comfortably overstuffed red armchairs, they reflected on what they liked about living here. “We’re not missing anything,” said Angelo Loforese, a 98-year-old tenor who is currently the oldest person living at Casa Verdi. “You can get a manicure, a haircut, a shave.”

Lorenzo Saccomani, 79, nodded in agreement. Explaining that he had sung some of his first roles onstage with Mr. Loferese — who at the time was much more experienced — Mr. Saccomani said Casa Verdi felt like home. “We found some of our colleagues,” he said.

As if to illustrate Mr. Saccomani’s point, the conductor Armando Gatto, 89, came in, pushing his walker. Dressed in a wool suit and dark glasses, Mr. Gatto was greeted as “maestro” by the two singers, both of whom he conducted onstage as younger men. “It feels protected here,” said Mr. Gatto, who worked all over the world before moving to Casa Verdi with his wife, a soprano, who is now 90. “I feel respected and loved.”

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Three residents of the Casa Verdi playing an afternoon game of cards.

Credit
Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

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The Giuseppe Verdi Foundation uses investments made with the royalties from the composer’s operas to fund the rest home. Residents pay on a sliding scale, according to their means.

Credit
Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

A 96-year-old violinist in bright pink lipstick and golden slippers nodded when the men asked if it was time for lunch. They stood, and made their way to the airy dining room. A few minutes later, they were joined by Beatriz Cortesão, 19, a harpist, who was wearing jeans. Ms. Cortesão is part of a relatively new tradition: In 1998, Casa Verdi decided to try renting rooms to music students.

While some of the old musicians were wary, the experiment turned out to be a success, and today, 16 students live in Casa Verdi. They are charged a low rent, and they join the older musicians at mealtimes. Old and young agreed that the arrangement was a good one: Younger musicians learned from the older ones, while the older musicians said they were happy to have young people who shared their love of music around.

Cosimo Moretti de Angelis, 25, another student who lives at Casa Verdi, said that he tried to teach the older musicians how to use the internet. “We talk about everything — music, but also everyday problems, politics, elections, technologies,” Mr. de Angelis said, adding that he felt very lucky to live in a place where he could practice the piano any time he wanted.

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