Italian gossip magazine Chi ran a feature on one of OC's favorite Puccini protagonists, La Mirella Freni, and her work with tomorrow's opera stars. After 50 years of a successful career, La Freni returned to her hometown of Modena where she's been running a vocal academy for 15 years from a refurbished palazzo in the city's historic center.
After organizing a few masterclasses in Bologna and Milan, La Freni, with her late second husband -- Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov -- had been organizing sporadic masterclasses in Vignola, in the province of Modena, but after her husband passed away (in 2004), she wanted to throw herself into something bigger.
The applicant pool to attend her academy is massive and classes are small. Her current class is an international group of 12 kids from 9 different countries. Those 12 arrived from an initial 260 net who were accepted into the program, whittled down to 155 for the audition process. Eighteen students made it past the audition to the masterclass, and those precious dozen passed all their exams and made it to the end.