Via Corso Umberto I
The Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments is housed in the Rocca di Sestola fortress, an ancient castle used by the House of Este to control the Frignano area, which has now been converted into a charming cultural venue.
Inaugurated in 1993, the museum displays about 120 instruments from the collection of the Dutch engineer Eduard Thoenes. The instruments, only 20% of which are still functioning, document the evolution of musical techniques as applied to mechanics from 18th century up to nowadays. They are housed on the upper floor of the Rocca and are divided into several rooms depending on the family of instruments: player and barrel pianos, accordions, and music boxes.
It is worth pointing out that mechanical musical instruments are full-fledged instruments whose distinguishing characteristic is that they can be played without direct human intervention: they can read and reproduce written music or music recorded on a mechanical support – the traditional barrels or cylinders encoded with pins, perforated paper or cardboard rolls or ribbons, or perforated metal discs.
Two other small rooms, which had been used as kitchens until right after World War II, are now used to display documents, photographs, clothes, and stage props that belonged to the Sestola-born soprano Teresina Burchi Reiter. A renowned and much appreciated performer of Wagner’s works, Teresina Burchi (Sestola 1877 – Milan 1963) made her debut in 1903 at Bologna’s Teatro Duse, performing Amilcare Ponchielli’s Gioconda. Over the course of her career, she sang with the leading opera stars of her time, including Enrico Caruso, and she performed in major theatres worldwide from the turn of the 20th century until the 1930s.