Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mercoledi Musicale

Back in March 1979 Laurent and I decided to celebrate his birthday in New York. It was a three day weekend packed with plays, musicals and dining. Laurent's father was good friends with the manager at the Plaza Hotel and we had a grand - and I do mean grand - room overlooking Central Park.

Friday night started with Wings, Arthur Kopit's riveting play about as a former aviatrix recovering from a stroke, Constance Cummings won the Tony that year and rightly so. It was a tour-de-force and I remember coming out feeling both elated and emotionally disturbed. But that mood didn't last the rest of the evening because we headed down for dinner at The Cookery in the Village and two late night sets by this incredible woman:

As remarkable as Alberta Hunter is in this video she was more so in person. I have a few of her older recordings - from the 20s and 30s - and they are great but I honestly think she was better at 82 then she was at 28. Here's a sample of the young Alberta:

That's some back up group: Sidney Bechet playing the soprano sax, Louis Armstrong on trumpet and his wife Lil at the piano.

And the whole weekend went pretty much like that. Saturday lunch with friends at the Café des Artistes surrounded by those kitschily endearing Christy murals; that evening, Eubie! starring Gregory Hines and brother Maurice celebrating the music of Eubie Blake (who had writeen for Alberta Hunter back in the 20s); followed by dinner at Cafe Argentuil on the Upper East Side. Mass Sunday morning at St Mary the Virgin - smells, bells and their incredible choir doing Rossini, brunch at the Russian Tea Room where we saw Salvador Dali being fluffed up by an attentive hostess for his grand entrance. And the weekend ended with Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou in Sweeney Todd.

It was quite the weekend.

30 aprile - San Pio V papa

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oh Lord I Am Not Worthy

My friend Tony over at EvilGnome scored pretty high for a heathen on this Bible Quiz; not being competitive or anything but:
You know the Bible 93%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Sorry that wasn't very Christian was it????? And like Tony I'm wondering why I can remember those things but not my Bancomat pin number!

29 aprile - Santa Caterina da Sienna

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lunedi Lunacy

BBC World seems to want to give us senseless reruns of old comedies - though I must admit in the drama department Silent Witness (a literate CSI) and Spooks have a hold of me - when they could be giving us Mitchell and Webb. I wasn't all that familiar with them until Faustus at The Search for Love in Manhattan posted this sketch. Typically British - typically funny.

28 aprile - San Pietro Chanal

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Signs of the Times

FBI Sex Shop

Times are tough in so many businesses, I guess everyone has to have a sideline!

27 aprille - Santa Zita

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Video - Visages d'Art

Once again Philip Scott Johnson (Eggman913) has worked his video magic. I find the morphing of the first two images particularly fascinating.

Music: Bach's Prelude And Fugue No. 6 In D Minor BWV 851 - Praeludium from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 performed by Daniel Ben Pienaar.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mercoledi Musicale

As well as having a way with a patter song Noel Coward knew how to sell - and write - a ballad. He constantly plays around the beat of the song, sometimes holding back and at other times anticipating. He had no formal music training although he did take singing lessons to work on his technique. He was a self-taught pianist and if I remember correctly from one of his biographies, would work out his music on the piano then have someone else copy the notes down.

And here's the great Dinah Washington doing what is, without a doubt, the best version of Coward's Mad About the Boy

23 aprile - San Giorgio

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Give Google a Go

Most of you may have noticed that Google is currently testing a system for setting a time and date to have a post published. I've used it for a few things in the past week and it seems to work out just fine. But for the rest of the week I'm going to give it a real try-out.

Laurent and I are heading out to Venice tomorrow - or at least I hope we are as he seems to be coming down with the flu. We're finally getting to attend a performance at the restored La Fenice Opera House - the last time we were in Venice, back in 2000, it was still under construction after the devestating fire. And I'm hoping we'll be able to attend the Patriarchal High Mass in honour of San Marco on the 25th before we head off to Vincenza for the rest of the weekend. Plus we've made dinner reservations at Osteria Oliva Nera - our friend Mark recommended it and when I checked the website I realized we had eaten there ten years ago. I had forgotten the name and strangely had asked Laurent a few days before if he remembered it - and eccola two days later Mark mentions it.

I've set publishing dates and times on a few things - including this post which is scheduled to go up at 2300 Rome time. We'll see how it works.

22 aprile - Santa Leonida

Parlo del Piu e del Meno

Roses in the condo parkA lemon tree outside our building.
  • Sunday was beautiful and sunny but the apartment still had a damp cold feel to it - our building is concrete with marble and terra cotta floors - so we left the house with jackets on. Totally unneeded! If the neon sign at the Farmacia was right it hit 31C by late in the afternoon. We wandered through the neighbourhood, stopped for a gelato, did a quick detour into the 3rd Century Basilica of Santa Constanza (though its just next door Laurent had never seen it) and sat in the condo complex park for a while. A nice way to spend a Sunday.

Ivy covers the wall on this local street.Stuffed animals in the window.
  • Though it wasn't part of our normal Saturday subscription we decided to catch Handel's Alexander's Feast Pavol Breslik - photo by Michael Kampf at the Academia this past Saturday night. Handel isn't really in the Italian blood so though it was a fine performance it missed the spark needed to set the piece on fire. However I must admit the young Slovak tenor Pavol Breslik was pretty to look at and he could sing too.

    Its been years since I'd heard it and while rereading John Dryden's text I was struck by the following passage on the fallen Darius, dead on the battlefield:
    Deserted at his utmost need
    By those his former bounty fed
    On the bare earth expos'd he lies.
    Without a friend to close his eyes.
    Surely that last line is one of the saddest in English poetry.

An old climbing rose at Sant'Agnese.A street shrine in our area.
  • It is estimated that 50% of the people who ride the buses in Rome do so without a ticket. If caught there is a hefty fine - EURO150.00 or about CAD225.00 - but as the enforcers normally announce their intentions by congregating in uniform at the bus stops ...

    Though Romans complain about their transit system we've found it exceptional, if at times crowded. A ticket costs E1.00 ($1.50 CAD)and is good for unlimited travel on any combination of transit for 75 minutes. A monthly pass is E30.00 ($45.00) - though I was asked two months ago if I qualified for the E20.00 Seniors Pass - the bitch! I understand that back home in Ottawa its now $3.00 per ride and a monthly pass is $73.00.

    Saturday night the only option for getting around town was public transit. We tried to get a taxi from the Parco della Musica but there were none to be had. So we hopped on a Number 2 tram with a gang of football fans returning from a Roma game, changed at Piazza del Popolo to Metro A and again at Termini to Metro B. It only took us 30 minutes; the traffic was so bad that if we had waited for that taxi we'd probably still be sitting somewhere along Via Flaminia with a two days growth of beard.

A ceiling mosaic at Santa Constanza.A ceiling mosaic at Santa Constanza
  • We were headed for I Fiori di Cina (Flowers of China) to meet our friends Vin and Larry for a late (well late by North American standards) dinner. By the time we got there it was 9:30 and the place was packed - so packed we couldn't get a table on the gay side!

    The gay side???? Yeah I guess that does sort of require a bit of explaining. As our friend Kevin said after Laurent's birthday dinner: Well I guess I can cross eating at a Gay Chinese Restaurant in the Historic Centre of Rome off my list of things to do before I die. Its not that its officially gay, its just that its very, very, very gay friendly. The hostess knows most of the clients and seats people pretty much according to perceived sexuality - lesbians and gays to the right, straights to the left and undecideds where ever there's a free table.

    But as I said on Saturday it was so packed we could only get a table on the left side - along with a table of 8 twinks - who were replaced by 8 daddy bears, a table of 4 hairdressers, two or three tables of gay couples and a table of 4 lesbians. The Straight side??? Yes! There was a table beside us and there was a straight couple sitting there.

Dome of Santa ConstanzaArches at Santa Constanza
  • Yesterday (April 21) Rome officially turned 2761. Yes back on April 21, 751 BC Romulus and Remus tore themselves away from pulling on She-wolf nipples and founded a village on the slopes of the Palatine Hill. Buon compleanno Roma, you don't look a day over 2000!

22 aprile - Santa Leonida

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lunedi Lunacy

He was the epitome of the effete Englishman - all surface polish - silk dressing gown, cigarette holder and clipped diction. But his recently published correspondence reveals more: Noel Coward was a British spy during the Second World War. The fact that much of the world viewed him as a bon vivant playboy-entertainer allowed him access to high places and highly-placed people who often talked freely in front of him.

But primarily he was an entertainer who self-deprecatingly said his only skill was "A Talent to Amuse." But it was one of the most brilliant talents of the 20th century - song writer, playwright, stage director, screenplay writer, film director, actor, singer, dancer and raconteur. There is a good reason he was called "The Master."

This clip is taken from a live 90 minutes special he and Mary Martin did on CBS back in 1955 - he said it was the most nerve-wracking 90 minutes of his life.

21 aprile - Sant'Anselmo

Saturday, April 19, 2008


It's been a while since I've shared the wealth of postings that are out there on my favorite blogs, not because I haven't been checking things out but mostly because I've gotten lazy. There's been a kind of lethargy settled over our place the last month or so - call it the post-winter blahs, big-city depression, whatever but its certainly had its effect on my blogging activity. It took me almost a week to get a posting done on the very exciting Fidelio I experienced two weeks ago; and I still haven't posted anything about the two Vatican visits last weekend - but they are in the works. Maybe by Pentecost???

Here are a few things that I've read and enjoyed over the past few weeks.
  • One of my great inspirations when I first started blogging, the incredible Lynette over at Big Ass Belle posted a piece on prayer God's Golden Spotlight back at the end of March - yes its been that long since I shared. It came at a time for me when prayer seems to have, in a small way, reentered my life. And it's great to see Lynette posting again, even if for the moment it is only off and on.
Alms slot at St Giacomo in Augusto
This alms slot is at the portal of the now closed Church of St Giacomo in Augusto which was built to serve the former hospital for the incurables.

  • The newly shaven EvilGnome had an unusual sighting in the middle of Boston earlier this week. And his camera has come in handy for capturing the birds that are flocking to his neighbourhood. And in his wry way he shared his thoughts as he looked in the mirror razor in hand.
Monuement in St Maria dei Aracoeli
This funeral monument set in the floor at Santa Maria dei Aracoeli was commissioned to commemorate the burial spot of an important personage for eternity. Ironically their name and face has been erased by the footsteps of centuries of worshipers and tourists.

  • As well as changing her profile picture (you can't mistake those naughty eyes) Sageweb had a transcendental experience in the grocery aisle that had me in stitches. And she ended the week with two great videos that are touching and reaffirming.
A converted stable
Just off Campo di Fiori this stable/coach house dates from the 1500s - its now a beauty salon. Sic Transit Upsweep!

Vatican Museum - Map of Venice
We saw this famous map of Venice last Monday during our private tour of the Vatican Museum - its on the wall at the end of the incredible Map Room. Venice is one of our favorite cities and we'll be there next week just in time for their Patronal festival. Don't even ask about the cost of hotel rooms!

  • Foodie Jonathan at Around Britain with A Paunch praises the joys of Heinz 57 and unveils a new upscale version that's coming on the market.
Crowds at Trevi
For any of you who think you want might want to relive those moments from Three Coins in the Fountain - here's the crowds at the Fontana di Trevi on a quiet day in late February. You won't want to see it now that the warm weather is here. Actually you may not be able to see it.

  • For the past few weeks Jeff has been taking us on a Sunday drive through his neighbourhoods. It reminded me of the Sunday drives we often took when I was young - only in this case the driver is a heck of a lot better looking.
Bacchus at Bleve
When we were having lunch with friends at Bleve, a great little wine bar near San Andrea delle Valle, Laurent noticed that this Bacchus seemed just a little bit tipsy. I must say his eyes do have that slightly unfocused look I remember - says he very self-righteously after over six weeks without a drink - from my drinking days.

  • And Elizabeth has been keeping us posted, as her time allows, on how things are progressing with KH after his surgery. Though I've removed the candle from the sidebar I'm still stopping in to light a candle for his recovery and to remind myself of the needs and concerns of so many of my friends.

Photo-op at San Pietro
After the Papal audience on the Wednesday following Easter newly married couples were lining up for their photo-op. Couples come from all over to re-don their wedding finery and receive the Papal blessing during the general audience. The couple waiting their turn were from Spain.

You may have read some of these posts already - if not give them a visit. And if you have, what it would hurt you to take a second look?

19 aprile - Sant'Emma

Friday, April 18, 2008

Video - Leonardo di Vinci

Ending the week the way it began, I thought I'd continue the Di Vinci theme. Philip Scott Johnson (Eggman913) once again weds art and music in an inspired video.

Music: Bach's Prelude And Fugue No. 13 In F-Sharp Major BWV 882 - Praeludium from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2 performed by Daniel Ben Pienaar.

18 aprile - San Galdino

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Golden Girl

Its California, it’s the Gold Rush. The Cloudy Mountains loom in the background; cowboys on horses pass by on the one street in town or join the miners in drinking, gambling and thinking of home at the Polka Saloon. A trio of miners enter the Polka:

Italian Poster for La Fanciulla del west
Harry, Joe, Bello: “Hello”, Nick!
Nick: Buono sera ragazzi
Sid and Happy: “Hello”!
Nick: “Hello”!
Joe and Bello: “Dooda, dooda, day”
Harry: Sigari, Nick!
Joe: e whisky!

You could be forgiven for thinking I spent last Friday watching one of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns without the subtitles but actually it was La fanciulla del west – Puccini’s take on David Belasco’s play The Girl of the Golden West 1911 premiere of La Fanciulla del west in a very realistic production by Giancarlo Del Monaco at the Rome Opera. Premièred at the Metropolitan back in 1911 with Caruso (at left with Emmy Destinn and Guiseppe Amato) starring as the bandit-hero – the awkwardly named Dick Johnson – and Toscanini conducting, it never really gained a foothold in the permanent repertoire until the later part of the 20th century.

Act 1I have to admit that its not one of my favourite Puccini works so I wasn’t excited when it showed up as part of our subscription for the season. But then they announced that Daniela Dessi and hubby Fabio Armiliato would be starring in the “first” cast and I started praying to the gods of casting. By way of explanation performances are given here on consecutive days and as a result most productions are multi-cast. Specific casts are not announced until a month before the performance, so ya pays ya money and takes ya chances. So far this season we’ve ended up with first cast for the Tosca and the Fanciulla – a big YES to both. I had heard so much about Daniela Dessi from Opera Chic and Flipstinger that I just had to hear her and Fabio.

Act 2On the topic of Fabio, let’s get this out of the way first: a YouTube clip of a first night encore of his Ch'ella mi creda libro had the aficionados in certain circles carrying on like a pile o’stepped on rattlesnakes in a sack. I hadn’t seen that much venom spewed since Lucrezia Borgia was plying her trade across the river. Based on what I heard and saw at an entire performance, not just a brief clip, he did just fine. Was he a great Dick Johnson (god they have to do something about that name)vocally? No, but then who has been since Domingo? It was a good performance - of a piece, well thought through and compellingly sung and the Act 3 aria was heartbreaking. And no, he did not get an encore.

If the information on the Internet is correct baritone Silvano Carroli (Sheriff Jack Rance) is almost 70 and sadly in the first act he sounded every year of it. However in the Act 2 Poker scene he and Dessi played off each other vocally and dramatically to make it a tense climax to an act that already been pretty heady in the drama department.

Act 3Much of that drama was Dessi, a lyric soprano with astounding powers of communication. She may not have the full vocal power to be the ideal Minnie but she drew a nuanced portrait of a strong frontier woman - mother, teacher and lover. Puccini doesn't give Minnie any great show piece aria but Dessi didn't need one - her saloon keeper with the heart of gold had a golden voice throughout. A lovely little touch - just before she read the Bible to the miners she shyly slipped on a pair of glasses and with them the air of the old maid Minnie could become crept in.

Belasco would have loved Del Monaco's production (on loan from the Los Angeles Opera) - it was filled with realistic detail including a relentlessly falling snow during Act 2. Unfortunately the rescue scene was bungled with most of the action taking place too far upstage right for many of the audience to see. And Minnie did not come galloping in on horseback to save her bandit-lover. Having proven her horseman ship in Act 2 I'm sure that Dessi could have managed it while singing gloriously.

Gianluigi Gelmetti led a well-paced performance - he strikes me as a conductor of the Serfain school - always there to support the singers not necessarily to bring attention to himself. The gentleman of the Rome Opera disported themselves convincingly as cowboys, miners and banditos and even managed a bar room brawl with a fair bit of panache.

Curtain CallGianluigi Gelmetti and the cast takes their bows last Friday night.

I'm still not a convert to Fanciulla but based on what I saw Friday night I think I'm going to join OC and Flipstinger in becoming a Dessi devotee.

The production photos are from the Los Angeles Opera and are by Robert Millard.

17 aprile - San Giacomo di Campostello

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mercoledi Musicale

When I bought this album back in the early '70s I was familiar with the well-known Edith Piaf - La Vie en Rose, Milord, Non je ne regrette rein - but this was a collection of songs she performed in her early days and mostly for her French public. There was one in particular that I played endlessly: L'accordéoniste. It had a drama and intensity that was thrilling and a little frightening also. How could an artist perform at that level without burning out? Sadly the Little Sparrow had burnt out by that time, she died in 1963 from liver cancer. The last years of her life had been haunted by car accidents, morphine and alcohol addiction. She was denied Christian burial by the Archbishop of Paris but that didn't stop people - over 100,000 - from attending her burial ceremony at Père Lachaise cemetery.

I wish I still had the album - it went to a second hand shop about 10 years ago - it had a translation but here is my own very rough version in English:

There's pretty little prostitute on the street corner over there.
She caters to the dreams and desires of her clients.
But when she finished for the evening goes to a local dance hall
in search of her own dreams.
Her man is a musician who plays there, an accordionist.
He's a funny looking little guy
who sets people dancing when he plays the Java.

She listens to the music he makes
but never dances.
She only watches her man, the
nervous play of his fingers on the keyboard.
She watches his whole body and
his music creeps along her skin
and enters her.
It takes her breath away
and her soul is entwined with his.

The little prostitute on the street corner is sad.
Her accordionist has gone to the war.
But when he returns they will buy a bar.
She'll work the cash, he'll be the boss.
And every night after they've closed
he'll take his accordion and play the Java
only for her.

She'll listen to the Java watching her little accordionist,
her eyes filled with love.
She'll watch the nervous play of his fingers on the keyboard.
She'll watch his whole body and his music will creep along her skin and enter her.
It will take her breath away and her soul will be entwined with

The little prostitute is alone on the street corner.
There are younger and prettier girls, no one wants her anymore.
Her man - he never come back from the war.
Adieu to all her dreams, her life is meaningless now.
She drags her tired body into a local dive.
There is someone else playing the Java.

She listens to the Java
She hears the Java
She closes her eyes and see his fingers nervously
running over the keyboard.
The music creeps on her skin, and goes into her body.
And to forget she begins to dance.
Alone she turns in circles to the music.

Stop the Music!

17 aprile - San Lamberto

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Reggio Emilia - April 2008

Emilia RomagnaEmilia Romagna is Italy's heartland; a corridor created by the Po Valley, separating the cold north of the Alps and the hot Mediterranean south. It is the most prosperous region in Italy - rich in industry, agriculture, education, history and culture. Strangely for all its middle-class wealth it was also an area that was a major bastion of Italian-style Communism in post-war Italy.

Most towns are not large - Bologna, the largest, boasts a population of 350,000, Reggio nell'Emilia is the fourth largest with around 167,000 inhabitants. In all the major cities and towns of the Region the Centri Storici (Historic Centres)are primarily pedestrian areas and bicycles are the preferred style of transportation. Though not as prestigious as Bologna, Parma, Modena or Ravenna, Reggio Emilia is a pleasant city showing its prosperity in a quiet way. I counted 12 bookstores and 14 men's clothing stores in Centro alone and there are extensive city works projects to restore streets, buildings and squares.

Teatro Valli - Reggio Emilia
Almost every city and town in Italy has an opera house - Reggio's Teatro Valli is a beautiful example of neo-classical design from the 1850s. It stands in a large Piazza sadly flanked on the left by a block of fascist era buildings.

The Franciscan Church
However the Franciscan Church on the right side has been left untouched. The Piazza is undergoing major restoration at the moment.

Piazza San Prospero
The Basilica of San Prospero dates from the 10th century - major reconstruction in the 16th century included the uncompleted bell tower.

Interior of San Prospero
My little Canon just doesn't seem to be able to capture church interiors; however I found the real candles that lined the nave unusual, so I've included this rather murky shot.

Pride of stone lions
A pride of rather whimsical stone lions guard the portals to the church ....

Market in Piazza San Prospero
... and keep an eye on the dealings of the market set up in their Piazza on Wednesdays.

Water spout dragon
While this dragon is one of several charged with keeping the water off a 17th century roof.

Cute little dragon
Sadly, down on the ground, this Disneyesque little guy just couldn't frighten off the graffiti artists.

Cocks in the window Cocks in the windowCocks in the window
I'm not sure if the merchants in this Galleria got together or not but "cocks" seems to be the theme for this season.

Pigeon guards
Whereas this merchant offers a solution for bothersome birds. According to the sign not only are they easy to install, they can also be used to deter things other than pigeons!!!!!!

Cathedral Tower
The Duomo is undergoing major foundation reconstruction but this Golden Madonna and Child continue to look down on the Piazza and ...

Adam and Eve
... an Adam and Eve who appear to be getting just a little too much enjoyment out of their forbidden fruit and the prospect of sin.

Chocolate cafe
Around the corner another sort of sin, this cafe serves 38 different kinds of hot chocolate. Hmmm... white chocolate with pistachio.

The major mode of transportation for young and old in Centro: bikes ...

... bikes ...

... and more bikes.

15 aprile - Sant'Annibale

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lunedi Lunacy

I don't think its necessary to understand Italian to appreciate this lovely little cartoon. Not exactly lunacy - unless you think that the idea of man flying is crazy ...

14 aprile - San Tiburzio

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Overwhelmed... Continued

For a few days last week Reggio Emilia was the centre of talk in the European operatic world. Claudio Abbado, 75 and in not the best of health for several years now, was making a rare conducting appearance in Italy at the splendid Teatro Valli. His son Daniele is Artistic Director there. And for the first time in his career he was tackling Beethoven's only opera Fidelio. Given the maestro's reputation the expectations were high. I managed to get a ticket - not the easiest task, though getting a hotel was even harder - and made the four hour train trip up for last Tuesday's performance.
Soloists with Abbado
The Maestro(centre) taking a bow with his solosists, (l to r) Jorg Schneider, Giorgio Surjan, Albert Dohmen, Julia Kleiter, Abbado, Anja Kampe, Clifton Forbis, Diogenes Randes, Ilker Arayurek and Levente Pall.

So was it worth the time, effort and money? Well let's just say it was one of the most exciting evenings I've spent at an opera in the past 20 years. From the first notes of the overture (the wonderful Mahler Chamber Orchestra)Abbado's Fidelio had a drive and dramatic tension which made the more introspective moments even more moving. The Canon was lyrically breathtaking and the Prisoners' chorus (the men of the Arnold Schoenberg Chor)heartbreaking in its simplicity. The great second act hymn to freedom was almost hysterical in its joy but both Abbado and stage director Chris Klaus told us that joy was to be short-lived.

Chorus of prisoners - Alfredo AnceschiThis was Klaus's first opera production and in many ways it showed. The action had been moved forward to the French Revolution and the guillotine was an ever present threat. At times it also became a senseless distraction - Giorgio Surjan was totally upstaged as one was assembled behind him when he launched into his "Gold" aria. But many of Klaus's images where disturbing and beautiful, often at the same time - the hooded, faceless prisoners crawling on their bellies from darkness into the light of spring;Giorgio Surjan as Rocco, Albert Dohmen as Don Pizarro - Alfredo Anceschi a wheelchair bound Don Pizzaro(a chilling Albert Dohmen), his body as crippled as his mind; Marzelline (Julie Kleiter) turning in horror and disgust from the unmasked Leonore; the constant grovelling and money grabbing Rocco (Surjan)as ready to turn on his old master as he is to grovel for the new; and the final image of the chorus that had been so joyfully hymning freedom once again trapped and overshadowed by guards and a rank of guillotines. Florestan, now the new prison governor, had learned nothing from his imprisonment and nothing would change. It was chilling but all of a piece with Abbado's dark view.

Anja Kampe as Leonore (Fidelio) - Alfredo AnceschiBoth conductor and director where blessed with singers who committed themselves to this bleak vision. Anja Kampe's Leonore (right) was strongly drawn and sung; and if her blazing Absecheulicher! garnered no applause it was because Abbado would countenance none as he pushed the drama on. Though Clifton Forbis had all the required power for Florestan's great aria I found his voice tight and there was a constriction in much of his phrasing. The discovery of the evening was Kleiter - Mozart-like in her exchanges with Jorg Schneider (Jacquino) her voice blended beautifully with those around her and her Marzelline was a completely drawn character. Klaus achieved that with all of the singers - they delivered their lengthy spoken dialogue with conviction and only occasionally lapsed into operatic acting.

Ultimately the evening - despite the ensemble curtain calls I wrote about previously - was Abbado's vision of Fidelio - raw and terrible in its darkness. And I repeat it was one of the most exciting evenings I've spent in an opera house in 20 years.

The production photos are by Alfredo Anceschi. This production will play several performances each in Madrid, Baden-Baden,Ferrara and Modena over the next year. It will be interesting to see how it develops over that time - I may just head up to Modena to see it again next year.

13 aprile - San Martino Ignacio

Friday, April 11, 2008

Political Posters

Today is the last day of active campaigning for Sunday's election here in Italy. The outgoing government is the 61st since the end of World War II and in no election has any one party held enough seats to form a majority.

Again it is not my place to comment on the political situation here but I am struck by some of the posters that appear on the streets.

In Reggio Emilia:

Posters in Reggio EmiliaThe first Lega Nord poster simply says: Enough Taxes, Enough Rome! The second with the Indian Head says: They were not able to put rules on immigration. Now they live on Reserves. Think of that!

At my street corner:

Forza PosterThis second poster from Forza Nuova is more disturbing in its imagery.

I must stress that the two parties involved are extremes however I've noticed that at least one of the candidates for Prime Minister has been cultivating a subtle image of a leader from the 30s - except he has decided not to shave off his newly transplanted hair.

11 aprile - San Stanislao