Friday, July 04, 2008
Elephants, Tigers and Tenors! Oh My!!!! - Part II
So there I am last Thursday reading Opera Chic – the many armed Goddess of Opera on the Internet – and I come across this post about the Spoleto Festival. Laurent and I enjoyed a weekend in Spoleto during the winter and knew that the famous Festival di due Mondi was in question for this year – frankly I had given up looking at the website. After Gian Carlo Menotti’s death last year things had been left in disarray and a typically Italian battle was going on for control of the once prestigious festival. Then OC goes and posts about a production of Albert Roussel’s often discussed by seldom seen Padmâvatrî - and its star the young American contralto Nicola Piccolomini - that opened the Festival last Friday.
That got me thinking – and when I start thinking after visiting OC that normally means I end up travelling and spending money – we had a few things planned for the weekend but they could be worked around the second performance on Sunday afternoon. Friday night we were having dinner at a great little Thai restaurant in our neighbourhood and I mentioned it to my friend Betty Jean. When I promised her an elephant on stage she offered to drive with me.
So after dithering for a day I decided I had to grasp this opportunity – when would I ever get to see Padmâvatrî, an Elephant, a Tiger, a Horse, gorgeous costumes from India and an up and coming young contralto – a species as rare as white tigers – all in one shot?
Sunday morning Betty Jean and I headed up, its only a little under two hours by car, had lunch at the newest addition to Il Gambero Rosso in the area, the wonderful La Pecchiarda - Eggplant Parmesan, Roast Lamb, rosemary roast potatoes, a glass of the house white (yes I fall off the wagon on occasion) and a honey melon for dolce and all for next to nothing. Until you get out of Rome you tend to forget how expensive a city it is.
We sat in their garden enjoying the sunshine then wandered around town – I had forgotten how steep those hills can be, particularly in the blazing sun - stopping in at the Duomo and the odd shop here or there.
As we were walking towards the Teatro Nuovo we came across one of the stars of the opera having a bath in the middle of a side street – not a common sight but he didn’t seem too upset when we took his picture. Unlike the elephant, who was an French import, this guy was a local who was having his day in the spotlight.
It seems that every town in Italy has a theatre like the Nuova – the standard 18th century opera house with poltroni (ground floor seats,) several levels of palchi (boxes) and at least one if not two galleries for those short on cash and not afraid of heights. In a rather charming touch the proscenium clock in Spoleto only shows the correct time twice a day – it appears to have stopped at 5:45.
Roussel's piece of orientalizm hasn't been heard in Italy since the 1970s and Italian opera goers are not known to be terribly responsive to the unfamiliar so it came as no surprise that the house was about two-thirds full. Fortunately it was an appreciative audience and there was much to appreciate, and I'll write more about that in the next posting later today.
04 lulgio - San Odo