Thursday, August 28, 2008
However that began to change in the 1960s with the emergence of singers who could handle the challenging vocal demands. Many of those singers were Americans: Rockwell Blake, Frederica Von Stade (my beloved Flicka), Samuel Ramey, Chris Merritt and perhaps the greatest of them all: Marilyn Horne. She had great comic flair as Rosina and Isabella and was a sweeet, tender Cenerentola, but it was in the opera seria that she shone brightest. Many of the contralto roles Rossini wrote were for woman playing the part of a man: Calbo** in Maometto II, Malcolm in Donna del Largo, Arsace in Semiramide and the title role in Tancredi . Jackie may not have been the most convincing man but I remember that first Tancredi in Houston in 1977 - she strode out on stage, opened her arms and her mouth and dared any of us not to believe in her. And believe we did - then and right up until she retired in 1999, still at the peak of her art.
Tancredi was Rossini's 10th opera and his first great success. "Di Tanti Palpati" - Tancredi's first aria heard here - was so popular that there was a Papal ban on altar boys whistling it. After this performance in 1977 apparently it could be heard everywhere on the streets of Rome. And I'm sure they heard the cheering after this remarkable performance all the way out on Via Nazionale.
*So actually it should be Giovedi Musicale but...
** I was surprised that the critic for the Financial Times in her review of this year's production at Pesaro referred to it as being written for a castrato. She obviously didn't know Rossini's views on castrati nor had she read her programme notes.
28 agosto - San Augostino
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I'm at a total loss to figure that one out. I'll be more than happy to send a La Dolce Vita (that's the Fellini film with Anita Ekberg looking chesty and Marcello Mastroianni looking pop-eyed at Anita looking chesty) fridge magnet to anyone would can come up with a good explanation. Notice that's "good" not logical! And no this is not an attempt to get rid of stuff, I actually bought it today in a
27 agosto - San Giuseppe Calasantius
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
26 agosto - San Allesandro
Monday, August 25, 2008
Boy (7-8 years old): Yeah, well it was okay.
Boy's Friend: Yeah but the guy playing Bugs Bunny wasn't very good!
I stop in my tracks - he was right. Of course the guy playing Bugs Bunny wasn't very good - he was generated by a computer and the voice was a sorry imitation of what we all know Bugs really sounds like. Mel Blanc was gone and anything else would just be a pale imitation.
As well as being the voice of most of Looney Tunes Blanc was also a regular on the Jack Benny Show. Here's one of their favorite routines - sorry it probably isn't politically correct in this day and age but I still think it's funny.
In this clip from a Johnny Carson Show Benny's affection and admiration for Blanc, the man and the talent, is obvious.
The routine never changed - it didn't have to.
25 agosto - San Ludovico
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I wasn't able to find it anywhere in Pesaro this past weekend but I did find something that might encourage it to come out of hiding.
Just thinking someone would look good looking for her mojo in that little number.
24 agosto - San Bartolomeo
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Steak tartare (Raw beef and raw egg – never again thank you!)
Calamari (If I wanted to chew rubber bands I’d chew rubber bands!)
Pho (A good pho can be breakfast, lunch or dinner.)
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (Toasted, whole wheat bread, forget the jelly.)
Hot dog from a street cart
Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
Steamed pork buns
Pistachio ice cream (small body shaking orgasms)
Fresh wild berries
Rice and beans
Brawn or head cheese
Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
Dulce de leche
Oysters (If I wanted to put disgusting slimy things in my mouth I’d… never mind.)
Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
Root beer float
Cognac with a fat cigar
Clotted cream tea (Oh god yes – home made scones, clotted cream, fresh strawberry preserves and a good strong cup of tea – God is in her heaven and all is right with the world.)
Whole insects (Crunchy deep fried ants taste like… crunchy deep fried ants.)
Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (strictly for politicians and priests.)
Chicken tikka masala
Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (I would court clogged arteries why?)
McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (a quarter pound of beef, my ass!)
Dirty gin martini
Beer above 8% ABV (I thought all beer was over 8% but then I remembered that American beer tastes like panther piss – sorry guys)
Poutine (I have never, will never eat the national dish of Québec! Why would you ruin perfectly good french fries and gravy with cheese curds?)
Sweetbreads (Do you know where they come from? Ain't nothing sweet there baby!)
Durian (The smell is truly disgusting – think dirty socks or worse – but the taste is sublime)
Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
Haggis (Nothing like oatmeal cooked in a sheep's stomach - those Scots know how to do it up fine.)
Chitterlings or andouillette
Caviar and blini
Gjetost, or brunost
Hostess Fruit Pie
Bellini (If your order one at Harry’s Bar in Venice where it originated its $35.00 a pop – so yeah once but never again)
Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
Hare (Sorry but I keep thinking Bugs Bunny or Peter Rabbit.)
Horse (Come on now if I'm not going to eat Bugs do you think I'd eat National Velvet or Black Beauty?)
Soft shell crab
Bagel and lox
Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
Like Sage I'm a picky eater and I was surprised by how much on the list I had actually tried and enjoyed. And I've pondering over the Roadkill item - who knows maybe in one of those roadside diners - nah they wouldn't do that. Would they?
23 agosto - Santa Rosa di Lima
Friday, August 22, 2008
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Though it's the capital of the region Pesaro is pretty much a sleepy little seaside town known for its beaches, proximity to Rimini and being the birth place of Rossini. Each year since 1980 the Swan of Pesaro has been celebrated with a Festival dedicated to his works. Scholars have researched his work, lost operas have been found and critical editions published. Famous singers have appeared on stage there and careers established. The two works we are seeing are relatively obscure - as indeed most of Rossini was until the 1960s: L’Equivoco Stravante and Maomatto Secondo. The first was written when he was 16 years old and was banned because of it licentious libretto - apparently a young woman disguises herself as a castrated man (!!!) to avoid an unwelcome marriage. The second uses Mohamed the Seconds conquests of the Eastern Mediterranean to tell of love, betrayal and death - your standard opera plot.
So it three days of sun, seaside and song.
22 agosto - Santa Maria Regina
Thursday, August 21, 2008
The Internet is filled with articles concerning her history so I won't bother you with my take on it; other than to observe that Rubenesque is not a new look.
21 agosto - San Pio X Papa
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
In 1971 I gave up a chance to see a matinee of Follies to go to the 55th Street Playhouse and see Boys in the Sand - talk about the stupidity of youth!
In Everything Was Possible, his remarkable book on the making of Follies, Ted Chapin recalls how as the run progressed Yvonne De Carlo had trouble remembering her lyrics. She encountered problems in this clip but still gives a powerhouse performance.
And Tony, those last lines are for you:
Lord knows, at least I was there.
And I'm here!
Look who's here!
I'm still here!
20 agosto - San Bernardo
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
But Jack has also been busy with his camera in the past few weeks capturing the city and recording the changes. A click on Jack in this photo I took when he visited us in January will lead you to his great Flickr Slideshow. And he's promised there will be more to come.
19 agosto - San Giovanni Eudes
Monday, August 18, 2008
Denis and I thought:
18 agosto - Sant'Elena Imperatrice
And I've had a crush on - oh what the hell a case of the hots for Hugh Laurie since Black Adder - is it just me or is he getting hotter with age?
18 agosto - Sant'Elena Imperatrice
Sunday, August 17, 2008
So Laurent is carefully packing each one of his 250 odd soldiers in its box while I am trying to figure out if I really need the instruction book from my Casio calculator circa 1987 which is so loving preserved along with the warranty for my first computer and a how-to-book for my first digital camera.
Every time we move it becomes apparent that we have too much stuff and some weeding out should be done. And we do get rid of stuff - honestly! But it would be hard to part with something like this family of Polish devils.
On a visit to a crafts store in Warsaw I saw this devilish family perched in the middle of the pop-eyed, coked-out-looking wood carvings that normally pass for Polish folk art - there is something faintly disturbing about a garishly coloured Holy Family that look like they've just visited a neighbourhood crack house in Bethlehem. In contrast this little grouping seemed so loving and fun loving that I fell for them immediately.
The artist, a carver by the name of H. Tarka, obviously felt the same way as he was creating them. These are no stand-alone sour-faced religious figures - this group is in it together come rain or come shine, and frankly it looks like its shining for them big time. I particularly love the way they have their arms around each other and even their - you should excuse the expression - tails are intertwined. The family that strays together stays together!
17 agosto - San Giacinto
Saturday, August 16, 2008
We both did a double take, looked at each other and simultanously said the name of a minor figure from 20th century American history. Any guesses?
Answer on Monday.
16 agosto - San Rocco
Friday, August 15, 2008
Buona Festa a tutti e buono ferragosto.
Thanks to Condoauta for posting this on YouTube.
15 agosto - Assunzione di Maria Virgine
Thursday, August 14, 2008
One of the more spectacular features is the garden room from the Villa of Livia, wife of Augustus - much of the wall frescoes have been preserved though sadly not much remains of the vaulted ceiling. Stepping in to the room is a journey back 2000 years and a reminder that Hollywood had it wrong with all those white marble buildings. Romans - or at least the nobility - wanted their house bright, colourful and at times gaudy.
Though I am delighted by the garden room my favorite piece, in what is a remarkable collection, is the Boxer of the Quirinal. A bronze statue in the Hellenistic style it dates from the 1st or 2nd century BC and is a product of the lost wax process. It was discovered, along with its gallery companion the Prince, in 1885 when the Quirinale Hill was being excavated.It is believed that the bronze is a representation of an actual athlete of the period rather than a generalized portrait. Whoever he may have been he would have been a slave whose talents as a boxer had been noticed and nurtured by his owner and as such would have had considerable value. The broken nose and scars suggest he is a veteran of quite a few matches.
This is one of the best known depictions of the Cestus or battle glove worn by both Greek and Roman athletes. In Roman games it was more important to draw blood from an opponent than knock him out, for maximum effect metal studs and spikes were added. They also help to date the piece as Cestus were banned towards the end of the 1st Century BC. Again Hollywood - and early church propaganda - has led us to believe that Colosseum combats were to the death but that was the exception not the rule. A gladiator or athlete was an expensive piece of property - better alive than dead. Even towards the end of his career he would have had a value as a trainer or simply a commodity to be sold as a household slave.
The musculature may be slightly idealized but this is an athlete who has reached physical perfection - and chances are he could have passed testing without a problem. Though who knows even then they may have had potions and herbs to enhance performance.
As incredible as the physical perfection may be, I am fascinated by the face. Formerly cooper inlays highlighted drops of blood on his body and cestus indicating that he has just finished a match. But I find it difficult to read either victory or defeat in his face - only exhaustion.
This man has seen many - perhaps at this point too many - fights. His face is scared where the spikes or even razor edges from an opponent's cestus has struck him, his nose is broken and he has what we would call today a cauliflower ear. Again copper inlays would have highlighted his bloody lips and scars.
There is a certain irony that most of the people who watched this man fight are forgotten but that this slave, this piece of property, a mere athlete is still looked at with awe, admiration and, for a me at least, a sense of wonder.
14 agosto - San Massimiliano
I'm not sure if that old radio behind the BVM and St Joseph plays music but I have a feeling the Baby Jesus could have fun playing Zoom Zoom with those model cars.
14 agosto - San Massimiliano
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
While the first two have remained popular since their premieres Cosi was infrequently performed - it was considered highly frivolous by the Romantics and downright immoral by the Victorians. All that began to change in 1934 when it was the surprise hit of the first Glyndebourne season (the 1935 recording of that production is still a benchmark and a best seller for EMI.) It is now recognized as perhaps the subtlest and at times most disturbing of Mozart's collaboration with Da Ponte.
Two young officers make a wager with an old confirmed bachelor that their respective fiances (two sisters) are faithful. To prove their fidelity they pretend to be called away to battle then return in disguise to woe each other's girl. The wager is made in a spirit of cynicism, the emotions that surface unexpected and the outcome uncertain - though they return to their respective partners there is a question as to how happy any of them will now be.
The trio from Act 1 is perhaps the best known piece of music in the opera, thanks largely to its use in Sunday, Bloody Sunday. The two women watch their lovers depart and they pray for soft breezes and safe journey for the ones they love. It is one of those times in Mozart when time stands still and even the instigator of the wager seems to succumb to the emotion of the moment.
I have to admit that Cosi is my favorite opera - I have 6 versions of it on CD including that 1935 classic. I've seen it on stage 10 times and don't ever recall the trio not having an emotional pull. Though I don't particularly like the decor or the Giorgio Armani costuming in this 1997 production from Covent Garden, Soile Isokoski, Helene Schneiderman and Alessandro Corbelli are an incredible blend of voices and the heart strings are tugged.
And to any of you travelling for the summer holidays: May the breezes be gentle and the waves calm.
13 agosto - San Ipolito
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Inflatable dog turd sculpture escapes Swiss museum, wreaks havoc
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 11:54 AM ET
A powerful gust of wind recently swept a house-sized sculpture of dog feces from its display outside a Swiss museum, an art official in Berne said Monday.
The incident took place on the night of July 31, but details of the artwork's escape — and the havoc it caused before its eventual landing — emerged just this week.
The massive inflatable sculpture, created by U.S. contemporary artist Paul McCarthy and titled Complex Shit, is part of the Paul Klee Centre's exhibit East of Eden: A Garden Show. McCarthy's piece was displayed outdoors, among "weird and wonderful objects [forming] an animated kind of front garden," according to the museum website.
The sculpture is usually contained by a safety system that deflates it during instances of bad weather. However, the system failed on this occasion and the work escaped from the Klee Centre's garden, museum director Juri Steiner told Agence France-Presse.
The wind carried the work away, knocking down a power line and breaking a window at a nearby orphanage before falling to the ground about 200 metres from the centre.
The museum had yet to contact McCarthy about the incident, Steiner said. Officials are also contemplating whether to return the piece to display.
And I've always thought of the Swiss as such a tidy people.
12 agosto - San Erocolano
Monday, August 11, 2008
For more than 30 years Anderson played Benny's valet but from the eary years on racial stereotyping was something Benny wouldn't allow. The two performers respected and admired each other and it shows in their work together.
11 agosto - Santa Chiara
Sunday, August 10, 2008
So why not get them shipped over? Two words: Italian Bureaucracy. This is the likely scenario:
- The parcel is sent from Canada to Rome
- Thence PosteItalia sends it up to their Customs Centre in Milan
- I will receive an invoice telling me how much I owed the State for daring to bring something into the country
- I take the statement to a Post Office - in the morning only as there are only two that I know of that are open all day, except of course from 1 pm until 4 pm when they are closed for lunch.
- I line up and when I reach the window will no doubt be told I am in the wrong line and directed to another line-up.
- When I reach that window - if it really is the right one and the employee is not going on coffee - I buy the equivalent in stamps to the customs duty
- I send the invoice back to Milan in the envelope provided - not stamped so I better remember to buy one - at another window.
- I receive a notice in the mail that the parcel can be picked up at the local post office - in the morning only.
- I pick up a parcel of books with pages yellowed by age and print faded by time and find that they have since been republished with corrections and additions.
One of the books I had gone in looking for was Bill Bryson's Shakespeare and as you can probably tell it was there. I tend to be leery of books where the author's name is four times the font size of the title (you know Danielle Steele, Jackie Collins, Dan Brown) but Bryson is normally a good read and the reviews had been generally positive. Well so far nothing new has come up but as I suspected it is a good sitting-in-the-shade-sipping-a-cool-drink Summer read.
Faced with a wealth of text but a poverty of context, scholars have focused obsessively on what they can know. They have counted every word he wrote, logged every dib and jot. They can tell us (and have done so) that Shakespeare's works contain 138,198 commas, 26,794 colons, and 15,785 question marks; that ears areI'll take useless Shakespearean Knowledge for 400, Alex.
spoken of 401 times in his plays; that dunghill is used ten times and dullard twice; that his characters refer to love 2,259 times but to hate just 183 times; that he used damned 105 times and bloody 226 times, but bloody-minded only twice; that he wrote hath 2,069 times but has just 409 times; that altogether he left us 884,647 words, made up of 31,959 speeches, spread over 118,406 lines.
10 agosto - San Lorezno
Saturday, August 09, 2008
At dinner last night our good friend Larry surprised Laurent by presenting him with a holy card (above) and wishing him a "Happy Name Day vigil." And indeed today is the Feast Day of Saint Lawrence (Laurent, Lorenzo,)Deacon and Martyr, after whom Laurent was named.
Though not as widely observed here in Italy as in some countries (Poland for example where it is more important than a birthday)a Name Day or Onomastico is still a cause for celebration in some parts of the country. Laurent has decided that a celebration and a gift would be in order. On both those counts he is going to be sadly disappointed.
Larry mentioned that, to the best of his knowledge, there was no Saint William so I was out of luck. WRONG LARRY WRONG!! I found three so I have my choice: January 10th - St William of Bourges; June 8th - St William of York; or June 25th - St William the Abbot.
Perhaps I should reconsider that celebration and gift idea of Laurent's, I could make out like a bandit!
Correction: Along with a slightly revisionist take on last evening's conversation Larry e-mailed me a list of 61 Saint Williams (though a few go by several variations of their name - a saintly trait that I myself have emulated - so its probably more like 50.) Still it could make for a not bad haul.
10 agosto - San Lorenzo
Thursday, August 07, 2008
But a few of my lucky blog buddies have been doing some travelling and sharing of photos and tales. And two weekends ago we did a Sunday jaunt down to Sermoneta with our friends Lorraine and John. Sermoneta is one of those incredibly charming medieval hillside towns that dot the Latina countryside As always I took a few pictures.
- Larry and Vincenzo have been spending the past few weeks in Sicily including a visit with Vin's family in Enna. And they've been touring around the island with stops in Castelbuono , Cefalù, and Erice. This B and B that they stayed at near Palermo looks wonderful. And needless to say they found some incredible beaches. Now I let Laurent postpone Sicily this year because he wanted to spend a few weeks in Japan in October but I am serving notice - publicly - we are going to spend at least two weeks in Sicily sometime in the next year.
- And my darling Dora was off to New Orleans, accompanying her Beastman on a business trip, and knocking the town ass over tea kettle in a fabulous new red dress. And being our Dora, she and Madame Destin had a meeting on a rainy street that turned into a lovely and touching experience and started a friendship. And she has... ahem... ahem... promised to give us some shots of her in that red dress!
- Jeff is famous for those drives through the Los Angeles area that he's been taking us on every Sunday - the radio playing classic rock, camera at the ready he has captured the often fantastical architecture that is SoCal and LA. Last Sunday we drove through Beachwood Canyon and found out the real story behind that Hollywood sign. And two weeks ago we had the pleasure (?) of a sleep over at the Madonna Inn. I can only echo Dora on that one: Words fail me.
- Back in June Cowie and Brownie at Around Britain with a Paunch - and by the way I'll be damned if I can see a paunch on either one of them - spent a weekend in Burgundy. As always the produce and food photos make the mouth water and the soul yearn for such a weekend. Hell weekend let's make it a week.
- And it was wonderful to see comments yesterday from my Blog Mother Lynette- she's been missing for far too long. And though it is travel of a different type she took me down memory lane and frankly made me homesick with her most recent post. Whither she's writing political, social, biographical or nostalgical she always captures with her thoughts and her words. Welcome back Belle!
06 agosto - San Sisto II