Tuesday, March 30, 2010

From The House of Janacek

Its been a mad month of opera going - From the House of the Dead at La Scala at the beginning of March, Mefistofele here in Roma in the middle and last week it was down to Napoli's San Carlo for Maria Stuarda on Tuesday and up to La Scala again for Tannhauser on Saturday. And April 1st brings a new Tosca here at Teatro dell'Opera Roma. I recall there were times in my life when one live performance a year was a treat. Now its seems to be an unending goodie basket!

A few of my thoughts and opinions on some of these outings will be appearing on Opera Britanna, a website devoted mainly to opera and concerts in the United Kingdom but with excursions to North America and Europe.

A click on the La Scala poster will take you to my view on Janacek's From the House of the Dead as presented in Milan on March 4.

30 marzo - Sant'Irene

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Palm By Any Other Name

Even though I live across the river from Big Ben and the Boys I tend to forget my religious feast days other than Christmas. Oh I know I post a saint-a-day but that's from a fun little website that reminds me that today is San Gontrano or at least it would be if it hadn't been displaced by a greater feast.

This morning as I trundled through the Galleria in Milano towards the Metro I noticed people carrying bundles of olive branches tied with ribbons. If the bells that began sounding at 0730 hadn't been enough to remind me then those little bundles did the trick - today is Palm Sunday. The day when tradition tells us Christ road into Jerusalem on a donkey to the welcoming cries of the populace who spread palm leaves before him.

Despite what the Italians call it palms are not much in evidence here - except those carried by the clergy in procession. The congregation gets blessed olive branches. Why olive branches and not palms? I'm not really sure - but according to the GB's article in Italian Notebook it may just be that that olive trees are more plentiful? I know that back in my church going days in Toronto we always had full palm fronds for the clergy and choir and small palm crosses for the congregation.

And in Poland colourful artificial palms are made of woven husks entwined with dried flowers and carried in procession. In some cases the fronds carried in procession are over 30 meters high. Our housekeeper Christine would always bring us blessed palms like the ones on the right.

In villages in Germany and, as I discovered on my visit to the Medieval and Renaissance galleries at the V&A, England it was not uncommon to have a figure of Christ on a donkey carried or wheeled in procession. Often the procession would wend its way through several villages with the figure being handed over to each village in turn until it ended back in its home parish.

This example of the wood carvers art from the Bode Museum in Berlin was created in the Lower Rhine Valley. It was probably brightly painted when it first appeared in procession in the late 1400s.

28 marzo - Domenica delle Palme

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mercoledi Musicale

I haven't done a Mercoledi Musicale in a few weeks and even now am a day late. However given that I saw the incredible Mariella Devia on Tuesday night in this role at San Carlo I thought I'd post this excerpt from Donizetti's Maria Stuarda. Devia is one of my favorites and this was the third time I've seen her since coming to Italy: first in a remarkable concert here in Roma, then in I Capuleti e i Montecchi in Genoa and now in Napoli. She did have a career in North America for a while but for the past two decades has centered most of her work here in Italy specializing in the bel canto roles of Donizetti, Rossini and Bellini.

As she receives news of her pending execution Mary Stuart voices a prayer to heaven. Devia has just turned 61 and though the silver of her voice may be a bit tarnished she still has all the skill to tear at the heart strings with this brilliant piece of musical theatre.

I'm looking forward to another one of her signature roles - Violetta in La Traviata later this year in Bologna.
The cast of Maria Stuarda take their curtain call at San Carlo Napoli on Tuesday Night: Sonia Gonassi, Andriy Yurkevych, Mariella Devia, Ricardo Bernal, Caterin di Tonno and Carlo Cigni.

25 marzo - Annunciazione del Signore

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lunedi Lunacy

Often when I go passed the shop windows - particularly in the high end areas like Corso or Spagna - I ask myself the question: Where the hell would anyone wear that?????

Well at least in this case I know that whatever the occasion there are a pair of shoes to accessorise with it.

23 marzo - Turibio de Mogrovejo

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Catching UP

As my friend David mentioned in a comment below I am long overdue for a posting. I still haven't written about the great time we had in London - which included a musically and socially splendid evening with David and Jeremy. Nor about the Hounds of Hell's first birthday. Nor From the House of the Dead at La Scala. Nor the visit to some incredible places here in Roma. Nor the Mefistofele last week at our own Opera House. Nor.. Nor... Lord the list does seem endless. I won't go into the mundane and dreary reasons for the paucity of posts recently just say that I hope I am getting back on track and that I am now up and running.

And speaking of being on track and running I did the Rome Marathon today. Well okay I didn't actually do the Marathon, more like Laurent, Larry, Walter and I watched our friend (and Larry's partner) Vincenzo run the Marathon. The four of us walked leisurely around the city stopping in for coffee and cornetti, a quick visit into one or two churches and a longer visit into the Monastery of Santa Santa Francesca Romana. However we did stop at several prearranged points to cheer Vin on and lend him our support. And there are to be no unseemly jokes about me being an athletic supporter!

The 42.195 km course began and ended at the Colesseo and covered both sides of the river and most of the major streets and sights. We waited at the Temple of Hercules (km 10) then went over to the Ara Pacis (km 35), on to the Corso (km 38) and finally greeted him back at the Colesseo. The official count indicated that there were 15,346 runners (8,834 Italians, 6,512 from abroad) taking part. I must say I was impressed with the organization that went into it as a spectator and Vin and Larry both commented on how well things were set up for the participants. This is the 50th anniversary of the Rome Olympics and Olympic Gold for the barefoot Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila, who won the Marathon that year in 2:15:16.2. This year it was won by another Ethiopian Siraj Gena, who ran the last 300m barefoot in tribute to the groundbreaking achievement of his countryman. He took top place with a time of 2:08:39. It was a double win for Ethiopia with first place in the women's race going to Firehiwot Dado with time of 2:25:28.

And that would be our Vin in the red passing by the Ara Pacis in the top photo and a few km later along the Corso. It was a bit strange, at the two other points the crowds had been vocal in their cheering and encouragement but on Corso it was a silent bunch. In fact Walter's cheers were met with scowls from several of the better-heeled Romani. I guess one doesn't cheer in front of Armani?
Larry was at the finish line with a Winnie the Pooh balloon - what can we say, Vin has a thing about bears - and flowers to congratulate our marathoner.

And here's our Vin with his first Marathon medal. He completed the run in a time of 3:54:31.

Complementi caro, siamo fieri di ti!

21 marzo - Sant'Elia eremita

Monday, March 15, 2010

Words to Begin the Week

Two of the greatest qualities in life are:

Patience and Wisdom

Thanks to Vicki for these words to ponder as the week goes by.

15 marzo - San Cesare

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Plus Ça Change

Back in the good old days of the Papal States - and aren't just a few of the boys on the other side of the Tevere just wishing they could return to those golden years - it was dangerous, as it was indeed in all absolute monarchies, to openly criticize the King (Pope) and the government for fear of punishment. But Romans were never known for their silence so, as always, a way was found around the problem. Critical notes - poems, dialogues etc - began appearing on a statue in a small Piazza. The story of Pasquino, that first statue and the colleagues who joined him in the Congress of Wits can be found in this item about the Talking Statues of Rome.

On a recent private visit to the remarkable Casina di Pio IIII in Vatican City - a venue that is normally closed to the public - our guide talked about the effect the famous Council of Trento had on the church and the suppression that followed after its degrees. As often happened a dialogue appeared very quickly between Pasquino and his friend Marforio.
Marforio (above left): So what was concluded at the Council of Trento?

Pasquino (below right): As God wishes we've gone back to 1100 all over again.

Marfoiro: But what happened to Reform?

Pasquino: Shhh.. you'll wake it up.

Given what we hear is going on in the country across the Tiber it could almost be a modern exchange!

14 marzo - Santa Matilde di Ringelheim

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Granny Get Your Gun!

I've been absent in the last few weeks from the blogging scene - both as a poster and as a reader. Things have just piled up and I've been getting that old familiar treading water feeling but hopefully the next week should be a better one and I should get back to regular postings.

Having said that I did see that one of my blogbuds has just had an anniversary. My Texas darlin' Yellowdog Granny has been at this blog thing for five years. Five years - that's a hell of a long time in the blogosphere. So for five years she's been giving us the news and her views from West, Texas. She's been making me laugh - thank god for Monday morning Stumbles; cry - I still miss Annie though Dexter has become one of my favorite cats; think - her views on life and her experience gives me a new perspective on my American cousins; and just damn well have a good time - where else would I have found out about Skunk Eggs?

I came to YDG through Sling when I was visiting over at his Domain and I saw this "dame" making irreverent comments. "Hey you can't write that on the internet," said I. So I went over and found out not only could you write that but a whole lot more. That would have been almost three years ago now and I don't think I've missed a post since.

Now if someone had ever told me I'd become friends with an oft-married, gun-toting, ass-kicking"dame" from West, Texas I'd have checked what was in that brown bag they were guzzling from. But that is one of the joys of the Internet and blogging - you find people who, despite seemingly wide differences, you have a lot in common with. You find people who have passion and compassion.

You find people that you are glad you've met. And that my darlin' YellowDog Granny would be you.

Big old bunch of Baci Cara - auguri e complementi. Here's to five times five more!

13 marzo - San Rodrigo

Monday, March 08, 2010

Lunedi Lunacy

A little girl in first grade handed in the drawing below for a homework assignment.... What Does Your Mommy Do at Work?

After it was graded and the child brought it home, she returned to school the next day with the following note:

Dear Ms. Davis ,
I want to make something very clear about Ashley's drawing. It is NOT of me doing a pole dance in a strip joint. I work at Home Depot and had commented to my daughter how much money we made in the recent snowstorm. This drawing is of me selling a shovel.

Mrs. Harrington

Its all in the perception, isn't it?

Many thanks to my friend Patty for sending me that one.

08 marzo - San Giovanni di Dio

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Life's Little Surprises

I was opening letters at work on Friday and was a bit surprised when I saw this stamp on a letter from Albania. Apparently 50 Leke is worth about 5 cents.I'm not sure what the connection between young Harry and Albania is but I suppose it beats a portrait of ex-King Zog.

And on scrawled on a sign at the entrance to Via Appia Antica was this rather touching plea - though given the speed with which on coming traffic approaches the marito would have to have keen sight or be, like us, on foot.

To my husband from your wife - I love you - come back.

And my first thoughts about how this sign outside a restaurant should be translated had me wondering if as advertising it was just a tad defeatist. However Qui nun se more ma does not mean - as I first thought - No one dies here anymore..
What it means, very loosely translated, is: Here no one will starve to death.

Silly observations that suggest perhaps I should get a more interesting life but ....

7 marzo - Santi Perpetua e Felicita

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The New Baby

Dora, Bev, Sage, Kev, Tony, Walter, Robert, Marco, Vin, Larry, Jon, Shirl, Laurent - need I say more. We are now an all-MAC family.

The new baby posses with its older (but smaller) brother.

06 marzo - Beata Rosa da Viterbo

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

And Walter was right with his answer to Monday's little conundrum.

Take the first letter on each word place it at the end and you have a palindrome.

1 Banana
2 Dresser
3 Grammar
4 Potato
5 Revive
6 Uneven
7 Assess

And Cathy - you may have heard of her - tell me she received this answer from a friend of hers' when she sent him the question:
“They all start with a number.”

Walter, call me and we'll talk about your prize.

03 marzo - San Tiziano di Brescia

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Mercoledi Musicale

One of the joys of being – howbeit only tangentially – in the Foreign Service is that you have friends all over the world. People that you meet at a post and then often stay in touch with as they, and you, move from country to country. When we lived in Chicago back in the 1990s one of Laurent's colleague was Cathy – a name that has cropped up here more than once – and we were fortunate that our paths, though often in parallel, crossed either by happenstance or through planning in the following years.

Cathy is a singer – choral and as a soloist – of exceptional talent who, though she has retired from her “official” job as a trade officer, seems to have no lack of employment. She is constantly occupied with choral projects – Messiah, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, Opera Galas etc, in her position as cantor at the Cathedral in Ottawa (I don't even want to think of her schedule for Holy Week) and currently working as a (non-musical) docent at an Afghani exhibition at the Museum of Civilization. And she also finds time to read this blog daily and suggest items that might be of interest. Many of my recent Lunedi Lunacies and Mercoledi Musicales have been Cathy's suggestions.

And today's entry is an example of the great things she sends along.

The Estonian Choir Festival is held every two years – the next one is in 2011 – and ends with a massed choir concert. There are 20,000 singers in this performance in 2004 of the Santcus from Urmas Sisask's Estonian Mass.
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

I would love to hear more of this mass and more of Sisask's work. Thank you Cathy for introducing me to his composer and for all the "inspiration" you've offered over the last while. Baci cara!

03 marzo - Santa Katharine Mary Drexel

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Lions and Tigers and ... Oh My!

I always book my hotel on booking.com a very good website for deals and also for balanced reviews and ratings by guests. This trip up to Milano has been a bit difficult because it is the end of Fashion Week and hotel prices are a bit steep. I finally choose a reasonably price hotel near La Scala - two blocks away, how close can I get without being on stage??? - called the Hotel Star.

A very pleasant lady checked me in, was very helpful with details and the hotel itself is clean, well-equipped and the room even has slippers and a robe. The only thing is the decor - not that it is objectionable just that I'm not sure I really want to wake up in the middle of the night to a crouching tiger lioness or the shadows cast by the rather tentacle like lighting fixture.

Oh well its only for one night.

PS: As David pointed out - and it was more than obvious except to me, who was still no doubt dazzled by the 6'2" transvestite who had shared his lunch table on the train with him - the creature on the wall isn't a tiger at all. Duh and I actually passed zoology!

02 marzo - Beato Peter di Zúñiga

Martedi Madness

My friend Marco was asking me the other day about where I learned to type so fast without looking at the keyboard. Well that year I spent taking typing lesson in high school - pax the taunts of lesser mortals on the football team - paid off when we all started using computers. Though I must admit a great deal of my speed is backspacing to correct errors.

However this lady from the old school has obviously been out of the workforce a bit too long!

02 marzo - San Simplicio - Papa

Monday, March 01, 2010

Lunedi Lunacy

Not exactly Lunacy but ...

I am posting this for all my smart friends - hey that thing that analysis the reading level for blogs says you are all smart. I couldn't figure it out and had to look at the answer.

See if you can figure out what these words have in common.

1 Banana
2 Dresser
3 Grammar
4 Potato
5 Revive
6 Uneven
7 Assess

Give it another try . Look at each word carefully.

No, it is not that they all have at least 2 double letters.

The Answer: well let's see if anyone can guess right and who knows maybe there will be something in store - yeah yeah one of my Rome fridge magnets!!!

Answer on Wednesday.

Many thanks to my own little "muse of fire", Cathy.

01 marzo - Sant'Albino di Vercelli