Monday, January 31, 2011

Bronzino - Limmericks and Holy Pictures

I thought I'd posted more of the enchanting observations on a few of the paintings that were in the Bronzino exhibition that just closed in Firenze. You may recall that Italian author Roberto Piumini wrote doggeral verses in the style popular with the painter and his friends at the Academia and Konrad Eisenbichler used them as his inspiration for English verses. They thought of them as "ways to look at Bronzino".

I think this is perhaps one of the loveliest paintings I have ever seen of a sleeping child - you almost feel John's kiss awakening his little cousin.
*"Dear Mary," Joseph says, "if in a while,
Our little Jesus should awake
And want to eat, I'll light this little pile
of sticks so you might cook a meal or bake,

But note," then Joseph adds, "his cousin John
has come to play with him, and when they're done
Pursuing one another on the lawn
They'll both be very hungry, for a bun."

"I'll bake some sweets for them," she says and smiles,
"Some buns, some pastries, and a healthy snack.
I'll make some cookies, too, in various styles.
But where is my flour? Where is that sack?"
Holy Family with Saint John (Panciatichi Maddona) - 1538-40 - was one of five paintings commissioned by the wealthy and influential Bartolomeo Panciatichi.
dice Giuseppe, «se fra poco,
Gesù si sveglierà, a vorrà mangiare,
io accenderò con la legna un bel fuoco,
ma tu, che cos'avrai da cucinare?"
«E poi,»
Giuseppe dice, «è arrivato
anche Giovanni, suo cugino, e sai
che è un bambino molto affamato...
Maria, Maria, cos cusinerai?»
Lei sorride e risponde: «Farò
frittelle di farina, dolci e bionde.»
Vedi un sacco di farina? Io no.
Tu guarda melgio:" dove si nasconde?

As with many painters of the period Bronzino found himself suddenly constrained by the decrees on art that came out of the Council of Trento - decrees that effected not only the spiritual but the physical content of what took place in Catholic churches. Subjects that had once been considered part of the normal Christian iconography were banned and strict use of symbols and groupings were carefully watched by the unsettled church authorities. This simple and beautiful Christ Crucified straddles the two worlds with a severity that is almost Protestant but with all the required iconography demanded by the Council. It was painted for Bartolemeo and Lucrezia Panciatichi, who at the time were suspected of having "Reformationist" leanings and were investigate by the Church until a gentle word from Cosimo caused the authorities to back away.

Christ Crucified - circa 1540 - Bronzino for the Panciatichi chapel.

Around the time that Bronzino became part of a group exploring the virtues of one form of art over the other - painting over sculpture being the most heatedly debated. Certainly this study could have been achieved in wood and polychrome but Bronzino's technique and artistry has turned it into a "real dead-body".

*Bel gioco l'altalena, in verità
si v agiù e poi su, alternamente.
Ma vedi? C'è qualcosa che non va
in questa altalena risplendente ...

Un angelo la regge con la mano,
e il piccolo di destra porta su:
chi e quello che in basso, scuro e strano,
l'altro, a sinistra, tiene a tire giu?

Forse questa non è un'altalena...
E se un angelo salva l'innocente,
chi sarà quello che, con brutta lena,
trascina l'altro giù, dannatamente?

Saint Michael the Archangel - circa 1525-28 - the fact that it is on canvas, unusual for a time when most paintings were done on wood suggests this may have been a banner made for a confraternity.

A seesaw, wow! That's lots of fun!
You're up and down, you laugh and scream.
But look! This seesaw has begun
To go off-balance. See the beam?

An angel holds it in his hand,
And on the right that boy is up,
But on the left a grasping hand
has seized the boy that's in that cup.

What kind of seesaw could this be?
If that's an angel helping out
Then who's that figure that I see
Grabbing the boy who seems to shout?

* Cherci nei Quadri/Hide and Seek
Roberto Piumini - Konrad Eisenbichler
2010 Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze
2010 Alias, Firenze
It may be purchased through their on-line store.

31 gennaio - Sant'Armentario
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I Eat Like A Bird

Or so Laurent tells me; and to be honest quite often I do leave a portion of a meal unfinished. Its not that I don't enjoy it or that I wasn't hungry just that I can only eat so much and then: basta! Enough!

Take last Friday afternoon at Triangel, a popular gasthaus, near the Festpeilhaus in Salzburg. I had resisted ordering Wiener Schnitzel since arriving in Austria the previous Sunday – I mean its so predictable. But the warm atmosphere on a cold day and the fact that the lady seated next to me – this is the sort of place where you share tables – had one that looked great wore down my resistance to things traditional. So a Schniztel with garlic-parsley potatoes, wild cranberry sauce and a half litre of beer were ordered and in due course set down in front of me.

When I arose from the table here's what was left:

Now before you scold me for not finishing my plate let me explain that what I left behind was about 1/3 of what I had been served. I think I did pretty damned good for someone who “eats like a bird”.

Though I do almost wish that I had left room for a desert - I would have particularly liked to have tried that last item on the sweets menu! I'm still trying to figure that one out. (left click for a closer look)

And speaking of sharing tables – as we were finishing off our meal two of my favourite singers came in to the restaurant - apparently it is a bit of an artists hang-out because its near the theatres, its inexpensive and its good. Philippe Jarousky, the French counter tenor came in and sat opposite us followed minutes later by the German bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff who asked – in a voice as deep as the one he projects on stage – if the place next to me was free. Then a friend at another table motioned him over to join them and my opportunity to break bread - a very good rye Laurent tells me - with one of my musical idols passed.  He ever graciously said thank you and then sat behind me and proceed to order ...  schnitzel!

31 gannaio - Santa Marcella di Roma

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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Ring Continues - La Scala December 10, 2010

As I mentioned in December I went up to Milano mid-month to see the opening opera of the new season at La Scala: Die Walküre , the second installment of their new Der Ring des Nibelungen. I been there in May last year when the cycle began with Das Rheingold and reviewed it at that time for Opera Britannia. Once again the kind editors (Faye and Anthony) had arranged for me to be there as both an opera lover and their critic.

Unfortunately a combination of Holidays and a hacker - the deadly H and H combo - resulted in many of the December reviews at Opera Britannia being delayed in posting but they were finally able to get things sorted out and my thoughts on the new season's opener where published today.

A left click on the poster from the December 10, 2010 performance will take you over to Opera Britannia and my review.

28 gennaio - San Valerio di Saragozza
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Von Trapped!

The last time I was in Austria I bought myself a trachten suit - no not track suit trachten suit, you know the sort of thing Christopher Plummer wore when he played Captain Von Tapp.  And despite my initial feeling that it was a little bit like getting up for a road company of The Sound of Music  it turned out to be one of the most comfortable suits I've ever bought and the style suits me. And though it has occasioned the odd stare at La Scala and Teatro dell'Opera di Roma I will, charitably, put it down to petty Italian jealousy and the old Austro-Italian rivalry.

On our stopover in Innsbruck I saw a more casual jacket in a store window and thought I'd just try it on. Turns out it's perfect for the matinée concerts here in Salzburg - matinée in the old sense of the word being a late morning performance - particularly when paired with the new shirt and tie I had to buy to go with it.

And while in the shirt shop I just happened to spy a really great sweater made of Yak wool - and though I had sweaters with me I was perishing with the cold.  And when it was offered as a gift how could I refuse?????
Now I don't normally post photos of myself - as point of fact I don't normally allow photos taken of myself - but I just had to show off the cool Alpine green stitching on the sleeves, the elbow patches and that stag on the chest. And warm??? Like newly buttered toast!

27 gennaio - Sant'Angela Merici

Ein bisschen Volkskunst II

Well all I can say is "Thank God for digital!"

27 gennaio - Sant'Angela Merici

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ein bisschen Volkskunst I

The fascinating Tiroler Volkskunst Museum in Innsbruck revealed a glory of items detailing life in the mountains and valleys of the Tirol. Traditions that seem, in many cases, regional but at the same time how people responded to the conditions of their times.

I thought over the next few days I'd post a few of the displays that I personally enjoyed and that made me do a bit of searching and researching.

There are few movies that I find I can go back to time and time again but one of them is Babette's Feast, Gabriel Axel's 1987 adaptation of the Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) novella. The story of a small aging religious community in Jutland that is shrinking physically and spiritually and the redemption and love brought to it by a famous French chef is a film I return to at least once a year or when I am feeling in need of confirmation of the goodness of life. When I first saw it in the cinema I recall being a bit repulsed by the scene where the two sisters show Babette how to make “bierbrot” - their main meal of the day. But this method of taking harden bread and reconstituting it in liquid – beer, milk, wine – was practiced in most parts of Europe, even in the finer households.

Bread would be baked two or three times a year and then stored in wood boxes and hung from the ceiling so mice wouldn't get into it. It would harden and, if kept dry, be good for many months - hardtack was a version familiar to sailors and many early settlers in North America.

The hardened bread would be brought down and broken up on this special bread board: the knife tip was on a pivot and the blade was used to break rather than cut the bread into usable chunks. Then it would be thrown into the pot of simmering liquid to expand and thicken. Certainly in the winter cold of Jutland and in the mountains of the Tirol it would have provided warming nutrition but I still have trouble at even the thought of it.

26 gennaio - San Policarpo

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Marie Thérèse ......

Yesterday afternoon was spent visiting a palace outfitted by Empress Maria-Thérèse for her family and then by the Archduke Karl Ludwig as a stopover for the Empress Sissi.  It was truly spectacular in that Habsburg style of slightly over the top going for baroque.  Little did I think that when I checked into the Hotel Bristol in Salzburg that I would be inhabiting their world.

We've stayed at the Bristol twice before and have come to think of it as a bit of a home hotel - welcoming - more important remembering - staff, incredible service and beautiful rooms.  I had asked for a room on a slightly higher floor than we normal get, as this would probably be our last visit to Salzburg for a while.

This is the view: (a left click will enlarge it for a closer look)

From left to right - the Holensalzurg Castle, the bell tower of Saint Peter's,  the dome of the University Church, the Untesburg Mountain and the Monchsburg.  All covered with snow and looking quite magical - but it would be even better if the sun where shining - well maybe tomorrow.
And then we get to the room itself:

Okay we are desperately trying to live up to the room - this is beyond baroque! That little tent thing in the corner is actually the closet and there is another one in the other corner. I just don't think I should look in the mirrors behind the bed first thing in the morning!

But its the bathroom that has to be seen to be believed:

It must be at least 20 feet long by 25 feet wide and the ceilings in both rooms are at least 16 feet high. And that bathtub fits two ... or more! Again a cool little tent in the corner serves as a closet for bathrobes etc.

So being the brave little soldiers we are, we will try and live up to all this. I'm just not sure I have anything in my wardrobe that is quite baroque enough!

25 gennaio - Santi Gioentino e Massimino

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shine Your Codpiece Mister?

The cloister that adjoins the new Volkskunst Museum to the Hofkirche had a light dusting of snow that was starting to accumulate as the day progressed. It was still snowing late into the evening so it must be covered in a white blanket by now.

The original intent this morning was to visit the Hofkirche in Innsbruck and see the funeral monument commissioned to commemorate Maxmilian I by his grandson Ferdinand I. Access to the church is through the new Tiroler Volkskunst Museum and we ended up spending almost all our time visiting the beautifully designed displays there - including some perfectly preserved and remarkable rooms from the Gothic period in the Tirol. After almost two hours we finally did make our way across the snow covered cloister to the Hofkirche and Maxmilian's cenotaph.

Though originally of Gothic design the Hofkirche has bee altered over the years by various monarchs and now has an overlay of the Baroque though, thank heavens, not the Rococo so beloved of many Austrian royals.
Though his original intention was to move his grandfather's remains to the newly constructed church, Ferdinand finally respected Maxmilian's wishes and left his body in its simple tomb at Wiener Neustadt. However Ferdinand went ahead with the project and employed some of the the best painters, sculptors and craftsmen to complete a church and a monument built to the glory of God and the Habsburgs.

The pious Maxmilian is flanked by the Four Virtues on the top of the black marble cenotaph inscribed with bas-reliefs of scenes from his life.
The cenotaph is surrounded by an elaborate iron and brass grill and bears scenes from the Emperor's life: important alliances (matrimonial and otherwise), victories (it would appear the good Emperor and his clan suffered no defeats) and events of importance to the Habsburg dynasty. They are based on woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer and carved in white marble. The entire monument took some 80 years to complete.

The Emperor is accompanied by 28 bronze statues - 14 on each side - representing Habsburg ancestors, members of his family and famous heroes. Unusually 8 of the figures are Habsburg women who figured prominently in the family history and alliances.

But the bronze Maximilian in pious prayer on top of the monument is not alone. He is flanked by 28 slightly larger than life size (anywhere from 200 to 250 cm (6 1/2 to 8 1/2 feet) bronze statues. They are remarkably detailed likenesses of ancestors, relatives and heroes. I guess the "hero" category explains the legendary King Arthur being amongst the elect!

But what I don't understand is the shine on Rudolph I's codpiece???? Normally when a bronze statue has that sort of polish it means that visitors have been touching it - witness the shining toes on the right foot of the statue of San Pietro in St Peter's Basilica. Touching St Peter's toe? Okay that I can sort of understand but what sort of blessing do you get from touching Rudolph's crotch?

24 gennaio - San Francesco di Sales

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Never Has Seen Snow

Well okay I has but not for the past three years - and two small bouts of flurries back in Roma don't count. But tonight at the Bremmer Pass I Has Seen Snow! And it was -9 on the station platform.

Brennero (Bremmer in German) is located 1,374 meters above sea level (around 4,500 ft) so it wasn't surprising that there was snow on the ground and a chill in the air. Surprisingly the streets here in Innsbruck - only 30 minutes away but 900 meters lower - are snowless. However at -7 its still cold - by Italian standards - and the forecast says snow is on the way. Guess I better button up my overcoat - or better still buy a better one!

23 gennaio - Sant'Emerenziana

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pasta Ricca

If there is one pasta that is associated with Bologna  it's tortellini - those little crescent shaped packages filled with meat, cheese or vegetables. There appears to be some dispute as to whither the dish originated in Bologna or Modena but chances are you'll see them on the menu in most towns in Emilia.  Often they are served in broth, dressed with cream or ladled with a meaty ragu.

However those wily Bolognese don't just think of tortellini as a primi - take for instance this tempting plate in the picture. You really wouldn't want to smother these in hot broth, cream or ragu. Chances are that would turn them into a gloppy mess of .. chocolate.

These incredibly rich white chocolate confections are the work of the people at Drogheria Gilberto on Via Drapperie; a sweet shop nestled among butchers and bakers and, believe it or not, candle makers in an area just off Piazza Maggiore.  It is a foodies paradise: shop windows hung with cured ham from Parma - included my beloved culatello - and local sausages, displays of cheeses that go well beyond the traditional parmigiana, trays of fish glistening on ice and stalls of vegetables that look so much like still lifes that its almost a shame to disturb their colourful symmetry. And then there is Gilberto with rows upon rows of chocolate truffles, fruit jellies, glacéed fruits, chocolate dipped cherries and citrus and those chocolate tortellini.

Legend says that Lucrizia Borgia sought lodging in a inn near Bologna during her travels. The innkeeper was enchanted by her beauty - as indeed the story goes were many men - and peeped through the keyhole while she was undressing. In the flickering candle light all he could catch was a glimpse of her navel but so smitten was he by even that brief vision of perfection that it moved him to create tortellini. I guess I can sort of see the resemblance, if not the attraction, and much like the reputation of the lady these are beyond decadent and give sinful a new dimension.

21 gennaio - San Fruttuoso di Tarragona

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Bronzino Dogs and Doggerel

In his portraits of the rich and ruling, Bronzino would include props that indicated the various virtues and achievements of his sitters. Take as an example the dog in this painting of Guidobaldo II della Rovere, the first official portrait painted by the Florentine artist in 1530-32 during his stay in Pesaro. No doubt the dog was a favourite of young nobleman but he is also a symbol of his station in life. The animal would reflect his noble origins, hunting being the pastime of aristocrats. And notice how he draws our attention to two things very subtly: Guidobaldo's hands lead our eyes to the helmet, indicating his military position and to his faithful companion, his hunting dog - there is no doubting his caste. The purpose of the large codpiece was not necessarily to suggest an actual physical feature of the 18 year old heir to the Duchy of Urbino but more to stress his virility and ability to produce sons to carry on the family line.

Guidobaldo II della Rovere - Bronzino 1530-32 Pesaro

And this portrait of unknown Lady - the exhibition catalogue goes into a lengthy hypothesis on her identity - is filled with symbolic details that would have literally painted a glowing picture of her character to all viewers. The little lap dog isn't just a noble lady's toy - a spaniel, such as this little guy, alludes to fidelity and in this case most likely refers to conjugal faithfulness. In the same way the rosary wrapped around her wrist tells us of her religious devotion and the books so readily to hand suggest that she is a lover of poetry. A devoted wife, a devote catholic and a devotee of poetry - the perfect portrait of a noblewoman.

Portrait of a Lady with a Lap Dog - Bronzino 1530-32 Pesaro (?)
And in their delightful verses - that they have wittily subtitled Twenty ways to look at Bronzino - Roberto Piumini and Konrad Eisenbichler remark on how well behaved this little creature is.
Ad una dama non pesa posare,
restando ferma lì, per ore e ore,
perché, alla fine, potrà ammirare,
il bel ritratto fatto dal pittore.

un cucciolo, però, come lo tieni?
A lui, cosa importa del ritratto?
Non lo fermi con lacci né con freni:
ma allora, questa dama, come ha fatto?

Guardi, e scopri il gioco. Lei teneva
qualcosa (ma che cosa?) e annuciava:
«Ura la butto!» ma non lo faceve,
e lui, paziente e immobile, aspettava.

This fine lady is willing to pose
For long hours and she doesn't care
For she knows that this sitting all goes
For a portrait of her in her chair.

But, her little pet dog, what's he know?
What's he care of her portrait, so fine?
He is dying to jump up and go
Play with balls, and with toys, and with twine

Do you know how she made him sit so still?
She kept twirling that ball in her hand
With a grace that concealed a great skill
And enchanted her dog just as planned.
Cherci nei Quadri/Hide and Seek
Roberto Piumini - Konrad Eisenbichler
2010 Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze
2010 Alias, Firenze
It may be purchased through their on-line store

18 gennaio - Santa Prisc
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Monday, January 17, 2011

San Riccardo di Roma

This observation - I won't call it a review because I am becoming more and more aware of my limitations as a reviewer - of the December 9th performance of this season's opening work at the Opera here is long overdue. But finally here it is.

Perhaps it is no mistake that Riccardo Muti has found his way to a city known for its churches and priestly population. More and more in the past few years he has taken on an almost priest-like aura as he mounts the podium in opera houses and concert halls in Salzburg, Ravenna, New York or Chicago. Going to a Muti performance seems to have become an almost religious experience for his followers. A hush falls about the hall as he enters the pit and god help the person that interrupts the mysteries with unnecessary movements, coughing or applause before the final note has sounded - they are liable to be silenced by the horrified reaction of the devout or even worse a glare from the high priest himself.

Moïse (Ildar Abdrazakov) and the Hebrews hear the Mysterious voice issuing from the flames telling them to leave the yoke of Eygpt. The flaming pillars are an example of the effective use Pier'Alli made of projections in this production of Moïse et Pharaon at the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma.

Now I am a Muti follower and devotee myself - I have been since I first saw him conduct Don Pasquale in 1971 at Salzburg - what a year that was! Abbado with Rossini, Karajan Verdi, Boehm Berg and Mozart and Muti Donizetti! One of the great joys of the past few years is having the opportunity to see performances he has conducted both in Salzburg and here in Roma. However I am starting to question how far we can go with the hero worship and reverence - we are after all in the opera house or the concert hall not a church or a temple. Music was meant to be responded to and unless its Ambrosian Chant was not meant to be heard in a sepulchred vacuum.

Take in point last month's Muti-led season opener at the Teatro dell'Opera: Moïse et Pharaon. This was Rossini's reworking for the Parisian audience of his earlier Neapolitan work Mosé in Egitto. Many of the big numbers were carried over from the earlier work and others added to meet the requirements of the Opéra for spectacle, dance and the talents of the resident singers. Yes the subject is of a religious nature - though librettists Balocchi and de Jouy somehow work the Burning Bush into the Plagues on Egypt!!!! - but it also has good old fashioned operatic situations woven into the story. Oh sure Moses keeps saying "let my people go" and Pharaoh says "yes, no, maybe" but there's also the forbidden love of Aménophis, Pharaoh's son, for Anaï, Moses' niece, and the conversion of Sinaïde, Pharaoh's wife, to the faith of the Hebrews thrown in for good measure. It pretty much ends according to C. B. deMille - the Hebrews escape through the Red Sea and Pharaoh and the forces of Egypt are drowned but there's a fair bit of digression along the way.

This photo doesn't half catch the brilliant effect of the final scene as the sea parted and Moïse and the Children of Israel made their way through the cascading waters to the other side.
There are quite a few ensembles, chorale moments and the incredibly beautiful Des cieux où tu résides quartet with chorus - but a great deal of the music is Rossini writing for star singers to show off their vocal chops. The very beautifully produced programme - I really must do a posting on the remarkable programmes published here one day - included pictures of all the principle singers, both in costume and civilian dress, who sang at the primiére but search as I might I found no picture of the conductor nor even a mention of his name.

Such was not the case here in Roma in December, the name foremost on the posters was Muti. Though there was "names" among the singers they were secondary to the maestro and were not the reason we were making the journey to Piazza Beniamino Gigli. Not that the maestro in anyway failed us. This is the third time he has led this particular work and his love and familiarity showed. The forces in Roma may not have been as first rate as those at La Scala or Salzburg but the orchestra is constantly showing what can be achieved when working with a demanding taskmaster. However I am starting to wonder - given both that evening's performance and the next evening at La Scala - if all Italian orchestras have problems with their brass sections? Riccardo Zanellato's chorus did some of the finest work I've heard from them in the past four years - and Moïse is one of those works where the chorus is as important as the soloists.

Muti's soloists were a variable and in one a case a questionable choice. Ildar Abdrazakov (above left) has sung Moïse in Muti's two previous productions and his is a powerful, if not dominating, performance and in Nicola Alaimo's Pharaon he had a worthy opponent.
I was expecting much of Sonia Ganassi (right) as Sinaïde but have noticed in the past few performances I've experience that her voice has taken on a very uncharacteristic harshness. Her duet with the equally rough sounding Eric Cutler (Aménophis) almost became a shouting match. Though it should be noted that Ganassi was cheered to the rafters while Cutler received a few jeers from the normally timid galleriste. Juan Francisco Gatell (Éliézer) and Barbara Di Castri (Maria) offered strong support in their few solo passages and to the ensembles. The one miscalculation was Anna Kasyan in the role of Anaï - her is a pleasant but thin voice and she seemed to lack both the breath control and the technique for her big scene. This music was written originally for the great Colbran and adapted for the equally admired Cinti-Damoreau, and no matter how brilliant the conductor requires a singer of equal brilliance.

Director/Designer Pier'Alli's design for the opening of the Red Sea - a spectacular use of projections, lighting and a semi-permanent architectural set. The entire production was the best example I've seen of using modern technology as scenography.
I am not an admirer of Pier'Alli as a director and have yet to see anything staged by him where there has been any real solid characterizations or emotional core but this time I was overwhelmed with admiration for his designs - his use of architectural elements, lights and multiple projections were exceptional. For the first time in my opera going experience I saw modern technology used effectively and seamlessly to enhance and illuminate a production - as a sidebar it made the sloppy projections in the La Scala Die Walküre the following evening look like the work of amateurs. Highest praise to Alli for his designs, Guido Levi for his exceptional lighting and the technical staff at the Teatro for putting it all together.

Shen Wei's modern choreography was an remarkable match for the extended dance sequences Rossini wrote for the original production in Paris.
Equally as praise worthy was the choreography of Shen Wei for the extended dance sequences that make up most of the third act of the opera. Dance was a must for any production at the Opéra in those days and Rossini met the requirement with 20 minutes of pleasant, highly dancable, if not memorable, music. I had read much about Wei in the translations I had done for Ballet2000 but wasn't expecting the simple beauty of his dance patterns and movements. Like Alli's designs his choreography reflected an innate sense of musicality.

And that might well be the watchword for the entire evening - musicality. That sensitivity to, knowledge of, and talent for music that is the mark of a Muti performance. But what was lacking, and frankly seems to now elude the maestro, was any feeling of spontaneity; less a feeling of awed worshipping at the altar of art and more of feeling of joyful participation in the art itself would have made a good evening more than that.

To celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy Maestro Muti will be giving us Nabucco in March - another work with a religious theme and the added strong patriotic subtext. It is early Verdi, raw and a little rough around the edges a bit like the Risorgimento itself. I can only hope that the Maestro will give us more of the rough and raw and a little less of the religious.

Photos: Falsini for the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma

17 gennaio - Santa Nadia
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Flowers That Bloom In The ... Ah


After years of struggling with the growing seasons in Ottawa I am still surprised here when I see things in bloom in January.  Last Thursday on a sunny but cold (yes I know for my faithful reader living in Ottawa +8 is not cold but it has been getting down to -2 at night!) afternoon I took a stroll through the grounds of Villa Torlonia to see how the work on the Teatro and Moorish kiosk was progressing - slowly I might add.  As I passed one of the lawns that is studded with camellia bushes I wasn't expecting to see these lovely blossoms

Given their sunny and protected location, the amount of rain we've had this year and the fact that they are evergreens I really shouldn't have been surprised.


16 gennaio - Sant'Onorato di Arles

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