I wrote this introduction back on September 5 – and never got around to completing the post. Thought I’d keep it and finish off what I was going to say.
Now that feragosto is over things are returning to normal – or a least normal for Rome. Over the past week shops, bars, trattorias and super markets have been reopening or going back to regular hours, though a few places are still doing half-day Saturdays. Just a word on shop hours here – most places are open from 1000 until 1300 or 1330 then open again at 1530 or 1600 until 2000. Many places close on Saturday at 1300 or 1330 and most are not open on Sunday. Trattoria and restaurants are open from 1230 until 1500 for lunch and 1930-2000 often until last guest for dinner. It takes some getting use to – and we have had colleagues who just never catch on – but after a while it makes perfect sense.
Traffic has also returned to normal. During feragosto it was quiet, there were days when you could cross Via Nomentana and not see a car from Porta Pia to the bend at the Russian Embassy – about 3 kms; the hornet hum of motorinos was a mere buzz and the blaring sirens of ambulances heading to near-by Policlinico were few and far between. This morning as we sat with our friend Walter on Regina Margherita everything was as it is for 11 months of the year.
It is now a month later and believe me everything is really back as it was – for better or for worse. But what is for better is that the music season has started. Both the ballet and the opera are back in operation – if on reduced schedules because of the budget cuts. So here’s a few things on my calender for the next little while.
- La Gitana, a 19th century ballet premiered in 1836 in St. Petersburg, is on the cards for this weekend. One of the fine things that former Prima Ballerina Carla Fracci has done with the company here is to revive or re-stage some works that are known only from the history books. They are presented at the small Teatro Natzionale with a reduced company of dancers and orchestra but with fine production values. Next in the series will be August Bournenville’s La Sylphide (Maria Taglioni as the Sylph 18th century print) which I recall seeing many years ago in Toronto with the magnificent Eric Bruhn. As well come November we will get a full staging of The Red Poppy – one of those ballets from the Soviet era about the poor Chinese girl trapped in the Western-based opium trade but saved by the love of a Soviet sailor. I recall the Bolshoi performing it – to general derision – when they first toured North America in 1959.
- The fall season at the Teatro dell’Opera has opened with Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande – and I just saw the cast list and we are getting the second cast. As I have mentioned before most operas here are double cast and you pays your money and takes your chances. That is not to say second casts are bad casts just not necessarily the ones you want to see. And this time around I am frankly disappointed: all the singers are Italian in what is one of the quintessential French operas. The first cast was a top notch French one – this is one time when I honestly feel double casting is a rip off. And it will interesting to see how Maestro Gelmetti and his orchestra handle a work that is really not in their blood.
- Then I’ll be off to Athens in mid-month to visit my friends Yannis and Fotis and go to the … wait for it… opera. I shouldn’t feel ripped off there, one of my operatic idols Anna Caterina Antonacci (left) – who I saw this time last year in Medea – will be singing Gluck’s Alceste. And American tenor Gregory Knude is in the cast as well – he was so remarkable in Zelmira at this year’s Rossini Fesival. They are doing the French version which I’ve never heard and Fotis promises me that there may be a chance of making a fool of myself over Mme Antonacci after the performance. He made good on his promise with Agnes Baltsa so… problem is that I am known for saying the wrong thing as I abase myself before celebrities. I will have the infamous Marilyn Horne Ottawa 1986 exchange forever on my conscience.
- I’m hoping to get up to the Verdi Festival for the Nabucco but tickets are currently not showing as available but I’ll keep trying. I always enjoy Parma – the city, the food (yes Dora the ham!) and the Festival.
- Our concert season starts at the Academia at the end of the month and though it may not be as starry a season as last year its still a pretty good line up. A Russian mini-Festival, under the rather romantic title Passione Russa, will be highlighting some of the better and lesser known works of Čajkovskij, Rachmaninoff and company. Most will be conducted by music director Antonio Pappano (left, photo courtesy OC) though Opera Chic’s Uncle Solly – Yuri Termirkanov – is going to show us how the natives do it on at least one occasion. Michael Tilson Thomas will give us his thoughts on the 9th as part of an on-going Beethoven Fest. And Wayne Marshall, who blew us out of our seats literally last year with a very loud Porgy and Bess, is returning to try his hand at Bernstein and Broadway. Claudio Abbado plans to be a bit more traditional with his Mozart and Mendelssohn’s Italian. Vladimir Jurowsky with take us to Firezne with a concert performance of Gianni Schicchi starring Juan Pons. Pappano comes back in his yearly foray into Mahler and Georges Prêtre promises to take us through some Brahms. And that’s just our subscription, there’s a whole pile of other stuff going on throughout the season.
- The rest of the season is up in the air where opera is concerned. The budget cuts mean that many of Italy’s opera houses have no idea what will be happening come the new year. Rome has given hints but a recent letter from Genova suggested they may have to close the house for the rest of the season. La Fenice still hasn’t said anything about the new season nor has San Carlo. Bologna and La Scala have both put out their calenders but without much to raise the
old opera queen’soperaphile’s interest though I will definitely go up to Milan to see From the House of the Dead. Palermo may have some interesting things coming up and we are planning to go to Sicily at some point in the new year but other than that nothing else has captured my attention. But then, of course my dear Opera Chic will probably write about something and I’ll be rushing to Termini to catch a train to Cremona or Bolzano or Trieste.
Other than that nothing much planned musically over the next little while.
04 ottobre – San Francesco d’Assisi – Patrono d’Italia