Throwback Thursday

The brave knight Astolfo rides the hippogrif over the heads of the audience in Luca Ranconi’s 1969 theatre piece Orlando Furioso.

While looking through the Tulane University Carnival collection I found designs by Carlotta Bonnecaze for Proteus in 1897 that brought back memories of an obsession I had in my late teens. Her subject was Orlando furioso the great Italian epic poem of the 16th century by Ludovico Ariosto. It retells the exploits of Roland (Orlando) during the Crusades and was to be the source of many opera libretti during the baroque era. But what got me interested in this obscure (for North America at least) work was a review in one of the many theatre magazines I subscribed to at the time.  It spoke of a remarkable Italian environmental theatre production that was touring Europe in 1969-70. It was directed by a young Luca Ranconi, who had his audience move from area to area as the tale unfolded.  Often the spectators found themselves surrounded by brave Christian knights battling Saracens, sometimes fighting each other and often dealing with beautiful, but evil, sorceresses.  The brave English knight Astolfo even made his voyage to the moon on the back of the hippogrif to regain Orlando’s wits.  (As a sidebar according to Ariosto the moon is where all things that are lost on earth end up????). It all sounded fascinating.  I had to read this story.

Imagine my surprise (and indignation) when I discovered that my local library didn’t have a copy of this epic on it’s shelves!!  Fortunately a friend managed the W. H. Smith Bookstore at the airport where I worked and she ordered a copy – it was not amongst the material favourite by air travellers of the day!!!!!!  It proved to be a heavy tome of some 780 pages which in all honesty I made a brave attempt to read but stopped at page 320 when Ruggerio tethered his steed to a talking myrtle tree (Astolfo transformed by the evil…. oh never mind).

So what you ask, o gentile lettore, does this have to do with Throwback Thursday.  Well aside from various opera I’ve seen based on Orlando Furioso I was to run across the good Christian knight on several visits to Sicily and the rod puppet theatres in Palermo and Siracusa.  And with the often circuitous logic in what passes for my brain I went from the Tulane Collection to my teenage obsession to trips to Sicily to a post I did back in February of 2011 on the Teatro dell’Opera dei Pupi.  I thought perhaps it would be worth a revisit to see how these incredible puppets are made and a bit about their history.

A left click on my darling Emanuele Luzzati’s colourful Orlando astride a dragon will take you there:


On this day in 1923: Greece becomes the last European country to adopt the Gregorian calendar.

Siren with a Lens

I was searching for a past post earlier this week and came across this item from September of 2009. We had gone to the Palazzo delle Esposizioni to see the much publicized Bulgari Exhibition and as so often happens another show proved a more satisfying and memorable experience. And the memory had me turning to a bookshelf to retrieve the wonderful catalogue that had been published.

Willy Or Won't He

I fell in love with the circus and Burt Lancaster when I was about 10 or 11. Back in 1956 my brother took me to see Ringling Bros Circus in one of their last appearances under canvas and I was enchanted. That same year Trapeze was released and I remember having the comic book and reading about it in one of the screen story magazines. And it had some poster! Lancaster and Tony Curtis in white circus tights. And standing between them Gina Lollobrigida all spangles, cleavage, doe eyes and pouty lips. But even at 10 the sight of Burt in tights did more for me than Gina in spangles.

La Lolla was one of those buxom foreign stars that came into the studio system as it was fading into oblivion. She was exotic, she was beautiful, she was Italian and she was hot. But she was always more than…

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Throwback Thursday

In which an video is replayed.

Several times – okay many times – in the past I have expressed my fondness for the work of the great Sir Thomas Beecham.  He was one of the musical greats of the last century – an innovator, founder of orchestras, and an early champion of music that is now part of the standard repertoire. But he also had an ear for an enchanting melody that would please his audience.

A comment I received on a video I made and posted on YouTube back in January of 2013 had me taking another look at it.  It’s such a charming piece of music and never fails to brighten my day each time I hear it.

A left click on this caricature of Sir Tommy from 1931 will take you to that post and the video. The details can be seen more clearly by click the full screen icon fullscreen_grey_192x192.jpgat the lower right of the video.


On this day in 1922: First use of insulin to treat diabetes in a human patient.

Throwback Thursday

Several firetrucks roaring by the house, sirens blaring, in the past few days and an altercation in the Provincial Legislature where a member was expelled for suggesting (rightly so) proceedings there were nothing but a farce brought to mind an episode from our time in Rome.

Willy Or Won't He

Quo Vadis PosterBoth the title and the picture may be a bit over dramatic – who me!!!! – but when I got home Saturday I was reminded of Peter Ustinov strumming a lyre and chortling as Rome flamed behind him. I somehow had a picture of Laurent on our balcony doing much the same thing last Wednesday night.

Apparently the elderly gentleman across the hall left a space heater on beside his bed while he was out. The bedding smoldered and when he came home around 11 pm the draft when he opened the front door really got things going. Laurent smelled and saw smoke in our front entry hall and opened the door to find a hall filled with smoke and our Portere (Building Super) stepping out of the elevator (DUH! rule #1 – In case of fire do not – repeat – do not use the elevator) carrying a small…

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Throw Back Thursday

Yesterday Fearsome Beard, a fellow blogger, wrote about a decision he and his spouse had made concerning one of their beloved dogs. A decision that Laurent and I know is one of the hardest someone who has a beloved pet has to make: one that is made with a breaking heart but out of true love.

My favourite photo of two of the great loves of my life: Reesie (left) and Bundnie.

Ten years ago yesterday (December 28, 2007) we made the same decision for our Reesie. A gentle sweet natured boy he was sixteen and had been in poor health but there was no way we were leaving him behind when we moved to Italy in August of that year. He was our Reeserman and we would do what we could to make him comfortable in his new home until the time came. Perhaps it came a little earlier than we either expected or wished but we knew when it was the truly loving thing to do.

Reading Fearsome’s post yesterday reminded me of the day following that final trip to the Vets and a post about a trip to the Borgo that even today serves as a reminder to be thankful for what we’ve had and have.

Willy Or Won't He

The first time Laurent and I came to Rome we stayed on the other side of the Tiber in the Borgo near St. Peter’s. The area takes its name from the German Burg and was an area of hostels and hospices for pilgrims as far back as AD 725. Given the events of the day we were at a bit of a loss on Thursday evening – comfort food was in order but neither one of us felt like cooking. So a trip to the Borgo and that trattoria that I can never remember the name of for spaghetti alla carbonara seemed the solution. And since we would be in the area we thought we’d have a look-in at the (mildly?) controversial Presepe in Piazza San Pietro.

Presepe in Piazza San Pietro

Taverna panel

St Joseph and Holy Infant

The Holy Family

Left panel

It was only 2000 but there were very few people in the Piazza and most were crowded around the Presepe by a rather…

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