World AIDS Day 2010 – Part II

I have referred to Roberto Bole occasionally in postings both as a great dancer and as a sex symbol and though he is both those things he is decidedly more than that. Back in 1999 at a Gala here at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera he was appointed a UNICEF Ambassador with the special task of raising awareness of the problems of the young.  It is a role he has taken seriously especially with the rising problem of children in Africa born with AIDS or left orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.

I was particularly taken by this photo that appeared recently on my friend Opera Chic’s blog along with a post on Bolle’s recent trip to Central Africa.

When I saw this picture I thought of all the people who preach that AIDS is God’s punishment and thought: what has this child done that deserves any sort of punishment particularly this dreadful disease?

01 decembre – La giornata mondiale contro l’AIDS

Mercoledi Musciale

I can only join with so many others in celebrating the life of the great Joan Sutherland. Hers was a remarkable voice that I consider myself fortunate to have heard both live, on recording and in video.

I recall her first appearance in Toronto was a concert scheduled the evening that John Kennedy was assassinated. However she was to make later concert appearances and debut a few of her later roles with the Canadian Opera Company. I only wish I could have seen more of her live as I had almost all of her LPs at one point. But as well as her performances what also sticks in the mind was her incredible sense of humour and at times self-effacing manner in interviews and a few very memorable opera quiz round tables. She led a rich and very full life and saying goodbye should indeed be a celebration of all that she was and gave.

Dearest Joan may those Bright Seraphim greet you in their burning rows and may their voices be uplifted in glorious song as they welcome you.

My dear OC up in Milano wrote what I think is one of the most loving tributes to La Stupenda found in the last few days: The Time Traveler’s Wife.

13 ottobre – San Teofilio di Antiochia


I know that Laurent thinks I spend most of my day on the computer but I honestly don’t. Some of its spent in the kitchen making coffee and snacks to have in front of the computer. And I do get out on the odd excursion about town.

Here’s a few things I discovered in the past week on my rambles around the Internet. And there’s a few photos on one of my town excursions a few weeks ago.
We’ve often driven past the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls on our way to the airport. Its an impressive sight from the highway and more impressive up close. It was raining the day I decided to visit but even in the rain the front courtyard was glorious. The present Basilica was build after a disastrous fire in July of 1823 which destroyed the 1400 year old church. The evening before the fire the dying Pius VII had nightmares of a fireball striking his beloved Basilica – its destruction was never revealed to him.

  • My dear Scarlet Lady, Dora, provided a link the other day to a wonderful series of YouTube shows by the remarkable 93 year old Clara Cannucciari. Her Depression Cooking series has become one of the most popular on YouTube. Its a combination of practical and economical recipes and, more importantly I think, oral history. She has her own website and Laurent tells me she was interviewed on one of the major US network prime time shows. Even if you don’t use her recipes her tales of the Great Depression are a living slice of history.
  • And speaking of food the oft-quoted Opera Chic (the world press has become aware of what some of us have known for ages – she rocks) introduced me to a wonderful food blog: Orangette. In her own words Molly Wizenberg explains: So I started Orangette. Almost five years later, here I am, with this blog, a book, a monthly column in Bon Appétit, and a husband whom I met through this site. It’s been kind of insane – in a very good way, of course. I thank my lucky stars every night. Five years! I’m just wondering why I haven’t discovered this great blog before.
  • My buddy Yellowdog Grannie , from West, Texas, sent me this link to a fascinating virtual tour of a famous Chinese scroll painting: Along the River During the Ching-Ming Festival. It is lodged in the National Palace Museum in Taipei – part of the collection spirited off the mainland during the revolution. QhingMing is celebrated in one form or another throughout most of the Asia and there is a particularly lovely Vietnamese song that sings of the awakening of spring and this approbriate for a stroll through this remarkable website.

    Swift swallows and spring days were shuttling by
    of ninety radiant ones three score had fled.
    Young grass spreads all its green to heaven’s rim;
    some blossoms marked pear branches with white dots.
    Now came the Feast of Light in the third month
    with graveyard rites and junkets on the green.
    As merry pilgrims flocked from near and far,
    the sisters and their brother went for a stroll.

  • Michelle, who you may know by now drinks so much coffee that she swears if she were cut she’d be Bleeding Espresso, gave a shout out to a fun blog for those of us struggling with Italian. Diane Hales has a blog as part of her La Belle Lingua website. Becoming Italian Word by Word is a light-hearted way to find those words and phrases that we anglophones find so confusing. Example??? Well let’s take “maleducato” – has to mean badly educated right? Well in a way yes, it actually means “ill-mannered“. And in response to my Napolitano buddy Marco – then you ask why I have difficulty speaking Italian?????
  • And as part of her Going Green series Michelle has some tips on what do to with used coffee grounds. Her commenters have added some dos and don’ts as well.

07 marzo – Sante Perpetua e Felicita

Elephants, Tigers and Tenors! Oh My!!!! – Part II

So there I am last Thursday reading Opera Chic – the many armed Goddess of Opera on the Internet – and I come across this post about the Spoleto Festival. Laurent and I enjoyed a weekend in Spoleto during the winter and knew that the famous Festival di due Mondi was in question for this year – frankly I had given up looking at the website. After Gian Carlo Menotti’s death last year things had been left in disarray and a typically Italian battle was going on for control of the once prestigious festival. Then OC goes and posts about a production of Albert Roussel’s often discussed by seldom seen Padmâvatrî – and its star the young American contralto Nicola Piccolomini – that opened the Festival last Friday.

That got me thinking – and when I start thinking after visiting OC that normally means I end up travelling and spending money – we had a few things planned for the weekend but they could be worked around the second performance on Sunday afternoon. Friday night we were having dinner at a great little Thai restaurant in our neighbourhood and I mentioned it to my friend Betty Jean. When I promised her an elephant on stage she offered to drive with me.

So after dithering for a day I decided I had to grasp this opportunity – when would I ever get to see Padmâvatrî, an Elephant, a Tiger, a Horse, gorgeous costumes from India and an up and coming young contralto – a species as rare as white tigers – all in one shot?

Sunday morning Betty Jean and I headed up, its only a little under two hours by car, had lunch at the newest addition to Il Gambero Rosso in the area, the wonderful La Pecchiarda – Eggplant Parmesan, Roast Lamb, rosemary roast potatoes, a glass of the house white (yes I fall off the wagon on occasion) and a honey melon for dolce and all for next to nothing. Until you get out of Rome you tend to forget how expensive a city it is.

We sat in their garden enjoying the sunshine then wandered around town – I had forgotten how steep those hills can be, particularly in the blazing sun – stopping in at the Duomo and the odd shop here or there.

As we were walking towards the Teatro Nuovo we came across one of the stars of the opera having a bath in the middle of a side street – not a common sight but he didn’t seem too upset when we took his picture. Unlike the elephant, who was an French import, this guy was a local who was having his day in the spotlight.

It seems that every town in Italy has a theatre like the Nuova – the standard 18th century opera house with poltroni (ground floor seats,) several levels of palchi (boxes) and at least one if not two galleries for those short on cash and not afraid of heights. In a rather charming touch the proscenium clock in Spoleto only shows the correct time twice a day – it appears to have stopped at 5:45.

Roussel’s piece of orientalizm hasn’t been heard in Italy since the 1970s and Italian opera goers are not known to be terribly responsive to the unfamiliar so it came as no surprise that the house was about two-thirds full. Fortunately it was an appreciative audience and there was much to appreciate, and I’ll write more about that in the next posting later today.

04 lulgio – San Odo

Io Sono Ammalato

Now just imagine that said with a throb in the voice and a clutching of the throat – sounds better than “I’m sick” doesn’t it? I was all set to post about the glorious day in the spring-like weather on Tuesday with pictures of happy patrons at outside cafés etc when this flu hit Wednesday morning.

And of course it couldn’t have come at a worse time – we’ve got a lot going on in the next few days.

    • Tonight is our first subscription ballet night – a rather strange evening built around works designed by the Greek-Italian Surrealist Giorgio de Chirico.
      Set design for Bacchus e Ariane by Giorgio de Chirico (Source: Rome Opera)

      Its a varied programme involving the disparate talents of Igor Stravinsky, Albert Rousell, Vittorio Reiti, Serge Lifar, George Balanchine and Luigi Pirandello. Aside from the Stravinsky-Lifar Appollon I can honestly say I only recall reading about the other ballets as Ballets Russefootnotes. Next week we’ll be getting three ballets designed by Picasso.

    • Tommorrow night is our regular night at the Academia de Santa Ciecila and the promise of the Brahms Symphonies 1 and 2 conducted by Antonio Papano. The season thus far has been plagued with cancellations and not all that memorable.
      However last month’s concert with Maurizio Pollini doing the Brahms Number 1 Piano Concerto was a truly moving experience. He’s such an unassuming man – slightly stooped and almost apologetic as he approaches the piano. Then he sits down, his fingers touch the keys and he becomes a Titan. Jack tried to get a few shots with his Cell camera during the curtain calls but none of them turned out except this one of Pollini with his back to us.
  • As this horrid flu was starting to take affect I turned to some of my favorite bloggers (many of whom seemed to have the same thing – could it be a real computer virus????) for solace and comfort. OC, that divine diva of Opera Bloggers, had just come back from opening night at La Scala of Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac with Placido Domingo. Even before she had her Prada heels off she was writing a quick review that sent me running to the La Scala website. There were a few tickets left for this Tuesday’s performance. Snapped one up real quick like; navigated the shoals of the treacherous TrenItalia website to book a train (its only 4 hours 30 minutes) and used travel points to get a hotel near the opera house. When I read her complete review I knew I had made the right choice.
    Placido Domingo as Cyrano
    (Photo from Royal Opera House Covent Garden – Catherine Ashmore)

    As OC observes Domingo is approaching his 70s and we can’t expect him to go on forever, so this may be the last chance I’ll have to see him on stage. I know it won’t be the voice I heard in 1976 in SFO or Paris in 1986 but I do know that he is still the greatest tenor around and it will a spectacular event. I am getting antsy with anticipation.

So I really have to pull myself together and get right over it. None of this wallowing in self-pity that man-flu would normally demand; though when I’m sick I just like to be left alone. So just let me go and die in my own manner just promise me the body will be given a decent burial.

01 febbraio – San Orso

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