|Rainbow Families - Roma Pride 2013|
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Thursday, June 13, 2013
|Martyrdom of St Lawrence|
(Venice, Chiesa dei Gesuiti)
The lower floor of the Scuderie del Quirinale gallery is spacious enough to hang even the largest of monumental paintings, and it is on this floor that we find most of the religious paintings in the show. Indeed, the very first painting the visitor sees in the first gallery is a late altarpiece, the recently restored Martyrdom of St Lawrence (1547-1559), an extraordinary study in light and color, and truly gruesome execution scene. In the same room as this altarpiece we find the sombre Prado Titian Self-Portrait (1565-1566), a portrait of the artist as an old man. Two paintings into the show, and already the enormous influence and legacy of Titian is apparent, as one is fleetingly reminded of Rubens, Caravaggio, even Manet, and of course Rembrandt.
(Madrid, El Escorial)
|Portrait of Ranuccio Farnese|
(Washington, National Gallery of Art)
The final room features another late Self-Portrait (c.1562) and a final bravura work of quite astonishing brushwork by the elderly Titian, The Flaying of Marsyas (c.1570-1576), which comes as a genuine shock after the gently sublime portraits of the previous rooms.
Tiziano is curated by Giovanni C. F. Villa , and continues at the Scuderie del Quirinale until 16 June 2013.
Image usage note: web-resolution, fair use rationale on all images.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Rafał Blechacz is still very young – he turns 28 this June - and when he appears on stage one is initially struck by how his boyish looks make him appear even younger than his years, only to be surprised by the maturity of his playing once his hands touch the keyboard. This maturity was perfectly illustrated by his opening piece - Bach’s Partita No. 3 in A Minor – which he performed with playful grace and clarity, firmly underpinned with intellectual rigour.
Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 7 in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3 completed the first half of the concert. It was a mesmerising interpretation - the opening Presto and closing Rondò were played with enthralling verve and audacity, whilst the Largo and mesto was more lyrical than gloomy – and was met with an enormous roar of approval from the audience at the end, with cheers of bravo! and several curtain calls before the public would let him leave the stage.
The second half of the evening was entirely dedicated to the composer with whom Rafał Blechacz is most frequently associated – Chopin. Back in 2005 he impressed the judges at the Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw so much that he was awarded first prize in every category. Hearing Rafał Blechacz play Chopin is always a joy...and what a stunning second half it turned out to be, as he held the audience rapt with a rich and varied set of seven pieces, with two more played as encores. I'm a sucker for the perennial “Military” Polonaise in A Major and I enjoyed the majesty he brought to this piece enormously, but the show stopping high point of the entire evening for me was the Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 39 – the extraordinary runs and delicate waterfall sounds of those cascading octaves were utterly magical. With the closing notes still hanging in the air, the first cheers of bravo! broke the spell, followed by thunderous applause.
Rafal was coaxed back to the Steinway for an achingly lovely encore of Chopin's Waltz No. 3 in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2, which brought yet more applause, and many of us to our feet. Looking visibly exhausted during the final curtain calls, yet generous to a fault, he graciously gave us one final fleeting, and tantalisingly brief second encore in the form of Chopin's Prelude in A major, Op. 28 no. 7, which elicited an audible sigh of appreciation from the audience. Wonderful!
Partita No. 3 in A Minor
Piano Sonata No. 7 in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3
Nocturne in A-flat Major, Op. 32, No. 2
“Military” Polonaise in A Major, Op.40 no.1
Polonaise in C Minor, Op. 40, No. 2
Three Mazurkas, Op. 63
Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 39
Waltz No. 3 in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2
Prelude in A major, Op. 28 no. 7
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Music by Händel, Porpora, Caldara, Araia, Leo, Vinci, Broschi, Scarlatti
|Cecilia Bartoli on stage in Rome|
The evening, entitled Sacrificium: La scuola dei castrati, was a showcase of arias from her Grammy award-winning recording of the same name, which commemorates the “sacrifice” of thousands of prepubescent Italian, mostly Neapolitan, boys during the early 18th century, who were castrated to stop their voices breaking, giving them male-strength soprano voices capable of performing highly virtuosic music. These hugely demanding arias were never intended to be performed by a woman, yet Cecilia Bartoli, an artist with an incomparable technique and phenomenal breath control, made this extraordinary feat look effortless. Exploring the “agony and the ecstasy” of the Neapolitan Castrati School, centuries after the agony of those mutilations Bartoli brings us the ecstasy of the music through her sublime voice. It was an utterly mesmerising performance.
She was accompanied by La Scintilla, under the direction of violinist Ada Pesch, an ensemble of Zurich Opera House players with a particular focus on historical music instruments, who were a perfect match for the ebullient Bartoli. In fact, the same musicians feature on her forthcoming Norma album, and there was an evidently happy complicity between orchestra and singer throughout the evening, particularly in the pieces where there was a playful dialogue between the instruments and voice such as Porpora's Usignolo sventurato where she was accompanied by two flutes, as well as taped bird song, and in her incredible coloraturas in the duet with oboe in Handel's M'adora l'idol mio, which she performed as the first of her three - or was it four? - encores.
During the evening she had slowly peeled off layers of clothing, but for the last songs she returned to the stage in the most elaborate and explicitly androgynous outfit of the evening – a stunning gold bodice, with its reams of dazzling red skirt fabric hitched up to reveal her black leggings and boots. She even added enormous red feathers for a Farinelli-style finale, which she would eventually toss into the air with joyous abandon at the end of the performance. The utterly deserved standing ovation was unanimous - the entire house was on its feet and cheering. As she left the stage, clutching bouquets of flowers, she waved a final goodbye: Grazie Roma!
Grazie Cecilia, for a wonderful concert.
Watch a very brief clip of Cecilia Bartoli's standing ovation in Rome below or click here to watch on YouTube.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
|Richard Ford and Sandro Veronesi at Libri Come|
Richard Ford cuts a physically impressive figure – he's surprisingly tall, with silver hair, sparkling, very pale blue eyes, and a warm, mischievous smile. His softly spoken, thoughtful answers, and modest replies during the conversation that followed, made him an irresistibly likeable person. He was utterly charming as he gently demolished Veronesi's opening comments on the presumed stoicism of Frank Bascombe, the protagonist of his famous trilogy The Sportswriter, Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land, reaffirming instead, the sense of optimism in his writing.
You know, I would hate to think that I was stoico! I would hate to think that I was a kind of tough, clenched jaw, sit tight kind of person... For me to practise that attitude of trying make something whole that has been damaged is to me supremely optimistic. Maybe that's the difference between the European point of view and the American point of view...I don't know...maybe I'm just a victim of stupid American optimism!...I might be, I might be...But if I am, I'm doomed to have it! I think that to try to regenerate your life, and to try to carry on, and that you have so much life left, is potentially even, if you'll excuse my saying so, joyous. […] I'm more of a Bacchanalian personality, so stoicism is almost alien to me! Surely in Rome people can understand the possibility for Bacchanalian personality...Rome invented Bacchanalia!
|Richard Ford in Rome|
[…] the whole business of writing novels is fundamentally optimistic because it imagines that there will be someone to read this book, it imagines that there will a future in which this book can have a life that will outlive me […]The insistent Veronesi, however, refined his definition of Bascombe's stoicism as “patient endurance” and integrity, to which Ford, with a chuckle, agreed. This, in fact, seemed to really resonate with him, and after quoting a line from William Faulkner's 1951 Nobel speech about man's endurance, he talked about the important of patience in his own life and writing.
The whole notion of patience is very dear to my heart. I'm a very slow thinking, slow acting person, so patience has been a big part of my life from the beginning, so much so that I think there's an old maxim which says that impatience is a form of laziness...so to be patient means to get the most done. It's certainly a feature in one's life which is necessary to write novels, if only because to write novels the real requirement is to stay in the book, not to finish the book...anybody can finish a book! But it takes real patience and real endurance and real interest to stay inside the book for as long as you can because it's only then that you can understand it better and make it better.There was much anxious fidgeting from those around me, particularly Italian readers who have not yet had the chance to read Ford's latest novel Canada, released only this week in Italian translation, when Veronesi veered dangerously close to the spoiler-zone on several occasions, when talking about the new book. Thankfully, most of the discussion focussed on the recurrent theme in Ford's novels of crossing borders – both symbolically and geographically - and successfully avoided revealing too many plot details.
For Ford the sense of crossing borders begins on the page itself:
For me who was always writing sentences and paragraphs, one of the things I observed as a reader and as a writer was that when I came to the end of a paragraph and I started a new paragraph, something happened; there was some sense of torque, some sense of power that was achieved in getting across the white space from one utterance to another utterance.He spoke about the creative process of discovering the theme of a book, and how the theme of crossing borders, with the sense of freedom it brings, had come naturally to Mississippi-born Ford, who left the south as soon as he could.
We've all had this experience. You can read something and it just resonates with you. It may be something seemingly insignificant, when you read it... it just has a little tingle about it, and those are the kind of things that cause writers to write novels, or the poetry writers to write poems, or essays, it's a kind of a commotion you feel on some level of sublimated emotion, a sense of emotion, a sense of commotion, and that's what we try to put in play in books. And sometimes these things become themes, like crossing borders […] I grew up in Mississippi, which is a very bad place to grow up in lots of ways, and I couldn't wait to leave, I couldn't wait till I was eighteen years old and could get on the train and cross the border from Mississippi, to go from the south, to go to the north, and so for me I come by this preoccupation quite rightly because for me crossing borders always meant some kind of freedom.Ford's spoken language is as engaging and utterly absorbing as his exquisitely written prose - I could have listened to Richard Ford speak all day long! Sadly the discussion was over far too soon. One of the fun aspects of the Rome book fest, however, are the many free events, readings and interviews happening all over the Parco della Musica. On leaving the event I was lucky enough to stumble upon the recording of a Rai 3 radio interview with Richard Ford for the show Fahrenheit, which was taking place in the foyer, and where he was joined by another stellar literary name – none other than Salman Rushdie! Rushdie was in Rome to promote the Italian publication of his memoir about living undercover during the fatwa years - Joseph Anton.
Watch a very brief clip of the conversation between Richard Ford and Salman Rushdie below or click here to watch on YouTube.
To complete a perfect afternoon, I was thrilled to then get the chance to meet Richard Ford later in person and chat for a few moments at a book signing session in the Auditorium book shop.