Friday, May 30, 2008

Cina Vicina Festival | Cheng Ying Saves the Orphan of the Zhao | Henan Opera House

The journey to the Auditorium yesterday evening on the back of a moped was decidedly hairy – as I've mentioned in previously posts, I'm not keen on Rome traffic and have abandoned driving a car here - but yesterday was sheer pandemonium. As it happened, veteran Italian rocker Vasco Rossi was playing to a packed Olympic Stadium last night, attended, by the look of the roads, by just about everybody – except us. In fact, on arriving at the Auditorium, the place seemed strangely empty – we entered in a side door and walked the entire length of the entrance foyer without seeing a soul – clearly traditional Chinese Yu Opera was less of a crowd puller in Rome than Vasco!

Thankfully, however, Sala Petrassi turned out to be reasonably full for what turned out to be an absolutely enthralling performance by the 2nd Corp of the Henan Opera House of the Yu Opera Cheng Ying Saves the Orphan of the Zhao. I'm a huge fan of Chinese and Hong Kong cinema and loved every second of this tragic tale of personal sacrifice, vendetta and revenge. Li Shujian, in the lead role of Cheng Ying was extraordinary – his long anguished lament for his slain friend Gongsun (played by Gao Hongqi) and his own newborn son – was mesmerizing. The actors were rapturously applauded at the opera's close as were the musicians of the Second Yuju Orchestra of Henan Province who had actually taken no formal bows at the end of the performance, but whom somebody from the gallery had spotted as they discreetly packed up their traditional Chinese instruments and made to leave the stage.

For full cast details of the performance click here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

CinaviCina Festival | Dongguan Shipai Lion Dancing Troupe

The Dongguan Shipai Lion Dancing Troupe delighted visitors to the Auditorium yesterday afternoon with a spectacular display of acrobatics in the Cavea as part of the CinaviCina Festival.

On Sunday afternoon there was a sizeable crowd of both adults and children - the show went down particularly well with kids who rushed to stroke the lions as they wandered about the upper levels of the Cavea!

They'll be performing again at 11 and 17 on 31 May and 1 and 2 June. Admission is free - catch them if you can!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Myth of Speed | XXI Century China | Palazzo delle Esposizioni

Quite soon after moving to Rome it became very clear to me that I would not be driving in the city – the relationship that most Romans seem to have with their cars combined with terrifyingly cavalier attitude to dying at the wheel quickly put paid to any hopes I may have had of “getting the hang” of driving in Rome. Dino Risi said it all in 1962 with the classic film Il Sorpasso – little seems to have changed – there are just more and more cars in a city already choked by traffic. The recent exhibition at The Palazzo delle Esposizioni entitled Il mito della velocità - Arte, motori e società nell'Italia del '900 (The myth of speed - Art, engines and society in 20th century Italy) took this Italian love affair with speed and the internal combustion engine in particular as its focal point, taking a chronological look at its influence on art, fashion, design and society as a whole from the Italian Futurist movement through to Casey Stoner's 2007 Moto GP winning Ducati Desmosedici. Exploiting to its full potential the extremely large exhibition space this really was a stunning show featuring vintage racing cars and motorcycles – even a hydroplane and numerous pieces of related memorabilia.

Speed was also at the heart of another enjoyable exhibition on the upper floor of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni Cina XXI secolo. Arte fra identità e trasformazione (21st Century China.Art between identity and transformation) – which examined the impact of the alienating changes taking place in the new communist-capitalist China through the work of some of the most important artists working in China today. I particularly liked Fang Lijun's 2006 consisting of 16 bronze portrait heads finished in gold foil, all with eyes closed appearing rather like death masks; Weng Fen's photographic bird's eye views of rapidly changing cityscapes dwarfing young girls; Wang Qingsong's complex and troubling Dream of Migrants, which rather like the Crewdson photographs earlier in the year seemed to encompass an entire film in one elaborately staged composition, with the addition of traditional Chinese history and imagery mixed with western elements; and finally, Liu Xiaodong's brilliant Prima Mangia, a lay revisiting of The Last Supper painted in situ at the gallery in February of this year.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

An evening of poetry and music!

Francesca Merloni will be appearing tonight in a poetry concert at the Teatro Palladium at 21.00 - Call 06.4200711 for further details.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Mimmo Paladino and Brian Eno at the Ara Pacis Museum

Mimmo Paladino Scuplture at the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome
Richard Meier's dazzling white modernist building, which is both a museum housing Caesar Augustus's Ara Pacis (altar of peace) and an art gallery showing temporary exhibitions, took ten years to complete and was met with a mixed reception from Romans. I'm one of those people who actually really like the glass and travertine marble structure and have been therefore appalled by Rome's new mayor Gianni Alemanno's suggestion that he’ll be holding a referendum to allow Roman citizens to decide the fate of the Ara Pacis museum - if it gets the thumbs down the neo-fascist politician will take down the $24 million building and move it to the suburbs. Rather embarrassingly this outburst from Alemanno has made headlines all over the world - all of them posing the question He can't be serious...right?

Meanwhile, the current installation at the museum is a perfect demonstration of what works best about the structure and brings together the work of sculptor Mimmo Paladino and musician Brian Eno. Paladino fully exploits the crypt-like lower floor of the building with his recumbent figures and charred disembodied torsos taking on a distinctly archaeological feel as if surrounded by broken fragments of burial goods. Hints of something much darker, perhaps augmented by Eno's music, pervades the entire installation with associations with the Holocaust inevitable, particularly in the piece with hundreds of old wooden shoe lasts with small bronze birds attached to them which covered an entire wall. Brian Eno's music uses the auto-repeat and random-shuffle controls on numerous CD players placed throughout the exhibition to achieve infinite permutations of sound in space, with a variety of speakers installed - including Eno’s trademark speaker flowers.

The photograph show the upper floor on the beautiful sunny day I visited with sunlight streaming through the glass walls. It also shows how busy it was - in spite of Alemanno's protests, L'Ara Pacis is now the third most visited site in Rome.

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