Monday, April 27, 2009

Marianne Faithfull - The Seven Deadly Sins | Auditorium Parco della Musica, Sala Santa Cecilia | 25 April, 2009

Whilst the immensely talented Marianne Faithfull will shortly tour Europe promoting her recently released CD of classic covers Easy Come, Easy Go, at the Auditorium Parco della Musica on Saturday afternoon she dazzled the audience in Sala Santa Cecilia with a gem from her extensive back catalogue in a career which has lasted over forty years – her interpretation of Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill's satirical sung ballet The Seven Deadly Sins.

An authentic living legend and one-time bad girl of the London music scene, Faithfull's public and private life has been a well documented roller coaster ride of excesses and addiction, however her extraordinary resilience has always seen her coming back stronger and better than ever, with numerous critical successes. She certainly looked and sounded stunning on stage as she revisited her 1998 recording of W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman's English translation of The Seven Deadly Sins, accompanied on this occasion by the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and the Hudson Shad Quartet, directed by guest conductor Ingo Metzmacher.

As the opening notes of the Prologue filled the hall and Faithfull's deep smoky voice began to sing the tale of the two sisters Anna I and Anna II – essentially two sides of but one personality – as they set out from Louisiana across America to visit its cities, encountering a different sin in every one, I was instantly reminded of the fact that she is also a fine actress – every phrase was delivered beautifully with a deadpan air of world-weariness.

The programme was completed with three pieces by the contemporary Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino - Storie di altre storie – visitations of works by Mozart and Scarlatti featuring Davide Vendramin on the accordion and a wonderful performance of Igor Stravinsky's masterpiece Petrushka.

The performance will be repeated tomorrow evening 28 April, 2009 – highly recommended!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ben Harper Headlining Earth Day Concert in Piazza del Popolo

Ben Harper together with his new project Relentless7 will be uniting with National Geographic Music to perform at a free concert this evening in Piazza del Popolo to celebrate Earth Day. Harper and Relentless7 will be playing music from their upcoming album White Lies for Dark Times.

For fans of Italian music the hugely successful Subsonica will also be appearing.

All of the concert’s carbon emissions will be offset by planting trees this autumn in Rome’s Riserva della Valle dell’Aniene park in addition to the creation of new forests in Costa Rica - ImpattoZero ®

The concert will also be streamed live online at Nat Geo Music.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Celebrating Rome's 2,762nd Birthday!

Romulus and Remus at the Musei Capitolini, Rome

The city of Rome is celebrating its 2,762nd birthday starting today with an unprecedented three days of events. The foundation of the Eternal City - il Natale di Roma - is officially recorded as 21 April 753 BC.

The 5th century BC bronze sculpture of the She-wolf Suckling Romulus and Remus is found in the Hall of the She-wolf in the Conservators' Apartment at the Capitoline Museums.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hiroshige - Master of Nature at the Museo Fondazione Roma

Following the excellent From Rembrandt to Vermeer exhibition which closed earlier this year, the Museo Fondazione Roma (formerly known as Museo del Corso) continues to raise the bar with what is quite simply a stunning exhibition, presenting 200 works from the Honolulu Academy of Arts by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), one of the greatest Japanese artists of all time and vastly influential master of Ukiyo-e art or pictures of the floating world. Entitled Hiroshige - Master of Nature the exhibition takes the visitor on a thematic journey through the artist's work via four main sections – The World of Nature, Postcards from the Provinces, The Road to Kyoto and In the Heart of Tokyo – even providing a travel diary to allow younger visitors to hand stamp pages as they move through each section of the exhibition (although when I was there every adult, myself included, was also to be seen clutching their own diary and enthusiastically printing the Hiroshige-inspired motifs as they completed each new gallery section!)

Before entering the rooms of the gallery visitors must first cross a bridge and pass through a theatrical setting of Japanese screens, gurgling springs and Zen garden which sets the mood beautifully for the opening room and Hiroshige's images from nature – birds with wisteria boughs hanging behind them, owls in moonlight, egrets in reedy streams, koi fish, wild would be difficult to choose a favourite image.

Next come the works featuring some of the most important places and landmarks across the 60 odd provinces of Japan and then, if by this point in the exhibition you aren't already planning a trip to Japan, the third section dedicated to the two great roads that connected the imperial capital of Kyoto to the administrative capital of Edo (now Tokyo) will certainly have that effect! Many prints on display have been taken from The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tôkaidô, which is widely considered to be Hiroshige's finest work. I particularly liked station 16 Kambara which shows a mountain village at night buried under a deep snowfall and station 46 Shono, which again puts the elements centre-stage with a group of figures buffeted by a sudden rainstorm in the mountains.

The gallery visitor then reaches Edo, home to the shôgun. Hiroshige depicted more than 100 locations in the city, some of which are strangely mysterious such as the exquisite Fox Fires on New Year's Eve at the Garment Nettle Tree at Oji (which depicts a Japanese legend about fox spirits or kitsune) or the bird's eye view over Susaki and the Jumantsubo Plain near Fukagawa with its swooping eagle at the top of the image.

There is a separate section dedicated to Hiroshige's undeniable influence on landscape photography in Japan with a selection of early photographs and postcards of famous Japanese landmarks in Hiroshige’s Landscapes in Early Photography and an equally fascinating area dedicated to explaining the elaborate creative process behind woodblock and xylograph prints.

The exhibition closes with a reminder of Hiroshige's impact on western art and artists – by using ultra high resolution digital reproductions of Van Gogh masterpieces visitors are able to directly compare, for example, Hiroshige's Sudden Shower at Atake with Vincent Van Gogh's Bridge in the Rain (part of the Impossible Exhibitions project devised by Renato Parascandolo).

This is a wonderful show – highly recommended!

Hiroshige - Master of Nature at the Museo Fondazione Roma is curated by Gian Carlo Calza with technical coordination by The International Hokusai Research Centre and continues until 7th June 2009. It will subsequently travel to the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Exactitudes: Uguali, Differenti at Palazzo Incontro

Palazzo Incontro on Via Prefetti - just around the corner from Montecitorio and Palazzo Chigi – is an eighteenth-century palace which the Province of Rome reopened to the public in 2005 as an art gallery after a long restoration. It still retains something of the new kid on the block feel as a public exhibition space and the current photography show - Exactitudes by Rotterdam based photographers Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek - is a quirky and rigorously contemporary choice which can only help strengthen its aspirations of becoming an important exhibition space in the city.

Exactitudes® – a linguistic invention which marries the English words exact and attitude – consists of a series of systematically documented photographic portraits of individuals, all standing in similar poses and all observing strict dress codes, who are then categorized according to the group identity they best fit. The current selection features the 112 groups which artist Ellie has called their “butterfly collection” - indeed, the whole effect feels almost scientific in its anthropological recording of modern society. Leaving the gallery and stepping outside it was hard not to start categorizing just about everybody one met on the streets of Rome!

To get a taste of the exhibition one can visit the Exactitudes ® website, but the experience of the in-situ show also involves listening to an amusing and often extraordinarily spot-on spoken commentary about each of the numbered groups on display which plays over a loud speaker and is repeated on a loop. One of my particular favourites was #32 - Showpieces (Beijing 1999) – which is the only group in the entire collection which breaks the pattern of 12 individual portraits taken on a white background: in this group of Chinese boys, a generation of only-children, a protective parent inevitably breaks the frame and peeks in at the side of the portrait! Interestingly, too, there is only one mixed gender group – the androgynous hairstyle identifier #23 - Dreads (Rotterdam 1998)

Exactitudes runs until 26 April, 2009 – Free Entrance
Palazzo Incontro
Via dei Prefetti, 22

The Abruzzo Earthquake - How You Can Help

Many of us living in Rome were shaken awake in the early hours of Monday morning by the earthquake which has caused such devastation and loss of life in Abruzzo.The Croce Rossa Italiana, the Italian Red Cross, is collecting funds for the relief effort HERE. The form is in Italian but don't be put off - simply choose Sisma Abruzzo in the first drop-down menu. Importo, is the amount you wish to donate (in Euros). Individuals should check Sono un privato. Then put your first name, last name, address, city, nation (United States = Stati Uniti, United Kingdom = Regno Unito), telephone, fax, and email. Check the Acetto box for the privacy terms and then Invia (send).

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