I recuperated well enough to go to a concert in the evening (of December 1): Ensemble Zipangu, named after the piece by Claude Vivier which was also on the program. The string players are a sub-group of the orchestra of the local opera house, and they gave a thrilling performance of four excellent pieces by Peter Sculthorpe (Sonata 3 for strings), Tan Dun (Concerto for gu-zeng and strings), George Lenz (Birrung) and Claude Vivier (Zipangu). All of this music was substantial, accessible, often exciting, and really the kind of stuff that I like best. The Vivier piece was a fitting conclusion to the concert; strange, searching music, full of drama and beauty. I'm so glad that I dragged myself out of the house for this!
Continuing our museum circuit, we went to the archaeology museum today. We were again staggered by the amount of material they have up for viewing; endless rows of pots, stone age flints, iron age tools, Etruscan ceramics and metalwork, jewels, Greek statues and sculpted heads, and much more. To say that we saw everything would be a stretch; we did walk down all of the aisles. Again, I took a few pictures, but Nancy is always more systematic. Here are some of my favorite things:
We are now proud holders of library cards at the Bologna public library on Piazza Maggiore! Our friend Chiara took us there today and showed us how things work. I checked out two books, and I am very pleased to be able to use the library.
We went to the Museum of the City of Bologna yesterday, thinking that this would be a logical place to start in a planned survey of the city museums. I think we were right: the museum gives a chronological history of the city starting with the Etruscans and going up to the present, with some odd omissions (where was Garibaldi, did we miss his room?). We used the English audio guides, and there were summary sheets in English in each room (30 rooms or more), but the detailed wall texts were in Italian. Deciphering the Italian and standing to peer at all of the interesting pictures made us pretty tired by the time we got to the end. We took lots of pictures, of course, see below. Some of the things that interested me: the Etruscans, the rise and fall of Bologna's many towers and canals, the years of Napoleon's governance, and the puppets. There is also an introduction to the Bolonese dialect, with a video of two guys speaking it. It is VERY different from standard Italian!
I am posting a few pictures below. I got tired, and Nancy was taking better (and many more) pictures than I was. She may post more later. The tombstone, alphabet, and mushroomy-looking pot are Etruscan. Also, the puppets come off looking a bit creepy in the photo, but in real life they looked a lot more comical.
I visited Bologna's modern art museum, known as MAMbo, today. I was interested in work that they are showing from their permanent collection, and I was happy to see some paintings by artists that I know about: Burri, Paladino, Carol Rama, and Boetti. But nothing connected with me emotionally until I wandered into the Morandi exhibit, which is being stored at MAMbo temporarily. I have never been terribly interested in Morandi - paintings of bottles in shades of gray, really?
But Morandi's still lifes have a strange power. The bottles often lean in ways that they should not, and there sometimes are unrealistic shadows behind them. It may be that the pictures do not photograph well. I was moved by them, and a bit unnerved. Morandi seems to have largely ignored the spectacular developments in the art of his lifetime and limited himself to something quiet and understated.
There is an American artist, Albert York, whose work reminds me most of Morandi. I think York is also a wonderful artist, and he is not very well known. Here is a link to an article about York, in case you are interested: paintingperceptions.com/albert-york-r-i-p/
I took a few not-very-good photos of Morandi paintings (below).
Today we went out in the rain to meet Chiara and get tickets to the Verdi Requiem performance with Riccardo Muti in December. There was quite a crowd by the time we got to the building where tickets were being given out, and then there was a long wait; lots of people were commenting on how disorganized it all was. But I was kind of charmed by the experience. Verdi still is popular, and not only among the old. People of all ages were there.
On the way back to our apartment we stopped at a place that sells scores, books on music, and sheet music. We might have stayed longer if we hadn't been hungry. Apparently Ut Orpheus is a publisher as well as a shop; I looked at a piece for viola and piano that they have published.
AND, we watched the US/Iran soccer match on TV. I understand very little about the game, but it was kind of exciting, right?
On Sunday we were invited for a mid-day meal at the home of the parents of my viola teacher, so we went out in the morning looking for a gift to take along with us. We bought some bread (for us) and some pink cyclamens as a present, both at an outdoor market. The bread, made with "lievito madre" (naturally occurring yeast) turned out to be quite tough (which I like) and salt-free, which was probably a mis-communication with the very pleasant person behind the counter. Next we went to a Christmas market with many booths alongside a large building. We sampled some cheese there and decided to come back and buy some later.
Our hosts, Paolo and Chiara, live in a beautiful apartment with a piano, many books, artworks, and lots of light from good-sized windows. All of the rooms were well-organized and nothing was crowded. Chiara served a real Italian meal: antipasto (appetizers and leafy salad), primo (pasta and a vegetable dish of zucchini with dried tomato), and secondo (a meat course of salmon, and roasted cauliflower and fennel). Dessert was persimmon puree with Greek yogurt. The food was excellent, and like the apartment, very well organized. Both Paulo and Chiara speak very good English; both spent significant time in the US during their formative years, and Chiara was a translator for part of her working life. We had a lot in common with our hosts, starting with our age, our love of music, our politics, and general outlook on life.
We returned to the Christmas market and bought some of the cheese that we had sampled; we also bought chestnuts which were roasted as we watched, two kinds of olives, and a block of candy made from egg whites, honey, and pistachios. The cheese is "cacio cavallo" (horse cheese) a 'stretched curd' like mozzarella, but shaped differently and aged. It has been around since 500BC (described by Hippocrates), one of the oldest documented cheeses. It probably came to Apuglia (south-east Italy) from Greece. It is also very tasty.
We stayed at home yesterday, studying our Italian, and ventured out for groceries in the late afternoon. Some food items are amazingly varied and excellent, like pasta and preserved meats, but others are harder to find, especially vegetables. The outdoor fruit and vegetable stands tend to have better produce; on the other hand, we can't pick over the vegetables the way we do at Market Basket - that is frowned upon here. We take what the clerk gives us, with mixed results. The red wine seems to be uniformly great, though.
After a night of insomnia, I was ready to call off our planned expedition up the famous portico that leads to the church of San Luca. We started out anyway, and gradually both of us began to feel stronger. It took an hour to walk from our apartment near the University to the beginning of the portico, and then took about an hour and a half to arrive at the church. Many younger people passed us, as clearly the steps are used for exercise by the fitness crowd. The climb upward seemed endless, and coming down seemed like nothing at all. The church and the views from the top of the hill are well worth seeing. I will post another gallery of our pictures above this. Though tired, and with sore feet and legs, we felt good by the time we got home and made a late lunch.