With friends (and performers) Lynn Rice-See and David See, I produced a concert featuring my own composition Strade Bolognesi. Also on the program were Fantasy on Cenerentola by composer David See, and Idea for a Barcarolle by composer David Salvage. The concert was on the evening of November 6, 2022 in Sala Mozart of the Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna. It was a Bologna-themed concert, and the town sent a representative (Mattia Santori) who seemed enthusiastic about the event.
It was a lovely concert; many of our Italian friends and acquaintances showed up, and many of us went out for pizza at the nearby Vasiliko restaurant. The pizza and the company were excellent.
I had the concert recorded (audio) by my friend Pietro Giunta, and Giacomo Grassi videotaped it. The combined audio-video is now on YouTube (see below).
Of course Bologna is known for its food, though oddly enough, I find myself less hungry here than at home in the US. We had a meal last night with Mark and Corinne, retired theater-educators that we met on the bus when we arrived in Milan. I ordered the dish below, tagliatelle with ham and peas, because it sounded simple. It was really good. The restaurant was F.G. Pasquini, just around the corner from Piazza Maggiore, and near the Comet store, where we shop for electronics.
We went to the Conservatorio Gian Battista Martini to offer posters about our concert, and we received a nice tour from a nice staff person. There were a number of busts in alcoves; I especially likes the one of Busoni, since I am a big fan of his Fantasia Contrappuntistica. The bust seems to have been created in his memory by a number of his students.
Yes, I realize that the titles of my last two posts contain the word 'very.' Boring old Charles!
I haven't taken any great, interesting pictures. See the one below, taken standing in front of the police station, where we were trying to register our presence in Bologna, like good, rule-obeying folks. Like most encounters with bureaucracy here, this occasion was not very satisfactory, but I'll spare you the details.
We have been getting our programs and flyers printed and distributed to local music shops, the Conservatory, and the Accademia Filarmonica, where the concert will take place.
Sorry to be so boring. Maybe I will try to climb up the outer walls of the Two Towers whilst blowing bubbles and singing Rossini.
A friend of a friend had an extra ticket to a pre-production performance of Rossini's 'Le Compte Ory', so I went to see it last Sunday evening. I would not have guessed that it was a dress rehearsal; it seemed to me that the company was throwing everything they had at the silly farce, and having a great time dancing, mugging, and singing incredibly well. The principals all had the ability to sing over the orchestra AND articulate all of the vocal ornaments that Rossini wrote. Some of the minor roles had very funny comic moments, and there was enough sexual innuendo and drunkenness to please anyone who enjoys such. I got a bit tired of the inevitable V-I chord progressions at every climax, and I don't understand why dinosaurs appeared at the end of Act 1, but on balance it was a lot of fun.
Our host here in Bologna has a small terrace completely filled with cacti and succulents. One of these odd plants has a very strange flower (see the photo). It is quite hard to the touch, as if made of plastic or laminated, and has a disgusting smell. But it is beautiful in its odd way. My notes say that it is a stapelia variegata, or perhaps orbea variegata.
My pictures so far are kind of dull, but we passed some street musicians today near the Santo Stephan churches, and I recorded a bit of their music.
AIRPLANE, TRAIN, WALKING (Monday and Tuesday)
Our journey from home to Bologna went off without much trouble. I forgot my passport at home and had to go back for it, but we were in time to catch our plane, and everything else was pretty smooth. We flew into Dublin, and it was fun to hear Irish accents and some Irish language being spoken. After a layover we flew to Milan, caught a shuttle bus to the train station, and took the fast train to Bologna. Then we walked to a bookstore-cafe near the Two Towers and had a sandwich. Our friend Pietro met us there and, on his scooter, carried one of our bags to our apartment in Murri (south-east of the central part of Bologna). We walked from the towers to Murri, which was a lot of unaccustomed walking, but good for us. We met our hostess, Roberta, and had dinner at the apartment with her and Pietro and Cinzia. It was so good to see them again. Since we hadn't slept on the plane, we went to bed.
WALKING, WALKING, WALKING (Wednesday)
The following day we tried to register with the Questura (declare that we are residing in Italy). The confused-looking policemen directed us to an office across the street, which was, of course, closed for the day. We did a lot of shopping for electronics at Comet, then went to Iliad and bought SIM cards for our phones. We toured the neighborhood where we stayed last year, and went to Cinius to look at interesting beds. Then we walked back to the apartment. In the evening we went out to dinner with our friends Lynn and David, the pianists (and composer) couple who are performing our concert on November 6. The food was great, but by this time it was just TOO MUCH WALKING for one day. It is a 40-minute walk one way from the apartment to the center of Bologna, and we had made three round-trips! However, it is wonderful to be in Bologna again. We like it here.
CRASHING and SALA BORSA (Thursday)
We spent much of Thursday napping and talking to Roberta, who is a former singer and now teaches voice in addition to another administrative day job. We also spent some time getting our new Italian SIM cards to work as hot spots for our computers. In the evening we went to the Sala Borsa library where we are volunteering to speak English to people who need to practice their English skills. There was some kind of miscommunication, so we re-registered as volunteers and had an apertivo and dinner at F.G. Pasquini, near the Comet store. We strolled home, enjoying the nice weather and the sights.
THE QUESTURA AGAIN AND ACCADEMIA FILARMONICA (Thursday)
Our second try to register with the police as a failure; we had the right office but were now told that we should register online. We hope that works. Italian bureaucracy has a reputation for being nightmarishly complex and hard to understand. We are beginning to grasp the truth of that. We stopped at the Accademia Filarmonica and had a lovely time talking to Laura Maccanti, the segreteria, a very energetic, knowledgeable person with excellent English, thank goodness. The Sala Mozart has a very good piano and the acoustics are perfect; I could not find a dead spot anywhere in the audience area.
We have decided to return to Bologna in 2023 to see our friends and see the city again in a slightly different season of the year. We will be there during most of October and the beginning of November.
One of the reasons we are going is to present a concert in Bologna. Last January we became friendly with Lynn Rice-See and David See. Both are professional pianists, and David is a composer. We had connected online through the NYC choral group C4; the Boston choral group Triad was a member of the C4 network.
STRADE BOLOGNESI and FANTASY ON CENERENTOLA
After we returned from Bologna last February I wrote a suite of piano pieces that celebrate Bologna. I named most of the pieces for streets in the historic center, and named the suite "Strade Bolognesi' (streets of Bologna). I sent these to Lynn and David, and they got interested in presenting my pieces in Bologna. David composed a "Fantasy on Cenerentola" (using tunes from the Rossini opera) for 4-hand piano, which will be a humorous and rousing conclusion to the concert. Lynn will play my pieces, and Lynn and David will perform "Cenerentola." See the poster below for date, time, and location.
We hope to have the concert recorded (audio, and we hope, video) so that we can share the event with those who can't attend in person.
We are excited to be going back to Bologna. We plan to do a lot of walking under the porticoes, seeing our friends, and we plan to again volunteer to help people learn English at the Sala Borsa library. We may take a side trip to Siena to see a friend who is teaching there. I am sure that a month will feel short - there is so much to do!
I have gone to conferences and even ComicCon in the past, but Arte Fierra Bologna is the first art fair that I have seen. I spent much of the day there on Friday, February 3. Directions to the entrance were oddly lacking in the publicity for the event, so I naturally started off in the wrong direction from my bus stop. I was rescued by a mother and daughter from Modena; the daughter seemed to know where she was going, so I tagged along.
It is interesting to compare the experience of Arte Fierra with a visit to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence a few years ago. In the Uffizi I felt glutted and drained, as if I had no more attention to give. At Arte Fierra, I felt better at the end of the day, more energized. There could be many reasons for this, but I think one important reason is that contemporary art often requires less attention. Often it is less detailed; its 'idea' is either obvious or deliberately hidden. You don't have to examine it closely to know whether it interests you.
After entering the fair I stood around at the first of the many booths and asked myself "why are you here?" I decided that the answer was "to find out what I like!" to choose from the smorgasbord and later try to discover common threads in what I liked. I wrote down the names of about a dozen artists, and I took a few pictures of things that I wanted to remember.
My favorite artwork in the show was a blue abstract painting by Claudio Verna. I did not get a picture of it, unfortunately, because it was in a small alcove and it was hard to get near it. Apparently Verna was wandering around Arte Fierra - he is 80 years old or so and still painting. I also liked some scrappy little cartoonish pictures by Gustavo Foppiani and some soft-edged abstractions by Mirko Baricchi. There were lots of well-known artists in the booths, too: Baechler, DeChirico, Severini, Moore. I liked the large, fragmentary neo-classical heads by Igor Mittoraj.
So I think I know a bit more about what I like now: beautiful textures and fantasy.