Giro di Italia – Stage 9 was hard work in the rain
Today started bright and sunny but by the time we got to Piazzale Michelangelo to get a good place to see the race the skies had darkened and a relentless rain was pouring down on cyclists and spectators alike.
Having heard that Sir Bradley Wiggins didn’t like going downhill in the rain, we waited only to cheer him on for the next stage rather than toast his victory today,- and even I have to admit I have spent nicer days in Florence!
Still it was a good day for the sale of pink umbrellas and packamacs!
Italian Style ? !
Patronage and New Models for the Performing Arts in the Third Millennium
6-9 May Florence held this International Symposium as part of the 2013 Festival of Europe -
A diverse group of expert speakers gave papers illustrating both the methods – and the reasons – for both present and latter day patronage of the arts.
Yesterday – 8 May 2013, I was privileged to attend the second day of the Symposium held by the International Studies Institute of Florence
The event was divided into three parts – the first day featuring Music, the second -Dance and the third – Theatre. The morning session was held at the beautiful Palazzo Rucellai on the Via della Vigna Nuova in Florence.
This Blog is not intended as a thesis on the four lectures given in the morning in and around the subject of patronage of works including dancing but just a very brief expression of my overall impression of the messages delivered by the venerable guest speakers and my expression of thanks for being allowed to attend due to my support of the upcoming Festa della Cultura San Giovanni Battista 21-25 June 2013.
Our first speaker was Matteo Sansone of the New York University – who gained his PhD and then taught at the University of Edinburgh. His passion is Italian Opera and he has been teaching students to share his enjoyment at the University of New York in Florence since 2001.
An Opera director whom Matteo Sansone is less than enthusiastic about these days is Florentine born Franco Zeffirelli - whilst acknowledging his earlier success with Maria Callas and the introduction of Australian Joan Sutherland into Europe, he pointed out that film director Zeffirelli’s obsession with detail and meticulous recreation of period decor led to audiences being completely distracted away from the Opera music they were there to enjoy.
The amusing Opera story that Sansone used to illustrate this point was the production of Aida to which Zeffirelli added authenticity by including several horses, two camels and an elephant to the already crammed stage La Scala in Milan -some of the cast are shown below!
Zeffirelli’s great patron in New York was the widow of a Texas oil magnate called Mrs Sybil Harrington - she financed 16 MET operas offering increasingly lavish Zeffirelli productions of ”Boheme,” ”Tosca” and ”Turandot” as well as Otto Schenk’s ”Meistersinger.” Mrs Harrington loved opera on a grand scale and Zeffirelli loved to make them! It reminded me of Tchaikovsky’s 13-year relationship funded by the wealthy widow Nadezhda von Meck - if only there were more such patrons today.
The second presentation was by John Honeig, Founder and Artistic Director of the Festa della Cultura S.Giovanni Battista - who was able to show us some fine photos of Bernardo Buontalenti designs for “Il Ballo del Granduca” in 1589 that made Zeffirelli’s efforts above look quite modest and unassuming!
Clearly lavish spectacle and stuffing the stage with supporting cast members is an ancient Florentine tradition – and Zeffirelli is manfully upholding it!
The spectacular art work , sculpture, temporary architecture and tapestry created to welcome Christina of Lorraine, the new bride of Duke Ferdinando 1 di Medici was festooned across the entire centro storico of Florence and the special events put on to mark the event would probably have cost the equivilant of the UK staging of the Olympics as well as the Royal Wedding in 2012 – and as with the Olympics the public paid the price for their attendance.
The six intermedi of the Ballo del GranDuca produced some of the most exciting integrated drama, dance and music spectacles ever seen at that time.
As can be seen from this concept drawing the whole performance would have driven any self respecting health and safely executive close to despair!
John’s lecture was multi-media, seemlessly stitching together the music and the images of the dance, opera and sea-battle in the flooded courtyard of the Pitti Palace. He explained why they needed – and we still need – a mix of private and public sponsorship to run such an event.