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.
Don’t forget our next painting workshop is fast approaching – once again we have access to the wonderful premises of Victor and Suzanna in Casa Guidi in Florence.
Just having the chance to spend time looking at the famous view from the windows that inspired Elizabeth Barrett Brownings poem Casa Guidi Windows is a treat in itself but we also e charismatic Victor to pose and the excellent Glynis Barnes Mellish to teach and inspire us!
See Glynis site to see some of her wonderful work www.barnesmellish.com
and hope to see YOU at Casa Guidi in April ….!
End piece – we had a life drawing model too – all day Sunday!
Today we ticked another box off our “must do in Australia” list and climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Despite the Great Depression the bridge was completed and opened in March 1932 under the directions of Dr J.J.C. Bradfield of the NSW Department of Public Works, designed and built by British firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd of Middlesbrough. We were told they used Australian, Irish and Italian stonemasons for the complex brick work, which took a minimum of a week to chisel each of the thousands of stone blocks into shape and there was much competition between the national pride of the builders to get it down below a week.
The bridge’s design was influenced by the Hell Gate Bridge in New York but it Sydney some people refer to it rather more affectionately as The Coathanger. It used to be the world’s widest long-span bridge, at 48.8 meters (160 feet) wide, until construction of the new Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver
The weather today was perfect : sunny -but not too hot, breezy -but not blowing a gale ….and not raining!
We chose the 3.5 hour climb as it was better value for money – ie exactly the same price as the 2.5 hour climb……??
Actually this is simple to understand as the costs are largely in the safety equipment and laundry costs for all the gear they gave us to wear – Onezees, hats, handkerchiefs, belts, harnesses in the summer, plus rainwear, gloves and overshoes in bad weather. Wearing of safety equipment and these delightful dungarees is compulsory – even for the 50 odd people who have chosen to hold their wedding on the bridge!
Then we have an introductory ladder climbing training session – and I mustn’t forget the breathalyzer …!
We were joined on our climb by Veteran climber Lloyd – undertaking his 55th bridge climb aged 85 years – passionate about the bridge since seeing it’s opening when he was only 5 years old. I hope I can still climb the bridge when aged 85!
Our guide was excellent , full of anecdotes about the history of the bridge and the Opera House.
An interesting story about the bridge opening in 1932 was in relation to a group of monarchists who felt that a member of the Royal family should open the bridge in preference to a Labour Premier of New South Wales, and having failed to develop any workable plots to kidnap or asassinate Premier Jack Lang, who was looking forward to performing the ceremony, they planted a soldier Francis de Groot., who charged forward and slashed the ribbon with his sword in the name of King and Country and “all the right thinking people of Australia!”
De Groot was arrested and imprisoned for some days whilst they debated whether or not he was insane – finally judged sane and freed with a $5 fine.
The Bridge opening ceremony was set up again and this time the Premier did manage to cut the ribbon!