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.
Way back when I was a hopeful art student – I studied Fine Art at West Surrey School of Art and Design based in Farnham with artist Glynis Barnes Mellish .
This photo was taken in 1980 on a holiday together on the west coast of the USA. A lot of painting water has flowed down our throats since then!
However, whilst I sold my soul to commerce and let my limited talent perish through lack of use, Glynis continued to develop her ability to the highest level and went on to become a well renowned portrait painter – specialising in the tricky medium of watercolour!
The portrait above is Glynis’s prize winning painting of Dame Kelly Holmes from the BBC TV Star Portraits series – Hard to believe that it is a watercolour isn’t it?
Glynis and I have remained friends through the turbulence of adult life - men, money and work crisis came and went – and over the years we have regularly gone on holiday together - and in fact the germ of the idea for my current business was sown in 2002 when we organised a full week’s watercolour workshop in a watermill near Fivizzano, a medieval village developed into a walled fortress town by the Medici in – (Well! would you believe it?) - Tuscany!!
Fivizzano is a place which will be dear to the hearts of my dancing friends Ann Robinson and Kay Lundy as it is the home of the annual ‘Tangoworld’ festival in September – one of the largest representations of Argentinian tango in Italy!!
Below are some of the paintings that Glynis was able to create as a result of work begun on that course – most of which hang in my dining room!
Apart from working hard on our art work our little group of ten ladies must have made some sort of impression on the local constabulary because when one of my friend’s husband arrived to collect her for a further week’s holiday in Italy together he stopped at the Police Station for guidance and was surprised when they immediately smiled and said “Si! le dieci donne pazze!” ( Yes! the ten crazy women!) and directed him right to us!!!
Glynis was therefore my natural first choice to ask to help me create a network of experts to provide the basis for my activity holidays in Florence and she has been a wonderful supportive friend both in providing her expertise and also some much needed advice.
We have now held eight weeks of workshops in Florence – and the subject matter has ranged from an olive branch, through various landscapes in Florence and surrounding countryside, right up to the complexity of a portrait of another of my friend’s supportive, but in this case genuinely long suffering -from remaining in the same position all day – husband!
Portrait classes have been held in my apartment but other lessons have been out in the countryside in the grounds of my friends the Venturini’s beautiful villa in Galuzzo, the grounds of the Hotel Villa Le Rondini, and various beautiful views in and around the City of Florence itself.
For her Art teaching books – Watercolour Workshops I & II (published by DKF) Glynis has developed a format for showing the development of a watercolour painting from base to finished painting – which most students find really helpful.
So – to finally get to the sales point of this post!!
During the final weekend of February - Sat 26th – we propose to have a watercolour painting class here in London – hopefully a taster for further classes out in Florence – but I am sure it will be valuable in it’s own right!
If the take up is good and we have demand for a 2 day course – or another day later in the year – I am sure this can be arranged – so I will put the event on Facebook Beyond the Yalla Dog page and people can sign up there or e-mail direct to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The cost will be £6o for a full day – ending around 4pm – a working lunch will be included – with painting water (wine!) if required – and if you let me know I can also provided basic watercolour painting sets and brushes.
Glynis’s Art books are available on Amazon or can be bought from me if anyone wants to swot up before the lesson!!!!!!
I do hope we can get a good group together to give the lesson plenty of energy – but whatever the size of group it will be fun!