Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Notes from the Road: Part II

Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Notes from the Road: Part II

Article excerpt

Adventures measuring the majesty of the United States by odometer gave way in the second half of the summer to a long soak in European urbanism.1 Indulging in an opportunity to study Italian in Bologna for a month, I traded out my trusty tent for partici and camp food for mortadella and the region's manifold pastas. The language school was populated by a darling and eccentric group of students, each with his or her own story. There was the serene and stately Englishwoman who, after going in pensione, had been spending evenings in her village Italian club and summers in a new Italian city each year. There was the bombastic professoressa from California, for whom Italian studies represented a change of lifestyle and mentality; the Oxford medievalist living between past and present; the Brazilian recently quitting his life as a business executive; the singer from Colombia; the chemist from Spain. It was a lively group, and in our budding but broken Italian we would debate topics ranging from the relative merits of certain Medieval philosophers to the various habits of our respective countrymen. In the midst of a conversazione comparing preferences for German or for Italian nineteenth-century music, I was asked by a fellow-student where one could find the best opera nowadays. I struggled to communicate in Italian what first came to mind: that globalization circulated the same artists and productions from city to city; that as a result the once distinctive "sounds" of the great orchestras and companies were becoming somewhat leveled, etc., etc. ... I was quick-if not exactly coherent-in proffering these opinions, but her question stuck with me and became something of an idée fixe as I explored the musical offerings of the late European summer. Were there elements counteracting this collapse into the global mainstream "classical music"?

In celebration of the 450th anniversary of Claudio Monteverdi's birth (1567-1643), the Cappella Musicale di San Petronio in Bologna, the musical establishment (founded 1436) of the city's head church, in collaboration with the arts organization Corti Chiese, e Cortili (CCC) presented two of the composer's most celebrated works: the Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610) and his late opera II ritomo di Ulisse in Patńa. The latter I attended on July 21st at the Cortile dell'Archiginnasio of Bologna, the courtyard of the sixteenth-century university building originally constructed to unify the faculties of canon and civil law and the liberal arts under one roof. Today the building houses the Archiginnasio Municipal Library as well as one of Europe's earliest anatomical dissection theaters. The orchestra and chorus were supplied by the cappella of the Basilica of San Petronio under Michele Vannelli (directing from the harpsichord), while the singing roles for the opera were selected through the competition ENCORE 2017, sponsored by CCC.

A concert in Italy during the summer months starts late and ends even later than you expected. The heat of the day, inescapable in a country skeptical of fans and suspicious of air conditioning (a holdover, perhaps, of the ancient wisdom to avoid fetid air and wet drafts), encourages snoozing into the late afternoon and socializing well into the night. Although the show was billed for a start tíme of 8:30 pm, the doors creaked open sometime around 8:45 to an impatient crowd of overzealous students bearing opera scores, impeccably dressed couples, and signoras pushing straight through them all to chastise the staff for the wait. With pauses-during which one could buy bottled water in vending machines within the ancient, frescoed halls-the show ran well past 1:00 AM. Over the course of those hours, the Ritomo di Ulisse in Patria of Monteverdi and his librettist Giacomo Badoaro retold the Homeric tale of Ulysses' long-awaited return to Ithaca.

The production embraced the grandeur of its topic and a ritual element in its retelling through a traditional approach to choreography and costuming, which harmonized with the surrounding courtyard and succeeded in conjuring the terrible sweep of Classical myth from the modest staging and band. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.