Although the streets approaching it seemed as empty as last year’s New Year’s Eve, Lucca’s Teatro Del Giglio was packed. We were truly glad we got our tickets just as they had been put on sale, for Andrea Colombini, conductor of the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra, has a very special way of celebrating the New Year, as the posters proclaimed, and the Lucchesi public now appear to have realised en masse.
Andrea appeared from on high introducing the evening from a video screen recording from the Musicverein, Vienna ,where only ten days previously we’d attended his highly successful concert there. (see https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/lucca-conquers-vienna-with-music/)
In an evening teeming with musical bubblies we were treated to the three tenorial voices of Mattia Nebbiai, Angelo Fiore and Simone Frediani, accompanied by pianist Diego Fiorini, singing a selection of great arias from bel canto through verismo to Neapolitan songs.
Finally, Andrea appeared in the flesh and, in the absence of any printed programme, presented each of the evening’s items with true gusto.
Then the Royal Scots Guards, with Royal permission and flying the banner presented to them by the city of Lucca in last year’s concert, took over the stage with their swirling pipes and virtuoso renderings of reels and marches. Two of the guards danced a jig and then the regiment was joined by the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra on stage which had been prepared with an elegant delightful classical setting. Incidentally, Andrea is an honorary member of the regiment.
To top the bill, ever-rising star Emma Morton, accompanied by partner Luca Giovacchini on guitar, appeared. In case you didn’t know, Emma hails from Edinburgh and is of Barga origin where she has a particularly devoted following. Emma shot to fame through her success in X-factor 2014 edition, and her voice is bluesy in the highest expressiveness (her heroine is Billie Holiday and her little daughter is named after her). Emma sang Scotland’s unofficial national anthem, “O flower of Scotland when will we see your like again” with particular expressiveness. Burns’ quintessential love song, Ae Fond Kiss, was a heavenly experience and the concentrated silence of the audience was a true reflection of Emma’s expressive powers.
Viennese items followed: two polkas, one, the “FeuerFest”, with a virtuoso part for anvil (executed brilliantly by Colombini) and “Auf Der Jagd”, a hunting polka, with obbligato part for rifle, again expertly handled by Colombini, who successfully managed to shoot a piratical cell-phone in the auditorium, and concluded with the bluest waltz of all.
1915 is Italy’s hundredth anniversary of its entry into the abattoir that was World War One. “Late again” commented Andrea, but there the humour ended, for after a melting pibroch played by one of the Scots Guards pipers from high above Giglio’s Royal Box, the “Canzone del Piave”, one of Italy’s greatest patriotic songs, composed by Ermete Giovanni Gaeta in 1918 and sung movingly by the three tenors, brought back home the image of this river, “Sacro alla Patria” (sacred to the fatherland) which ran red with the blood of cannon fodder. “Death is the only winner of any war” reminded our conductor and we immediately thought of all the hundreds of wars which are continuing to stain our planet even as we enter into the New Year that is 2015…
The evening concluded with the promised buffet of pandoro, panettone and spumante, and we exited into a 5-degree-below-freezing Piazza Grande warmed by the multifarious musical experiences Colombini and his band of expert musicians from both Scotland and Italy had served us, fully confident that 2015 has every chance of bringing us better things than the old year.
A Happy New Year to All My Devoted Readers!
(PS. Incidentally, if you want more on last year’s occasion together with videos etc. just click on my post at http://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/hogmanay-lucca-style/)