Cat-napping

Ciao, it’s me, Carlotta.

It’s been so hot recently that I’ve taken to sleeping outside on the terrazza where the tiles are nice and cool by night. It’s funny that not so long ago I’d sleep on the tiles during the day in the colder weather because they kept the heat of the sun.

I’m getting really high on this jasmine that surrounds me – it’s so intoxicating! Hiding in the jasmine is Corneglia. She’s a pretty wild cat and was already here for some time even before Napoleon. She hovers around us and likes to hide, as you can see.

Anyway, it might rain today so perhaps I might even decide to sleep on Francis’ bed again tonight.

Francis would like to know what those orange flowers are called. They always come out at this time of year.

Have a nice day from a very busy cat. Or I should be if I wasn’t such a great procatstinator!

PS One thing my butler has done is to continue his blog at

 

https://longoio3.wordpress.com/

 

Do remember that you want to carry on following me and my friends!

Corsanico Festival

TWO CENTURIES OF SACRED ARIAS

The curtain rises on the “Corsanico Festival 2017”, the 36th International Classical Music Festival organized by “The Friends of the Vincenzo Colonna Organ”, Corsanico’s Cultural Association under Graziano Barsotti’s artistic direction. The concert series has the prestigious patronage of the Senate, the Tuscany Region and Lucca Province and is held in the charming artistic setting of Corsanico’s Pieve di S. Michele Arcangelo of.

Ten concerts, five in July and five in August, all themed, but which will have as the centrepiece the great historical organ now known throughout the world: an instrument which is a masterpiece of Venetian organ building, built in 1602 by Vincenzo Colonna.

The thirty six seasons of the organ festival have brought, the world’s greatest organists, orchestras, ensembles and world-famous soloists to Corsanico. This year’s festival is as varied as ever, with music ranging from the middle ages to the present age, touching nineteenth-century opera up to film music, underlining the international importance and excellence of this festival.

Its importance is such that the Senate of the Italian Republic has sent the festival’s director Graziano Barsotti an honorary representative medal for the 2016 Corsanico Festival.

The inaugural evening will be held on Saturday July 8th and is titled “Two centuries of sacred arias”. The performers, organist Gabriele Giacomelli and soprano Maria Gaia Pellegrini will include music by Vivaldi, Handel, Rossini, Mendelssohn, Bellini, Saint-Saens, Verdi and Tosti.

Tickets €. 10

Concerts start at 9.15 pm

Info: tel. 0584 954016 cell phone. 328 5391833

http://www.corsanicomusica.it

grazianobarsotti@libero.it

www.corsanicomusica.it

CARMINA BURANA WITH THE ESAENSEMBLE

On Saturday, July 15, an evening of ancient music, dedicated to the famous medieval composition “Carmina Burana” (XII century).

An interpretation on a vertical axis, performed by the EsaEnsemble vocal sextet.

The vocal and instrumental ensemble is conducted by Sergio Chierici.

Tickets €. 10

BROMLEY YOUTH ORCHESTRA CONDUCTED BY JONATHAN JOSEPH

On Tuesday, July 18, the London Bromley Youth Orchestra, conducted by Jonathan Joseph, will perform music by J. S. Bach, Tchaikovsky, Peter Warlock and F. J. Haydn.

Free admission

OSCAR’ FILM MUSIC FOR BASSOON AND PIANO

Friday, July 21, “Oscar Music” performers, Fabrizio Datteri-piano; Paolo Carlini-bassoon.

Music by Rossini, Gaslini, Pieranuzzi, Morricone, Bacalov, Rota, Boccadoro and Saint-Saens.

Tickets €. 10

RENAISSANCE AND BAROQUE MUSIC FOR VOICE AND ORGAN

Saturday, July 29, “Acclamationi divote” beautiful and touching renaissance and baroque compositions, performed by Olimpio Medori organ and Paolo Fanciullacci tenor. Music by Frescobaldi, Monteverdi, Viadana, Pasquini, Grandi, Rossi, Sanchez, Storace and Legrenzi.

Tickets €. 10.

 ALL-BACH CONCERT

Saturday, August 5, “All Bach” evening dedicated to the great composer Johan Sebastian Bach, played on the organ by Daniele Boccaccio.

Tickets €. 10

LISTENING TO THE CINEMA

On Sunday, August 13, “Listening to the cinema” with the Tuscan Chamber Orchestra, which has repeatedly participated in the Corsanico Festival, always obtaining critical praise with its first violin Antonio Aiello, concertmaster and Matteo Venturini organist. Music by Morricone, Bacalov, Zimmer, Norman, Williams, Morris, Piovani.

Tickets €. 10

MUSICAL TRAVEL BETWEEN CLASSICAL, ETHNIC AND JAZZ

Saturday, August 19, “Many Ways” – musical journey between ethnic, classical and jazz; “Oracle Trio” Carlo Palagi-guitars (see photo); Giuliano Passaglia- soprano and tenor saxophone; double bass; Riccardo Puccetti-percussion, marimba, and drums. Music by Palagi, Garbarek, Puccetti and Towner.

Tickets €. 10

OPERA TRANSCRIPTIONS

Friday, August 25, “Trascrizioni d’opera”, a fascinating program where the organ, together with trumpet, performs opera aria transcriptions. Performers are Marco Arlotti-organ; Michele Santi – period trumpets (see photo); Music by Zanichelli, Cacciamani, Forestier, Verdi, Arban, Morandi and  F. J. Haydn.

Tickets €. 10

ANTONIO BELLANDI DIRIGE TOSCA OF GIACOMO PUCCINI

On Sunday, September 3rd, the 36th Corsanico Music Festival concludes with Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ performed by the winners of the 3rd International “Voci nel Canto” Competition. ‘Musica Omnia’ orchestra conducted by Antonio Bellandi; Directed by Patrizia Morandini; Set designer: Alessio Menicocci.

Tickets €. 15,00

 

 

Little Churches with Great Interiors

Italy not only possesses some of the world’s most resplendent ecclesiastical buildings (like the cathedrals of Pisa, Florence, Milan and – my favourite – Siena. Italy also has hundreds of little churches (chiesine or chiesette – as they are called). These little churches may date back to Romanesque times and, therefore, could be at least a thousand years old. Most are built on a very simple plan: rectangular with usually a semi-circular apse. Here are just three examples near us in the Serchio valley.

San Martino a Greppo near Valdottavo

Santa Lucia near Gallicano

San Romano near Poggio

If you want to explore further there’s a fine facebook page on Romanesque churches in Tuscany and beyond at

https://www.facebook.com/PieviRomanicheDellaToscanaEOltre/

This facebook page doesn’t just concentrate in the little chiesine, which were either built for parishioners to avoid longer journeys to the main parish church (pieve) or which were, in many cases, superseded by larger churches. The page also includes the more imposing examples from this wonderful architectural era, including monastic buildings.

The interiors of the ‘chiesine’ are usually very simple and bare. Our own little chiesina at Longoio had its once-a-year great day when Mass was celebrated there last Saturday. This is a tradition which always takes place in May, the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary by the Roman Catholic Church. Other little chiesine in our area will also have their annual Mass celebrated during this month. It’s a great occasion to be actually able to enter and visit the interior of these otherwise sadly locked-up churches.

Here is our chiesina of la Vergine dei Dolori, which I have often described in other posts, decorated with flowers last Saturday.

In another area of Italy (the north-east to be more precise, which we recently visited) there’s another very unassuming church which we thought would be locked as usual.

Imagine our surprise when we found it specially opened for the afternoon.

We decided to stop and take a peep.

What we saw in the interior took our breath away!

These most wonderful frescoes were only recently rediscovered as a result of an earthquake which shook off the eighteenth-century plaster covering them. It’s proof that even the destructive powers of earthquakes can reveal unexpected blessings.

The frescoes date all the way from Longobard times to early renaissance. I shall not attempt to say anything about them but just illustrate their beauty starting with the thousand-year-old depiction of the Last Supper.

These other frescoes clearly date from a later time (fifteenth century).

As the proof of the pudding is in its eating so the proof of so many unassuming chiesine is in their interior. The only sadness is that so many of them are usually locked up for, clearly security reasons.

We just happened to be lucky as we were at the right place and at the right time.

Our dear little Cinquina was there to wait for us and hopefully carry us all the way back home. Sadly, she didn’t make it (For the reason why see https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/about-guardian-angels/ ). Fortunately, we did, and that’s the important thing.

PS Why didn’t we tell you exactly where you could find the wonderful chiesina we were privileged to visit? It’s because we want you to discover your own chiesina when you’re in Italy and make it your own special space …. just like we did with our splendid example.

Spring Beans

Photographing oneself by the road-sign of this French town has become a truly old-hat activity.

In Italy the equivalent word for this interfering sexual accessory is ‘preservativo’. So if, for example, you are an avid jam maker in Italy don’t go into a shop and ask for a ‘preservativo’. You might just get a funny look. The correct word to use in this case is ‘conservante’.

Talking of humorous town names we came across a real ‘Faggiolo’ last month while doing our peripatetic tour in a remote corner of Friuli- Venezia-Giulia.

The ‘Faggiolo’ town and its environs should appeal to any fans of this idiosyncratic fellow:

Or, indeed, anyone who managed to escape as a kid from the good manner of ‘The Eagle’ comic and became a fan of the ‘Bash Street kids’ instead.

This one of course!

I’m not telling you precisely where it is (as I don’t want to cause a traffic jam) but the place and its environs are highly tempting parts of an equally tempting part of Italy which has its own language, as these bike signs in Italian and the local lingo confirm. (Italian comes first and Friulian comes next. If you speak Italian see how many words you can translate).

This reminds me that I once met a Japanese student who learnt Friulian as he was enamoured of endangered languages (Perhaps I should soon include English ‘as she is now spoke’ among these…) He loved Italy, except, that he had to travel with his charming Friulian girlfriend who translated for him when outside her native region into Italian. (I’m now researching on what ‘preservativo’ is in Friulian.)

PS Did you know that Italian is only one of twenty-six officially recognized national languages in the country – to say nothing of the languages brought in by the the recent high tide of immigration into the country?). If you are in Tuscany then you’re truly lucky – the local language is as close to Italian as you’ll get in Italy. Thank poet Dante for that.

Here are Italy’s official languages:

Anyway, I will postpone meandering further on this subject except to feast your eyes on Beano/Bean, a delectable and slightly neglected part of Italy which (fortunately, perhaps) has no ‘Mr Beans’ – signori faggioli – or ‘Desperate Dans’ in it. In compensation, it has some of the most appetising and attractive corners to be found anywhere in ‘il bel Paese’, including, not too far away,  the winner of the most beautiful borgo (town) for 2017

Incidentally, ‘preservativo’, if you were desperate for one in Friuli, is known as “budiel di Flandre”. Wonderful how we transpose our ‘French letters’ with reference to one of our other beloved European regions and countries……

PS Why is it both ‘Beano’ and ‘Bean’ on the town road  sign? ‘Beano’ is the Italian name for the town and ‘Bean’ is the Friulian name. (Compare Cardiff – English –  and Caerdydd – Welsh).

Peace Doves

Two important events are taking today Saturday 4th March, courtesy of Rebecca and Luca of Bagni di Lucca’s Shelley House. The first is the opening at 5 pm of an exhibition by Gabriele Piccinini a young and remarkably talented artist whose compositions reflect his often fantasiose and highly chromatic view of the world, quite in contrast with his own more reserved character. This exhibition will be open until 15th April during the standard opening times of Shelley house which are 10 am to 7 pm Thursday to Saturday.

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(An ink drawing by Gabriele Piccinini)

The second is a particularly awaited event. It’s the presentation, in the Sala Rosa of the Circolo dei Forestieri, of a book called ‘Lettere a Francesca’ by Enzo Tortora. Tortora (tortora = dove) was an Italian television presenter (famous for his highly popular ‘Portobello’ programme – a sort of Italian TV version of the famous London street market), journalist and radical party politician unjustly accused of collaboration with the camorra and sentenced to ten years in jail as a result of false evidence by corrupt ‘pentiti’.

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(Enzo Tortora)

From behind iron bars Tortora wrote touching, deeply felt letters to his partner Francesca Scopelliti. Luckily he was fully acquitted after almost a year of his sentence

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The letters deal with the nature of justice and injustice and dramatically reveal how a gross miscarriage of justice can be accepted with closed eyes by journalists who did not hesitate to vilify him on national front pages. (In a minor way I too almost suffered this kind of outrage, thanks to a corrupt UK policeman from Essex before I was acquitted). As a result of his ordeal Tortora caught an illness, which led to his premature death aged sixty in 1988.

A very special meeting with Francesca Scopelliti, the companion who loved and supported Enzo Tortora in the most difficult years of his personal and professional life is guaranteed. The meeting is organised by Shelley House’s director and publisher Luca Guidi and the interview is conducted by Journalist Marco Innocenti of the ‘Tirreno’ newspaper.

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(Francesca Scopelliti)

I should also remind you that tomorrow Sunday is not only the opening of the celebrations for International Women’s day at Ponte a Serraglio’s casino at 5 pm but also the last day you can view the exhibition in the Sala Rosa of the Circolo dei Forestieri entitled ‘nel Vento e nel ricordo’ (In the wind and in memory) and which deals with Jewish children caught up in the Shoah in Lucca province. I’ve dealt extensively with this terrible part of European history in previous posts most recently at

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/suffer-little-children/

Never a dull moment in Bagni di Lucca it seems!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flaming June

She lies there curled up asleep like a comfortable feline, radiant in the golden light of a late summer afternoon. Luscious drapery enfolds her perfect body, so delicate that the sinews of her curves can almost be touched. Behind her an incandescent Mediterranean Sea glistens under the torrid sun’s rays. To the right an oleander flower teases with both beauty and death for in its blossom is a deadly poison.

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A strange immortality indeed. But where are we? Not in a forgotten Hesperidean garden or by a secret cove on a distant Hellenic coast. Instead, we are at 12 Holland Park Road in Frederick, Lord Leighton’s house and studio and where ‘Flaming June’ was created.

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(The artist’s studio with ‘Flaming June’ on the right, as displayed during Princess Alexandra’s visit in 1895. All except one of the paintings have been collected together for the present exhibition)

As artists such as Van Gogh were ignored during their lifetime so for so long after his death in 1895 one of the Victorian era’s most notable painters was neglected – such is the price of fame during one’s lifetime.

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(Frederick, Lord Leighton)

Indeed, ‘Flaming June’ – for such is the title of this ravishing picture – was forgotten, even lost, for much of the last century. It was found by accident, boxed up in a fireplace, by some workmen renovating a house in 1962. Placed into auction it failed to achieve the reserve price of £100. A young Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of the first to realise the immense charm and importance of Victorian painting after its disregard, spotted June but could not persuade his granma to lend him fifty quid to buy her. ‘I don’t want any Victorian junk in my house’, she retorted. Finally, someone from a poor Caribbean island bought it for the newly-founded national gallery. It was Louis Ferre who was enraptured by the picture and bought it for £2,000. It now rests as pride of place in Puerto Rico’s gallery at Ponce.

We were stop-over passengers in Puerto Rico in 2004 on our way to Antigua but unfortunately did not have time to go and see the picture. It was, therefore, a fantastic opportunity to pay our first-time respects to June at Leighton House where she will reside until April 2nd 2017.

‘Flaming June’, for which one of the most beautiful girl in Britain, Dorothy Dene, served as model, Leighton’s favourite (perhaps there was more to this professional relationship but, alas we’ll never know since the artist was quite reticent about his life and never kept a diary) is probably the artist’s masterpiece and was his last completed painting. Indeed, when the funeral procession of the only painter ever elected to the peerage  (ironically just one day before he died) passed in front of the Graphic’s office there, in its front window, was flaming June, her immortal image shining on the painter who had given her artistic breath.

Many years previously we had actually seen Flaming June in the flesh. In a highly memorable scenic re-evocation of social life in this gorgeous mansion and focussing particularly on the relationship between Frederick Leighton and Richard Burton the explorer, (played by my friend David Reid) a latter-day Dorothy Ede posed in precisely the same way with similar aureate drapery, auburn hair and semi-sleeping eyes. (To this day, David regards this as perhaps his most enjoyable acting experience).

As we stepped outside into the overcast Kensington streetscape I wondered how someone who had studied at Florence’s Accademia di Belle Arti (founded by Cosimo I de Medici in 1563 and frequented by such greats as Michelangelo and Bronzino) could have been so passed over just fifty years ago…

Anyone who cares about Victorian, indeed, great art, and finds themselves in London must make a beeline to Leighton House for, in addition to the artist’s wonderful apotheosis of Dorothy Dene, it has one of the most extraordinary rooms anywhere: the Arab Hall with its dazzling tiles. So, two journeys can be saved by going to 12 Holland Park Road now – one to Puerto Rico and the other to a palace in the Arabian Peninsula!

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(The Arab Hall at Leighton House)

Finally, there is an important connection between Frederick, Lord Leighton and Bagni di Lucca. Elisabeth Barrett Browning, whose holiday residence has been so meticulously restored in Bagni by Laura Poggi and her husband, had her tomb in Florence’s English cemetery designed by Leighton.

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(Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s tomb, designed by Lord Leighton, in Florence’s English cemetery)

 

Journey to the East

Several decades ago, in this month, two young men, who’d escaped from school and had started to enjoy their gap year, decided to go east.

One of them had managed through his mother’s work to obtain a free airline ticket. He was to act as accompanist to a mentally-ill Sicilian person who was to be repatriated to his family in Catania.

His friend joined him a little later and, after a train journey to Messina, they crossed the straits and started to hitch across the heel of Italy. In some respects this was the most dangerous part of their journey since they were warned of a confrontation with a mafia gang at the booth of a service station where they had been invited to spend the night. Reaching Brindisi safely the two took the ferry to Patras and touched Athens where they stayed in the city’s youth hostel,

The next part of the journey took them through Northern Greece to the border with Turkey. The weather at this stage was getting colder and colder and by the time Istanbul was reached it was positively freezing.

Istanbul was the first taste the two had had of the mysterious east and they enjoyed visiting the City’s old quarters, Hagia Sophia and the Blue mosque.

The longest, and perhaps most uncomfortable, train journey either had taken took them across the Anatolian plateau through Syria, where they visited the great mosque of Damascus,

and finished up in Beirut.

At this point money problems stared to afflict them and one of them took a job as a barman at a ski resort in the Lebanese mountains. Baalbek was visited:

A meeting with a Swedish guy who drove a Volkswagen van enabled the two to reach a still-divided Jerusalem.

A dip in (or rather a float on) the Dead Sea was a must:

Amman’s Roman theatre was also explored:

Then it was a journey through Jordan past the H4 border post and into Iraq where they arrived in Bagdad. After a few days in the thousand and one nights city the next stage took the two to Basra where they were hosted by the British consul there.

A journey to Kuwait was rewarded by a chance to gain some extra money, both through giving blood and also by writing up travels so far and broadcasting the script on the English-speaking section of Kuwait radio.

Another van, this time driven by an English person, took them through the unstable Iraq-Iran border past the amazing ruins of Persepolis

and the graceful architecture of Isfahan and Shiraz

to a Teheran still ruled over by a Shah.

Thence it was towards Afghanistan via Meshed and past Herat and Kandahar to land up in Kabul.

The descent down the Khyber Pass to Pakistan was accompanied by ever warmer weather. It was now March and the torrid heat of the Indian subcontinent plains was building up. A stay at the hill station of Murree was welcomed.

From Lahore a train was taken towards New Delhi with, of course, the obligatory border transport hiatus where one had to walk a mile across no-man’s land to India.

A stay in Varanasi (Benares)

was followed by a crossing into Nepal and Kathmandu where a full month was spent at the mythical blue Tibetan guest-house and restaurant. Cycling and walking around the Kathmandu valley recharged one’s batteries before starting the return leg.

More of Northern India was visited, including Jaipur and Agra.

Then it was a return crossing into Pakistan and back to Kabul. Here a truck with a home-ward bound expedition in the Hindu Kush Mountains took one directly back through Iran and Turkey to Istanbul. Thence it was through Greece and Italy to come home to the UK from Catania airport.

This was a journey of a lifetime and one which changed the outlook of both protagonists for ever. The world’s diversity was opened out for them, the exposure to different cultures was seminal and the encounter with some of the world’s most amazing and often strangest sights was stunning.

It was also the journey of a lifetime because it would be difficult to repeat such a hitch-hiking trip today. Parents would have been dissatisfied with just an occasional post-card and no cell-phone calls. Certainly, the UK’s foreign office would have strongly discouraged such a voyage, especially by two teenagers.

Yet such an expedition was all the rage in Sergeant Pepper year. The hippy trail was a central experience for the youth of that distant decade and one which laid the foundation of social changes which radically transformed attitudes and views.

It’s so sad that practically every country journeyed across then has since been torn apart by inner conflict and exterior meddling. Some of these have been worse than others. Will one ever gaze peacefully on the ruins of Palmyra for example? And as for the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan…

There are no prizes for guessing who one of the two who came back, changed and chastened by their oriental voyage, was….