Corsanico Festival


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


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


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


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


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.


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

Tickets €. 10


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


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


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


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



Cor Cordium

As Luca and Rebecca of Bagni di Lucca’s ‘Shelley House’ bookshop have pointed out, there are, in fact, two Shelley festivals. The first is the one they themselves organize and which spreads itself out to Viareggio, off whose coastline the great romantic poet was drowned, to Bagni di Lucca where Mary received the first published copy of ‘Frankenstein’, to Milan, where Shelley wrote a vivid letter about the city’s cathedral, and to Rome, where the poet’s remains lie buried next to Keats in the protestant cemetery and where recently Rebecca was uniquely invited to recite her marvellous monologue on Shelley’s death. (For an introduction to it see )

There is also a second Shelley festival. (I should, of course, say that wherever people meet to discuss and read Shelley’s poetry then surely that is a festival in itself. I’m reminded of Jeremy Corbyn’s quotes from ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ in his much applauded appearance as Islington’s MP in the borough’s Union chapel.) The second festival takes place in Bournemouth and details about it can be found at .

But why Bournemouth? When Percy Bysshe Shelley and his sister Elizabeth published (anonymously) ‘Original poetry by Victor and Cazire’ in 1810 Bournemouth had just begun to exist as a health-giving seaside spa inspired and planned by Lewis Dymoke Grosvenor Tregonwell, a captain in the Dorset Yeomanry. The arrival of the railways to Bournemouth greatly expanded the town and established it as one of England’s premier south coast resorts.

It was the health-giving sea air and the beautiful pine trees (somewhat reminiscent of a northern version of Viareggio I thought) that prompted Percy Bysshe Shelley’s last surviving son, Sir Percy Florence Shelley, to buy Boscombe manor in 1849 with the intention of making it a retirement home for his ailing mother Mary Shelley, widow of the great poet and author of several novels and poems of which ‘Frankenstein’ is by far the best known today.

Sir Percy restructured the place and added a theatre in which he wrote and performed in his own, often farcical plays (e.g., ‘The comedy of Terrors’). Unfortunately, Mary Shelley never came to live at Boscombe and in 1851 died in her home at 24 Chester square, Belgravia (today, incidentally, quite near to the Italian Institute which represents the country which was so close to her heart).

Sir Percy, however, did manage to transport the mortal remains of his mother, together with those of his mother’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, author of the ‘Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ who died shortly after she gave birth to Mary Shelley, and William Godwin, husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, to St Peter’s church yard in the centre of Bournemouth. Previously their remains had lain in old Saint Pancras churchyard which Sir Percy regarded as an unhygienic and undignified place.

Actually Saint Pancras churchyard remains for me one of London’s most romantic corners. It was the secret meeting place of young lovers Percy and Mary and where they decided to elope abroad, an elopement which eventually brought them to Bagni di Lucca and the Villa Chiappa. It remains the final resting place of such greats as J. C. Bach, son of his more famous father J. S, Bach and a fine composer in his own right. It is also where Sir John Soane rests in a tomb which was the inspiration for the characteristic London phone box. (To find out other famous burials in Saint Pancras old church yard see )

(Sir John Soane’s Tomb in Saint Pancras Old Churchyard)

The Shelley’s family tomb at Saint Peter’s is a fairly sombre dark stone slab placed a little way up the church yard. To read its inscriptions with the names of the Shelleys buried within is, however, a truly amazing experience. It was difficult not to be moved by the place where Mary Shelley her mother, her father, her son and her beloved husband’s heart all found their final rest upon this planet. We were visibly moved and when we touched the grave we felt the pulse of a strangely warm energy vibrating in our bodies. It was a sort of cosmic communication. There was even a sky lark singing:

Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest,
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar and soaring ever singest.

The scene surrounding the grave has, of course, changed over the years, sometimes for the better and too often for the worse,

St Peter is one of Britain’s most glorious neo-gothic churches designed by that master architect G. E. Street. It has a magnificent interior and is headed by a tower and steeple which is Bournemouth’s highlight.

Less admirable is the name given to the nearby pub entitled ‘The Mary Shelley’. I don’t think somehow that Mary would have liked to have a pub named after her – a library would surely have pleased her more, Furthermore, thanks to German intervention in the last war, the old houses surrounding the churchyard were bombed and the department store facing the churchyard is quite out of scale.

However, all this is forgotten in the tranquil peace of the churchyard where the members of one of Great Britain and Ireland’s most remarkable family have found their eternal rest.

Outside on the church yard wall is this blue plaque.

As guests of a charming and highly cultivated lady, whose bench and plaque in memory of two persons so dear to her (and us) lie just after the entrance to the road leading to her own Italian retreat between Gombereto and Longoio, we were privileged to dine in her Voysey-inspired house before being taken to another important Shelley memorial and one which is to be found in one of England’s most glorious parish churches – indeed one of the glories of English Romanesque and gothic architecture, Christchurch priory – said to be one of the most closely guarded secrets of great ecclesiastical architecture. Indeed, I’d never even heard of it!

Here are some pictures of the wonderful priory.

I realised how much I miss fan and lierne vaulting on such an immaculate scale in Italy, no matter how many beauties this country can offer….

Inside there is this moving neoclassical monument to Shelley and his wife, Mary:

Commissioned by the poet’s son and sculpted by Henry Weekes, the monument is almost like an Italian Pietà with the poet transformed into a Christ-like figure and his wife Mary into a grieving Madonna. It’s as if the sea was Percy Bysshe Shelley’s crucifixion with Mary anguished like the Saviour’s mother. Why is the monument here? It’s because the vicar of Saint Peter’s refused to have it in his church and so it was accepted instead by Christchurch priory. I think the reason for St Peter’s refusal may largely have been due to the quasi-religious allusions in the monument – an irony when one considers that Shelley was already an avowed atheist at Oxford where he was sent down for writing a pamphlet on ‘the necessity of Atheism.’

I do believe however that reading through the great poet’s work there shines a light of immense grandeur, a sense of something greater than anything the material world can offer. Shelley was principally against organised religion which he saw, like Marx, as the oppressive opium of the people (which it certainly must have been in those repressive times) but I am sure Shelley believed in a supreme deity or God, call him/her what you will. After all, in his ‘Essay on Christianity’ Shelley writes:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Blessed are those who have preserved internal sanctity of soul; who are conscious of no secret deceit; who are the same in act as they are in desire; who conceal no thought, no tendencies of thought, from their own conscience; who are faithful and sincere witnesses, before the tribunal of their own judgments, of all that passes within their mind. Such as these shall see God.

We thank our dear friend who bears the same name as Shelley’s wife and his wife’s mother, indeed the mother of God himself, who enabled us to enter yet another portal into the transcendent universe of one the world’s most creative love-partnerships.





My Life – as a Woman

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Or are they? Men have visited Venus and women have visited Mars. The truth is that we all have both genders mixed up in varying proportions within us. I defy most hetero people, for example, to admit that they have not attracted same sex followers because of their mix of genders. The trouble is that many of us repress this fact; and that is so much to our disadvantage in our relationships. Luca Sereni has been writing poetry for some time and in his first published novel ‘Mavì’ he explores in fictional form his often fraught  pre-marital relationships making a noble attempt to understand them by writing a story of a woman.

‘Mavì’ is someone who leads an intense life in search of elusive happiness which never seems to arrive. Trapped in a marriage where she is unable to satisfy her officious and critical husband (although she cooks for him her most delicious meals and offers herself sexually utterly) and at all times Mavì makes a chance meeting with someone who for the first time in her life places her centre stage in her life. Suddenly she becomes transformed both physically (she loses fifty kilos), emotionally (she is able to enjoy her sexuality as never before) and mentally (she realises she is gifted intellectually).

The virtuoso nature of this first novel is that, unless one sees the cover and finds it was a man who wrote it, one would immediately jump to the assumption that a woman has set it down. In the nineteenth century there were novels written by women who, in their nom-de-plume, passed themselves off as men. A good example of this is Charlotte Bronte who wrote ‘Jane Eyre’ under the name Currer Bell. A percipient novelist, Thackeray himself, was the first to sense that this was essentially a novel from a woman’s pen. It’s, therefore, good to know that in our century there are now men who, Tyresias-like,  write from a woman’s point of view.

Mavì, derived from the French Ma Vie (my life) has further resonances in Luca’s life which he has brilliantly transformed into a creative work of some persuasion. Fifty quite short chapters describe in intimate detail and exquisite delicacy the transformations of Mavì’s life.  It’s worth quoting some of the passages from the book without, of course, giving the storyline away.

The book starts with a quotation from Erasmus of Rotterdam. From his ‘In praise of Folly’ which begins: “observe how with such providence nature, mother of mankind, took the care to spread even a pinch of folly and infused into man more passion than reason in order that everything could be less sad, brutish, insipid and boring”.

The book itself is full of revealing insights in the development of a woman’s psyche and self-realisation. For example (my translation):

‘For the first time I see the woman behind the mirror’s reflection’.


‘That part of me which had fallen asleep in the forgetfulness of an unfulfilled life has returned to knock heavily on my mind and on my heart’.

In last Saturday’s interview and book presentation at Bagni di Lucca’s Shelley House Luca Sereni in conversation with Luca PB Guidi suggested that the main reason for his writing ‘Mavì’ was to understand women. This, of course, seems to most of us men a fabulous and well-nigh impossible task to achieve convincingly but for those with wives or female partners it must be a daily exercise. What better way, then, to write a novel from a woman’s angle and where the protagonist is someone supposedly from Venus?

(Luca Sereni – left -. in conversation with Luca PB Guidi at Shelley House, Bagni di Lucca)

The book is both sensitively and racily written and speeds the reader through a multiplicity of emotions. Particularly well-written – because they are often the most difficult parts of a novel to avoid from descending into bathos – are the sexual encounters and the love-making which is beautifully described without any puritanical restraint. This aspect of ‘Mavì’ does however provide a page one caution that the book is only suitable for an adult audience.

I admire Luca Sereni’s valiant entry into the skin of a woman and his undoubted success in evoking the joys, disappointments, passions and illusions of the ‘fair sex.’

Women are even today not equal to men, In fact, as far back as 1953 the anthropologist Ashley Montagu wrote a book with the title ‘The Natural Superiority of Women’ … and so women are – in every sense of the phrase – far superior to us males…..



PS The book is available during Shelley House opening hours: Thurs to Fri and is priced Euros 13. The interview was the last of events celebrating  Bagni di Lucca’s ‘Settimana della Donna’ for International Women’s day.



On Saturday, April 22, at 9 PM, in the Tenuta Dello Scompiglio, Vorno (Capannori, Lucca) there’s a tribute to Giorgio Battistelli with “Aphrodite”: a voyage into the seductiveness, and erotic potential and contradictions of masculine and feminine through the music of the great composer from Lazio.

Besides the première of “Aphrodite – monodrama of ancient customs” there’s, “Marx Lenin Mao Tse-Tung”, inspired by the three men who have influenced humanity through their lives and their thinking. The work, written for the centenary of the October Revolution, is dedicated to the ‘Ars Ludi’ historic ensemble, which is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary and is sponsored by the SIAE – Today Classics” project. Participants are Laura Catrani voice, Patrizia Radici harp, Giovanni Trovalusci flutes, and marimbas and drums of Ars Ludi soloists, Antonio Caggiano, Rodolfo Rossi and Gianluca Ruggeri. The production is by Erasmo Gaudiomonte.

The concert is part of “Assemblaggi Provvisori “, a Scompiglio Cultural Association event directed by Cecilia Bertoni.


Giorgio Battistelli

“Marx Lenin Mao Tse-Tung” for three percussionists: premiere

“Aphrodite – monodrama of ancient customs” (1983), for voice, harp, flutes and percussion; text by Pierre Louys

INFO: 0583 971125

Press Officer Cultural Dello Scompiglio

Angelica D’Agliano | 3398077411 | 058371612 |




20170219_14390720170219_14202520170219_141059Chennai, or Madras as it was called until 1996, is often avoided by those who use the capital of Tamilnadu, as just a commencement point for their exploration of India. Less full of highlights than the other three major cities of the subcontinent: Mumbai, Kalkotta and Delhi, Chennai is definately worth looking at and deserves a longer stay.

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The Greatest Temple in India

20170218_10462620170218_101229120170218_11001320170218_11134120170218_10233720170218_09032620170218_091729Tiruchirappali, formerly  known by the British as Trichinopoly, is a city of close to a million inhabitants which lies near the geographical centre of Tamilnadu. It has a long and distinguished history dating from the third century BC when it was part of the Chola empire. Conquered in turn by the Pandyas, tbe Pallavas, the Nayaks it eventually became  part of the British empire in 1801 when they drove the French out. Not as frequented as some other great temple centres of India it remains a stunning place to visit principally because of two main sights.

The first is the rock temple built on top of a precipitious boulder 273 feet high rising above the centre of a maze of narrow streets. The temple has shrines to Ganesh and Parvati among several others. We arrived at the foot of the giant rock by nine am and were able to climb the thousand steps to the top without too much discomfort from the heat. The views at the summit were spectacular but what truly grabbed our attention were the great eagles gliding effortlessy in the thermal laden air.

The other place we visited was the stupendous Sri Ranganathaswamy temple dedicated to Vishnu in his form when lying down on Adisesa the coiled serpent. The temple is one of the eight Sywayambu Kshetra temples dedicated to the direct manifestation of Vishnu on Earth. These comprise five temples in south India and three in the north including the one at Pushkar which I had visited some time ago.

Trichy’s temple is on an epic scale and is the second largest Hindu temple in the world. Only the Angkor Watt which we visited in 2015 is larger. The temple is truly a sacred city with seven concentric walls or prakarams each one headed by a gopuram or gateway, the first of which the rajagopuram is the tallest at just under 300 feet. There are 21 gopurams in all, 39 pavilions, 50 shrines and a sublimely beautiful thousand columned mandapam or assembly hall with wonderful sculptures 

As always, however, Trichy’s great temple’s biggest attraction is crowd-watching the thousands of devotees attending it. The predominant colour of the saris is yellow, Vishnu’s hue, and among the worshipping crowds was an elephant who bestowed blessings by tapping the top of people’s heads with his trunk.Sandra and I received our tilak, naturally.

The lively and noisy scenes at a Hindu temple make a startling contrast to the hushed reverence of western Christian places of worship. Hinduism is such an alive and vibrant way of praying to the unseen godly forces which have formed this planet of ours. I could think of no greater contrast to Evensong at an English cathedral although, clearly, both are different ways of climbing the same mountain.

We really enjoyed our trip to Tiruchirapalli and its sights. We met very few westerners there and found the locals very welcoming and proud of their city which, incidentally, was voted the third cleanest city in India last year. We, indeed, wondered why it was such a pleasure to walk around this fascinating metropolis which is even mentioned in the great Tamil epic we are reading, the Shilapadiaram:

‘On a magnificent bed having a thousand heads spread out worshipped and praised by many in an islet surrounded by the Kaveri river with bellowing waves, is the lying posture of the one who has Lakshmi sitting in his chest.’