la Scala, for Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette” . I’m not really used to the style of French opera

( here exemplified as Drame lyrique which avoids blatantly theatrical or grandiose effects) but I can’t resist a good love story and apparently nor can a lot of other people.Shakespeare was the major leaguer in this tragic tale closely followed, well, by more or less everybody! Bellini wrote one, Berlioz too, not to mention Riccardo Cocciante. I’ve seen the play in the theatre directed by Zeffirelli, on film by Zeffirelli and disguised as “West Side Story” (Bernstein), speeded up by Baz Lurman, and loads more. The very best comment I heard was waiting in a queue with some teenagers who were discussing how it might end for Leo (Di Caprio, Romeo in Lurman’s film)! Ignorance is bliss as we say, or let’s face it, at least a surprise! I also have a happy memory of prancing out of a cinema in Greece after seeing WSS feeling terribly excited -arm -in -arm with friends almost dancing down the street, to the disapproval of the Greeks,and singing “Maria” at the top of our voices! I hate nostalgia so now I’ll get back to Gounod whose opera was first performed in Paris 1867. This particular production came from the New York Met.

It’s interesting because it eliminates the final “reconciliation ” theme which we find in Shakespeare. Everyone has their own opinion about this. Do you want to leave the theatre dry-eyed because the youngsters’ deaths have sealed a kind of pact and brought some kind of peace to Verona? or would you prefer to sob your way to the train moved by their tragic destiny? Then again, did they get to have a last kiss? In Shakespeare no, Gounod yes. And while we’re at it, what is it about? A macho culture with an obedient Juliet letting the Fra sort out her difficulties? A very modern idea about the expendibility of youth by the older generations? Hmmm.

Costumes describing a very Venetian-looking Italian settecento, scenery effective, an athletic Romeo very credibly climbing up to the balcony. And his singing too was mostly good, a little too audience -oriented at times maybe. Juliet’s role was taken over at the last minute and I found her voice a little modest but it was a last -minute solution. Among my music -loving and very expert friends and acquaintances there was no consensus.


Auditorium ? Wow!

I don’t know what was wrong with me but I was vaguely bored last night, my own ignorant fault of course. Or maybe I was simply waiting for what I really wanted to hear. “Thus spake Zarathustra!” Of course it’s one of those popular pieces that everybody knows but not everybody knows whose it is. So here’s the lowdown.

Written by Nietsche in 1883/5 to delve into the eternal recurrence of the same, the death of god and the emergence of the ubermensch prophecy, themes to which he would return over and over again in various other writings and which led to some fatal misunderstandings by a certain other German. Apparently he stumbled on the idea while walking near Rapallo (some say Switzerland) but I say be careful where you walk! His declared intention was to find alternatives to repressive moral codes,and he was very “trendy” in the period in which existentialism made the underground headlines with young people wearing black sweaters in smoky French jazz dives back in the day.

In 1896 Richard Strauss wrote a tone poem of the same name, the introduction being variously interpreted as a creation or superman theme which is the most famous part but it is well worth your time to listen to the whole piece only around 30 minutes long with some parts seen as citations from liturgy.

Its life continued in 1968 in ” 2001 Space Odyssey” by Kubrick, adapted from Arthur Clarke’s book.. The 1968 film, as is usual for Kubrick, stirred up a hornets’ nest of argument. Rubbish or genius? In any case it is still much remembered, dare I say ,especially for its sound track.

Music, My Diary

Obstacle race to Beethoven

I really don’t mean to grumble all the time but needs must! This year my season ticket to the auditorium gave me the possibility to hear Beethoven’s ninth on New Year’s Eve. Lovely, until…I caught a glimpse out of the speeding train of the magic stop Duomo but we sped by! Where was the train going then? Where would it stop?and why? Well it stopped at the next stop Cordusio and I got off only to find that piazza Duomo had been cordoned off for security reasons as they were holding the New Year’s Eve concert there. Unfortunately not just the metro was out of bounds but so was the tram I needed and heaven knows where the taxis were hiding. I asked an official -looking person how to get to the auditorium and he told me go to piazza Missouri, “just tag along behind those 4 people because they’re going too”. No not clairvoyant, they had just asked him for the same I scurried along in their wake ,caught up with them and agreed that it was too far and too late to walk so they called a taxi. Of course when it eventually arrived it couldn’t take us all and although they kindly offered me a seat in it I could not decently accept to break up their group. So off I charged. Short legs, cold air, haste all combined to make things difficult. If only I had had more time! Anyway I trotted along thinking about what to do if I arrived late. Not very far before getting there there I caught up with a man who had overtaken me, he seemed some kind of official, to direct people to their destinations. Anyway, caution to the winds, trusting in my very un- frightening looks and in his not being a serial killer, I tapped on his car window and asked plaintively, if he could please take me to the autorium? No hesitation! He could, would and did. The difficult part was: what does one say? In the end a handshake sufficed. I was already reconciled with the world even before Claus Peter Flor’s wonderful rendering of the ninth! Happy New Year!

Music, My Diary

Special Sunday.

There was the possibility to listen to some music this afternoon in Brugherio. I think it’s really interesting when they offer free music, even though I’m not sure who “they” are. It was an organ recital held in San Bartholomew’s a church standing on a site used for worship since the 13th century but much modified since then. Once with a Greek cross plan, the new buiding was commenced in 1854, but it was elongated and given a new facade in 1939. Above the entrance is the great organ built in 1859 by Livio Tornaghi and boasting over 1700 pipes. Its most recent restoration was finished in 2013 and it was on this wonderful instrument that Irene De Ruvo played today.

The concert started with J.S.Bach’s pastorella, the second movement of this has an andante with an imitation of flutes by the organ. Then a Ciaccona by Pachebel, a delightful sonata by Giovanni Battista Pescetti ending up with Claude Balbastre’s Suite. As the organ is at the back of the church on high, someone had had the idea of sending it to a big screen at the front of the church which was very interesting as we saw the musician’s hands, feet and the music itself. The programmes are always quite short which is just as well as these huge churches are so cold. People came pottering in to admire the Christmas crib which I imagine will be dismantled tomorrow as it’s Epiphany.

Gardening, My Diary, Seasons

An almost perfect day (or the art of making the most of what you’ve got)

wp-1578089233403.jpgI overslept, not you would think the best way to start a day but there it is. I decided to do something I’d been neglecting but which fills me with happiness, take a stroll around the garden and take photos. I started off in the far corner to admire my handiwork on the winter jasmin (J.nudiflorum) and as any gardener will know, plans don’t always come to fruition. But I wanted to pull all the straggly shoots up, wire them in then let them cascade down in an unruly golden waterfall. At the moment it’s more of an unruly stream, but I’m getting there!


Next the big surprise. I found a “vagabond” self -sown raspberry fruiting among my budding Edgeworthia (E.crysantha). That’s certainly worth a picture. And the shrub is going to be spectacular this year, it’s covered in buds. It’s one of the most failsafe plants in the garden.

Then there are the lovely winter clematis (probably C.napaulensis),which taught me a fundamental lesson. Patience. The sterling virtue of the good gardener. It took them 3/4 years fromwp-1578095471597.jpg planting to the first rare and timid flowers but it’s doing well now. I should have remembered patience because when I used to go home to see my mother she always had rows of pots on her sunny kitchen windowsill. Full of sticks and dead leaves. “Why don’t you simply throw them out?” ” Oh no, let’s give them a chance” and to my chagrin, the next time I went home they would be blossoming as if they’d just been bought! She was the best gardener ever. I swear she could raise plants from the dead!


Next stop the chimonanthus. (C.praecox) In my 5-year gardener’s diary I noted on 26th January” bought my dreamed-of chimonanthus at last”. About this time of the year you can smell them even if you can’t see them. They flood whole neighbourhoods with their tantalising perfume. It was and is a beautifully shaped treelet which is quite unusual for a wintersweet (lovely English name for the tree) as it is very often straggly and misshapen. Mine no. I remember trying to bring it home lying over the passemger seat of my Smart worrying about how many buds would get broken off.   Moved to the most important position just outside the patio so I can go and smell it to my heart’s content. One of the most wonderful perfumes in the garden! and in full winter!

When it got too cold to click, I came back inside to read “the Bronze Horseman” Pushkin. Oh how wonderful to have the time to really read and study this incredible poem. It is just so rich. I can’t even begin to imagine what its like in the original Russian.