Saturday, 30 May 2009

Neapel, Metropole der Erinnerung

Salburger Pfingstfestspiele director Maestro Riccardo Muti

This Music Festival in Salzburg recalls the days when Austria ruled Naples and Southern Italy. After 200 years of Spanish rule by the Royal Spanish Hapsburg in Naples the War of Succession for the Spanish Throne led the Austrian Hapsburg to take over through political intrigue and manipulations. From 1707 they ruled the Kingdom of Naples and the two Sicilies. At the same time music style and musical schools from Naples started to dominate in Europe and of course Austria. The original music schools were created as part of the city’s orphanages and called Conservatory, i.e. to conserve, look after the orphans. The orphans were thought music and would learn to play musical instruments and play in orchestras at Court or in theaters or as part of Church Choirs.
The boys with the best voices would be castrated so to keep those delicate pre-pubescent voices. In time the Cultural life of Naples attracted great musicians and composers. Rich commissions were to be had for those who had talent. People like Alessandro Scarlatti or Francesco Nicola Fago did well in Naples. Italian musical style and singing in Italian was the in thing. Mozart later on would travel to Italy with his father Leopold and he was required to write in Italian and compose in the popular style of Naples, though like other musicians his patrons were German Princes and Cardinals. The School of Naples had an influence on his work.

This morning we heard at the Mozarteum a work from 1709 by Francesco Nicola Fago and another work by A. Scarlatti. The drowning Pharaoh, written as an Oratorio for chamber orchestra, the singers where James Gilchrist, Marianna Beate Kielland, Havard Stensvold and Lucia Cirillo. The orchestra Europa Galante was directed by Fabio Biondi. Beautiful work centered around the story of Moises and Pharaoh. The voices were clear and you could hear every word in Italian perfectly pronounced. The Mozarteum is a concert hall built around 1841 at the urging of Mozart’s widow Constanze Weber Mozart. It was recently refurbished and it is a beautiful white and gold concert hall. The Mozarteum has its own orchestra and a separate University dedicated to music and teaching.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Bolzano as a resort

Today was spent walking around this tranquil little town and looking at the shops, the churches and the Dolomite mountains surrounding us. Sat in Cafés and had lunch and drinks on the Piazza Walter named after a minstrel who around 1521 use to delight the princes and people of this mountain town with his songs and poems. Bolzano is made for hiking up the cable car to Ritten and Ober Bozen at 2250 m. The town has a brand new cable car which brings you up there in 12 minutes. Their is also a lovely river, more of a mountain stream, running fast and clear through town. That is about it, little car traffic but lots of speeding bicyclists everywhere. The people are charming and speak mostly German and Italian, we are still in Italy though this was an Austrian town up until 1918.
Tomorrow we go to Salzburg via the Brenner Pass and via Innsbruck where we will change trains. The weather for the weekend of Pentecost in Salzburg looks cold and rainy.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Well tomorrow we leave by train for Northern Italy, Alto Adige region also known as Sud-Tirol. Our first stop will be the city of Bolzano, where most of the population speaks German and not Italian. You are almost in Austria at that point and Bolzano also known as Bozen has always been a German speaking town. I really like this Northern part of Italy because it is a mix of culture. Accidents of history and war spoils this part of territory changed hands several times between German-Austrian Princes and Italian nobles.
The Dolomite mountains are all around beautiful mountains and scenic landscapes. Looking forward to it all.
Though it will be colder around 15C to current Rome weather of 30C. Possible rain apparently.
Then on to Salzburg on the next day, again colder weather, so we will dress appropriately. At any rate the Music Festival in Salzburg is fairly formal and people are expected to wear black tie or dark business suits at evening events.
Day time events are less formal but nonetheless it is usually tie and jacket.
I am really looking forward to this vacation, just the idea of getting away is fun.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

getting ready for the vacation

Why is it that when you want to go on vacation there is always something to keep you back. Silly things, last minute, things, all agravating. Friday I am getting my hair cut, then Saturday I go to the vets with the puppies for their shots, Monday is the last day at work and Tuesday I drive puppies to the farm to visit with their relatives. Wednesday we leave for Bolzano by train. Off on vacation, it will be a nice time, because we are out of Rome and will see different things, hear a different language (Austrian German) different food and mentality. The music festival in Salzburg is one of the great ones in Europe and we do it all by train which is nice because I do not have to drive anywhere.

Speaking of which, I had 2 parking tickets today, in front of my house. I parked on the street because they were repairing the entrance. It seems the police targeted me, will see about how to settle this matter tomorrow.

The weather is really hot now in Rome, it seems summer appeared all of a sudden with 30C in the shade. Which means that the figues season is not far away, we have 2 trees by the house and they are lovely full of fruit. Will try to get at them before the birds do.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Monday Holiday in Rome

Today is a Canadian holiday so I have the day off and a beautiful day it is. We visited with Nancy de Concilliis, who has lived in Rome for 40 yrs and has one of the best walking tours in Rome. All exclusive spots off the beaten track and quite different from what the crowds go to see. She is also a professional and has a sense of humour.
Today we went to the Aventive Hill which has 2 spurs with both ending in cliffs above the Tiber river. We took the metro to Circo Maximo ( the ancient roman chariot racetrack) and got off there. This is where the FAO ( food and agricultural agency) of the UN has its HQ. We then walked up the hill to Santa Sabina which is a 4th century church this was the first church we visited today with Nancy. We then visited San Alessio, who is believed to be an Eastern Saint next door and then San Prisca. All 3 buildings are of the same age about 1600 years old. But only Santa Sabina has kept the look inside and out of the old Roman basilica style. So when you walk in, it is as it was all those centuries ago, you are stepping back in time. This is also the church where Saint Dominic lived and worked all his life, today Dominican friars tend the place.

The 3 churches are also built on top of once private roman homes, once owned by the Saint after which they are now named. Sabina, we known little about her, except that she was a wealthy Roman lady and her house was a meeting place for early Christians. This church is amazing because the doors of the Church are carved wood and have miraculously survived to this day. In the top left panel of the door is one of the very first representation of the cruxificion. It is rare because the cruxificion only becomes a widespread symbol of Christianity in the 7th century. Seeing these doors alone is worth the visit. The inside is austere and offers a glimpse of imperial roman style for temples and other buildings. It was so peaceful and quiet.

San Alessio next door to Santa Sabina is another church built above a private house which legend says belonged to Alessio's parents. He was amongst the first hermites and left his wealthy parents and his bride on his own wedding night, only to return 17 yrs later. No one recognized him and he worked for his wife and parents incognito, living like Harry Potter under the stairs until the day he died. Only revealing who he was on his death bed, the Pope canonized him because Alessio symbolized humility.

Santa Prisca is a church which in the 1500 was modernized by Pope Sixtus, unfortunately today it looks like he vandalized the church removing magnificient early Christian mosaics for reasons that are not clear to us. Only one large panel remains today and it is magnificient.

We also visited the Rose Garden of Rome in what was once the Jewish cemetery of Rome (1546 to 1934). Mussolini had the cemetery moved out to make for a green park overlooking the Circo Maximo. Today it is a beautiful rose garden with thousands of different rose plants, all blooming now in the bright roman sun.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

It has been almost one month since the puppies, Eleonora and Nicholas came to live with us in Rome from the Farm in Capena a few minutes outside the city. This week both will turn 3 months old, first Nora and then Nicky. They are going next Saturday to the Vet for their second series of shots for their health. Will see how that goes.

Well needed update

It has been a long time since I have updated this blog. Reason was that I was trying to arrange the blog into something I wanted and finally it is coming together. I am happy with the new look and will try now to post regularly instead of using Live Journal has I have so far. I could have 2 blogs I suppose. Let's see this as a new beginning.