Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Vatican, Vino & Caravaggio

Went to the Vatican, but was too late to see the museum. Better luck tomorrow.

Exiting Vatican City and crossing the Tiber River.

And wouldn't you know it? Opera is everywhere in Roma. This made me smile, and then I had gelato, which made me smile some more. And no, I did not wander around the streets with my cup of sweet. I sat down like a proper Roman and enjoyed all its goodness.

Vino is everywhere. I must have passed six wine bars on the way back towards my hotel near the Pantheon (more on that tomorrow).

Then there is Piazza Navona, which was as I remembered it: amusing and gloriously frothy.

The levitating guy, who was pissed off that I took his photo and did not pass him a coin. Darling,  I wanted to say: I saw you last year. Get a new act!

The fountain is even more splendid at night when lit up.  Since Trevi fountain is being renovated, it's the place to be.

Turner painting anyone? That's what this scene reminded me of.

And then there was the San Luigi die Francesi church with the amazing Caravaggio paintings, which I saw last year, and had to see again.  Right up the street from Piazza Navona

Inside the ceiling is gilt and glowing.

And then there are the Caravaggio painting. Larger than life, they don't tire the eye no matter how many times you see them. Of course, the curious thing is that they are lit via a coin operated box, which someone must feed, which I did: twice. 

Caravaggio broke new ground in that these works are realistic in a way that was shocking during his time. Saints with messy hair and dirty feet? It was a revelation.

Two spaces away, Death keeps watch.

A detail of the door, which mirrors exactly a detail of a door in Spoleto. I am figuring that this this is early 19th century design.

The organ case, which lies above to the left.

The ceiling in all its splendor.

A nearby street, radiant in the rain, the buildings glowing, pink and melon in the light.

And lastly, a Baroque masterpiece from which the word "oratorio" is derived. Don't ask me. I'm functioning on a few hours sleep. Google baby!

Dead Saint in One Act (or, otherwise in Roma)

No, I didn't eat on the plane while en route to Rome, which I had read was better for you; and I must say indeed it is: I didn't feel that horrible bloating that overcomes one at 33 thousand feet. Landing into rainy-one-minute-sunny-the-next Rome, I found that the Leonardo Express (we're talking train) into town was not running, even if attendants were letting people board. Take the bus! They kept saying. A young lady behind me noticed my yoga bag with mat inside, struck up a conversation, and before you could say Asana, we were sharing a cab and winding our way into the Eternal City. 

After stopping at my hotel for a shower and shave (oh how blessed), I made my way over to the Vatican Museum, which I had not seen since 1985, but found that I was too late to enter. What to do? Go church hopping, of course, which I did after walking back across the Tiber towards the Pantheon, finding caffe gelato along the way (yes, the only thing I had eaten in 18 hours besides an apple), finding my way into Sant'Andrea delle Valle, which Puccini set as the first act of Tosca. What I didn't see the last time I was here (how could I miss him?) was the dead saint, which made me think of another opera: Four Saints in Three Acts by Virgil Thompson, which lead, of course, to the title of this post (you have to live in a musician brain to understand that lateral transition). I can't get enough of the place, with its golden lighten streaming throughout. 

I'll make another stab at the Vatican Museum tomorrow afternoon, when the line is nonexistent (one hopes) and the weather more clear (so one hears).  

Thursday morning, I join my Umbrian Serenade Comrades at the airport for the journey to Spoleto. Am I excited? Yes. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Umbrian Alchemy

San Francesco Museum, Montefalco 

Breakfast at Hotel dei Duchi

On the way to our concert in Spoleto 

Unforgettable Tabarrini Rose at Ristorante Apollinare

Faux Symmetry 

17th Century Palazzo in Spoleto 

Delectable Antipasti at Il Panchiolle 

Duomo Porch where an informal concert is given

Founder Paulo with fellow bass John, post-concert in Trevi, Italy

17th century mural in our rehearsal space

Duomo in Spoleto 

Incredible Carbonara at Il Tempio del Gusto 

Wonderful 4 star hotel in Spoleto 

Walkway in an 18th century building next to the hotel 

Radicchio, apple & pine nut salad 

Roman fountain in Spoleto 

Roman aqueduct in Spoleto 

With Paulo at a reception at Hotel Gattapone 

Arches in Spoleto 

Amazing antipasti at the farewell dinner at Hotel dei Duchi 

Another view of the Duomo piazza 

In a little over a week, I'll be getting on a plane at JFK and flying off to Rome for two days, and then traveling to Spoleto, Italy, for the next thirteen, where I'll be singing with Umbrian Serenades, which was founded by Paulo Faustini. It will be my fourth time, each time being a transformative experience. I chalk this up to the power of music in a beautiful setting with wonderful people—and yes, incomparable food and wine. It sounds simple, but it's more than that: singing in a 17th century rehearsal space during the day, dining under the stars at night, performing music in 12th century spaces—all this creates an Umbrian alchemy that illuminates from within, connecting dots both inside and out, and draws a magical circle around everyone and everything. Simply put: Umbrian Serenades changes your life.

Photo Credits: Daniel's Dinky iPhone, Umbrian Serenades 2013