Monday, December 14, 2009

Dec 13th Roma

The weather changed—cloudy and 48 degrees—what is called "winter" in Rome. Up till yesterday there was still sun and blue sky and staccato light creeping through the blinds.

Went on a motorino last night through Trastevere and the old city—glorious light strips shakey snakes, festive. Xmas has its excitement, though my friend Lauren says this is new—less than a decade old. Xmas was quieter in the recent past. So—the excitement of consumerism?! The lights still ‘get’ me, as the daily dark is longer---these festivities of light give one a smile.

Speaking of which thanks to lobbying (actually an email) by yours truly we will get latkes on the last day of Hannukah. I hope the nouvelle latkes but actually any kind with our bio applesauce will do fine. I could go on about food here—roast lamb with browned sage leaves, a homemade ice cream with bergamot garnished with mandarin orange granita—all at the academy; and a great artichoke a la giuda (the Jewish way) with grilled fish in the ghetto. The artichoke is sauted/fried so that it is almost a chip—divine: roasted taste and salt!

Backwards, earlier in the week we went to EUR, a planned area south of the old city that Mussolini built in the 30s and 40s (unfinished in war) to be the city of the future. Haunting in many ways: they leveled the land, built modernistic severe buildings, paralleled and white (to reflect the sun) with large flattened stairs, a symmetric church sterile to my eyes and straight streets in repeating shapes of crosses. A museum with the Trajan column stretched out at eye level —plaster casts of the layers. A statue of Fascism in which “facism” has been taken out and become a statue of “sport”—marble boxing gloves added! Our local historians point out that Italian Fascism was not anti-jewish until late in the 30s. The effect of this place had an aftertaste—both modern and artificial, flattening and gorgeous. A strange time in art and architecture.

Earlier last week (Thursday dec 4th) we visited the Scelsi house behind the Palatine. Lovely town house of the famous composer. The guide talked too much (our seats hurt) but then played clips of singing recorded by Giacinto Scelsi himself——rough and radical. There was a recording by a German singer of “ho” (which means “I have” in Italian) that was quite wonderful: light funny extremely futuristic. The house itself was filled with contemporary art—of Cocteau and di Chirico, plates and photos. Scelsi himself was rich and unpublished in his lifetime and curiously grew up near Leirici where Shelley died. Eveything seems to cross-fertilize on this trip—

Friday last the Academy hosted a music concert with a marvelous recital by Anna Caterina Antonacci, soprano and Donald Sulzen, piano. She picked the program which included exclusively romantic songs—the slow ones (one by Toscanini) and another accompanying poems by Ada Negri were best as they gave room for Antonacci to act. Some of the poems were remarkable: Verlaine especially: “Let us soak well our love”
And “To the breeze, rocking and soft,/Which comes to your feet to wrinkle/The waves of auburn lawns.” Such irony and desire. Missed most of the conference that followed, though interested in Martha Feldman’s work on the castrati.

Instead— I had a great massage. The young woman Elena we met on the train back from Sperlonga back in October has proved talented. She has now come three times and each time is better than before. Delightful for these rounded computer-used shoulders.

That evening Fiona Templeton came from London, in time for the masked ball which was a terrific success. Everyone’s masks were inventive: there was a Bach, an Amanda Fox, homemade Pygmalion and everything in between. We danced to Corey’s djing and light show. The crowd was large with many outside (smoking). Fun fun. I will include pix of this too….

Sunday we went to the flea market for last of holiday presents and bought some fine prints and littles, then up the hill for lunch at isole di sicilia---very splendid lamb chops and though our fish never came, we were happy since we were full! Walked the top of the hill till dusk, then showed Fiona rushes from THE PURSUIT (in progress) and talked about what would “mess up” the romantic beauty of the images. Sound, and Frankenstein—the under-topic. We researched via web and found Lady Frankenstein with a terrific sound track in the public domain by Alessandro Alessandroni who did the whistling on Morricone tracks for Sergio Leone. So —more coincidence—what could be better in italy? I will also use images from Frankenstein or perhaps dress up one of the fellows in gauze (!) and have him lumber about….

Monday we went to St. Cecilia to see the frescos which were beautiful and only open between 11 and 12 and then walked onto the Arch of Janus since Fiona has had threshold problems, losing her keys three times and jamming her thumb badly. We paid our respects, watched a wedding, had lunch in the Jewish section—yummy carciofi a la giuda (artichokes the jewish way). Amazing.

Then on to the Quirinale…walking all of the way— for the Roman portrait show. Magnificent wall paintings with delicate figures against red or black. From Pompei and from a house near the Tiber here. Painted walls for entrys and bedrooms and salons. With myths above and plants and animals inside the lines. The black and red were particularly beautiful to me (what’s called stage 1 or 2—3 became more literal). And then at last portraits from Egypt, a Roman colony (remember Cleopatra), at the oasi del Fayyum. Beautiful rendered death portraits of Romans in society—very semitic arab looking painted in encaustic wax on wood. One of a young man has not the typical rough surface but is smooth as oil with pale cheeks, many colors in the cheeks the nose finely molded eyebrows eyes—a person there and you won’t see the like till Goya, 1500 years later! The dark ages were dark indeed.
More to come.

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