07/23/2014 10:45 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Spoleto Festival Dei 2Mondi


I love arts festivals, especially the opportunity to see so many new and interesting and challenging performances, and the Spoleto Festival dei 2Mondi was really amazing. Since I am lucky enough to be living in Spoleto, within walking distance of the entire Festival, I was totally immersed in it, seeing about two or three different music or dance or theater performances each day. I saw and learned about music and theater and dance, all in incredibly beautiful venues; I feel as if I was taking a graduate course in the arts taught by the very best performers; I often had to do research on the events and the artists in order to understand what was going on. And then, of course, the language was another complication!!

Here are some of the highlights.....


A. Opera at Teatro Nuovo on Festival opening night (3 short operas - 'La Mort de accomodate' by Berlioz, 'La Dame de Montecarlo' by Poulenc, 'Erwrtung' by Schonberg), each portraying a woman in crisis. The event was 'invitation-only', which I received because I hold a pass to the entire Festival, and my seat was in the 2nd row and was truly amazing. The Teatro has recently been renovated and is a real gem; the sets were astounding and the music was glorious.

B. LUCA BARBARESCHI - CERCANDO SEGNALI D'AMORE NELL'UNIVERSO (Searching for Signs of Love in the Universe) - at the Teatro Romano

The Festival guide says,

'To celebrate his first forty years in show business, Luca Barbareschi returns to the stage with a one-man show, ironic, funny and full of life, accompanied by live music that will charm and fascinate audiences.
Barbareschi is celebrating the many successes he has obtained in his career telling the story of the artistic and personal journey that has marked his professional life. He does it through the words of the writers with whom he has had the good fortune and pleasure to match himself. With Shakespeare's wisdom, Mamet's pungent irony, with the visionary enthusiasm of Cervantes, he accompanies the spectator in an emotional voyage imbued with the magic of the theatrical game.
It is the tale of human nature through the words of the greatest playwrights whereby nothing recounts anything precise and everything alludes to something that one could dream. The variety of themes Barbareschi approaches and confronts allows the spectators to recognize themselves in them. This show is dedicated to those who have never stopped searching in their dreams, in the night sky, in ancient tales, in their expectations and in their desire to rejoice at life in that strange game in which we all have a part to play. A band, directed by Marco Zurzolo, a musician and friend with whom Barbareschi has shared many artistic adventures, enriches the show.'

The show was held in the Teatro Roman, dating from the 1st century, on a gorgeous summer evening in Spoleto. The Italian audience was as gorgeous as the evening was, and both were sparkling, and many of the women were doing it on high heels (in spite of the stones and steps and rocks everywhere). The theater is not huge, so the seats all had a good view; I was actually in the front row, where the stone steps formed some kind of back support, so my view was really extraordinary.

Luca is in his late 50's and is an actor, musician, story-teller (I didn't understand most of the words, but the audience laughed a lot! I could understand the gist of the story and loved watching his body language.





'In the evocative space of the cloister of San Nicolo, the young musicians of the Conservatory of Perugia are giving eight concerts with music of all times and genres, for varied instruments and groups.'

One of the important things I am learning is that the venues allow me, the audience, to be so close to the performance that I am almost part of it - its quite an intimate experience and is fascinating. I love the music, of course, and the dance, because I don't have to work at understanding the language and can just enjoy it all.



3. Also, the noontime Chopin piano concerts, held right next door to my apartment in the beautiful little Church of Sant Eufemia, feature famous and accomplished solo pianists. I think this was my favorite event, I think, and I tried to go every day. The program and the artist changed daily and each one wass fabulous. The acoustics in the beautiful space were pretty spectacular, and the music really sang to me. I got totally lost in the whole experience.....

The pianists were Pietro de Maria, Bourdoncle, Vincenzo Maltempo, Sandro DePalma, Maurizio Baglini and Dana Ciocarlie. I saw all 3 of Piero de Maria's concerts, and I am in love....


Church of Sant Eufemia


Piero de Maria


A. I saw 'Midsummer Night's Dream', spoken in Shakespeare's English, fortunately for me (with Italian translations on the screen above), directed by Tim Robbins. It was great --- filled with silliness and bewilderment and dancing fairies. The cast was just great, and the whole production was very funny, just as Shakespeare would have wanted, I imagine. And the language was, of course, really really magnificent to hear and appreciate. I loved it.




I also saw 'Love Letters', starring Aimee Anouk (age 81??) and Gerard Depardieu. The production was supposed to be held outside on the Piazza del Duomo, but, because of some 'technical difficulties' (never explained!), it was moved to the Teatro Nuovo and started at 10 pm!

As a result of the 'technical difficulties', everyone who held tickets to the play at the Duomo (a much larger venue than the Teatro Nuovo) had to appear in person at the Festival ticket office to get a new ticket. I did, fortunately, see the updated info online, so I dutifully followed the directions and appeared at the office, joining many other people. The 'system' was overloaded, and depended on the lovely young receptionist at the front desk, who was trying hard to accomodate everyone who needed a new ticket and an assigned seat. I think Italian customer accomodate, when it is available, involves a lovely, patient point person to give you all of her/his attention when you reach the head of the line; however, he/she doesn't care a bit about the long line ahead, and speed of service is just not Italian way.

Somehow it all worked, and the Teatro was full to brimming. The play, which consists of two great seated actors reading their life of letters to each other, has no action and is all words and emotion. Since the actors and the production are French, the words were in French (altho the playwright, AR Gurney, is an American), with Italian subtitles. Hence, my comprehension of the words was limited, and I found that the written Italian words were more familiar to me than the spoken French. The acting was marvelous, and I loved seeing the gestures and the expressions and the meanings, and could figure it out, mostly. Aimee Anouk is 82 years old (she starred in the great 1966 movie, 'A Man and a Woman', and was married to Albert Finney) and is still really gorgeous and fabulous, and Gerard Depardieu is large and gruff and emotive; their skills were outstanding, especially considering that they never moved from their seats.

3. Dance

A. Leonardo Eto and the Susanna Beltrami Dance Company presented a fabulous program called 'blendDRIUMStheatre#3'.

Leonard's website says,

'Leonard Eto is one of the best and most innovative taiko players, whose vision and creativeness deeply molded the way taiko is prformed and viewed in the world today.

Leonard Eto's distinctive hallmark is the fluidity and luminous, dancing quality of his play, the immense joy that perspires i his usic and the coexistence of power and effortlessness. Leonard was appointed as a 'Japan Cultural Envoy' sponsored byt the Agency for cultural Affairs.'

Accompanying Leonardo's beautiful drum music were beautiful dancers, and the contrast between the strong, masculine drumming by an incredibly physical drummer and the blithe, airy dancing by the incredibly physical ballerinas was terrific. The whole scene was somehow other-worldly and ethereal and lovely.



B. San Francisco Ballet -





The ballet was spectacular, and the night at the ancient Roman Theater was spectacular.

And the whole city of Spoleto was beautiful and abuzz - tourists and locals and performers were all walking around town, drinking coffee and talking and shopping and walking. Dancers appeared in various piazzas and streets, setting up really cool little presentations for all to stop and enjoy; musicians played everywhere, drums and bells sounded all day long.