07/24/2014 05:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Festival Is Over in Spoleto

It is quiet again here in Spoleto, and that feels so good. The FESTIVAL DEI 2MONDI (Festival of 2 Worlds) ended with a glorious Final Concert in the Duomo Piazza, complete with American show tunes from the 50s and 60s!

'In the old days', I've been told by a long time Spoleto resident formerly from the UK, 'the whole city of Spoleto was locked down during the Festival, the streets were crowded with wanderers dressed in evening dress, and music groups played on each corner.' He (sort of disdainfully) implied that the 'old days' were better.

Since I haven't witnessed the glorious 'old days', I can just say that I loved the whole experience of the Festival. I saw some incredible performances in some really wonderful venues, and I saw and felt and heard some events that did challenge me in many ways. I realized that I still have so much to learn, and I am grateful for the opportunity to see such new things and to start my education. I think I especially loved the opportunities I had to try new things, to see new and different kinds of performances that I might have otherwise never known of or experienced.

I especially loved the Dance and the Music performances (where language was not a problem) and went to as many as I could. Since I had bought a Festival Passport, I could get a (free) ticket for any event I wanted to go to, and I did.

One memorable evening took place in the Roman Theater (dating to the first century) on a glorious evening, watching the GALA INTERNAZIONALE DI DANZA, which included pieces danced by the winners of many different competitions. Most of the marvelous dancers were from Europe, although there was one team from Cuba, which surprised me. The physicality and the absolute beauty of the movements and the choreography astounded me. I think I was the most impressed with the Russian team, composed of a very gorgeous and muscular blond man and a very thin and non-curvy woman; together they were able to leap and twirl and bend with incredible beauty and grace. Again, these were the winners of the dance world, and it was obvious why. There were many other fabulous companies, all with two or more performers, from various schools of dance around Europe. The only modern dance group came from Modena and I thoroughly enjoyed their contortions and expressiveness, and I certainly enjoyed their 'real' bodies (as opposed to the ballerinas who have very 'unreal' bodies). The whole evening was astounding.



The night of this dance performance was a busy one for me, because I had also gone to the free 7 pm Carbinieri concert at the Duomo Piazza before the 9 pm dance gala started. The Carabinieri band (dating from 1831) is, apparently, very well-known and respected, and, for me, it was like hearing the Boston Pops play, albeit in a very different setting than I am used to in Boston.

Here's the Festival Program info (in translation, of course):

The Band of the Carabinieri is known all over the world for the variety of its repertoire, for the formal perfection of its performances and the appeal aroused by its orchestra members, with their splendid uniforms, the magnificent composure, the profound musical vocation.

Since July 1, 2001, the band has been conducted by Maestro Massimo Martinelli. Today, with its 102 musicians, who are recruited and selected through open competitive exams, the Musical Band of the Carabinieri Corps constitutes a complex structure that interprets the most celebrated compositions.

Its very rich repertoire ranges from traditional military marches to classical pieces, to modern and contemporary. Wherever it performs, concert halls, theaters, radio and television, the Band gathers success and receives approval from the harshest of critics.

Today, the Band of the Corps can therefore be considered a full orchestral formation, that is profusely harmonious and engaged in a constant search for the best musical preparation.

Not by chance, in fact, some journalists have called it "a symphonic Band that sounds like an orchestra" and "an orchestra of wind instruments".

However, most people agree with Paolo Monelli's conclusion, who has pinpointed the secret of such perfection "in the fact that these musicians are just Carabinieri and bring, the heart-warming dedication that animates every specialty of the Force, with its manifold tasks, into the execution of their duties".

I think the whole Spoleto world came to the Carabinieri concert, and it was really cool to see the whole city and all the visitors. The whole concert was one of the (many) free events of the Festival, and in order to get your ticket you had to go to the ticket office in person; the tickets with seating went fast, of course, so a lot of us had tickets for standing room only, which was actually quite fine since people were sitting on the stairs or in chairs on the side or in the cafe. A few minutes before the concert started the gates were opened and everyone was able to get a seat, anyhow --- I didn't really see any kind of system but everyone of all ages - from babies to old folks - seemed very happy to be there. It was great.....


And then, on an other night at another lovely theater venue, I saw and heard 'a concert of the young talents winners of the 68th competition organized by the historic institution of Spoleto, with arias taken from Rossini, Verdi, Puccini.' These young artists performed individually (accompanied by one of two incredibly talented pianists) and sang beautifully. The Sala Frau venue was small and full to capacity, and the audience was incredibly supportive and appreciative.


As a matter of fact, when the performers came back onstage at the end of the evening and began singing "O Sole Mio" as their encore, an older man in the very front row (almost next to me) stood up and started to sing with them, loudly. Neither the performers nor the audience knew what to do with him, but they mostly tolerated him, even though he was interfering with the young singers. It was pretty funny.

The last weekend of the concert was a busy one. On Friday night, I saw and heard flutist Andrea Griminelli, accompanied by his cellist and his clavichord player, play a program of heavenly Bach (and some Handel) music.

Then, on Saturday, I went to the noon Chopin piano concert featuring the only female pianist, Dana Ciocarlie. Interestingly enough, she was the only pianist of the 5 or 6 that performed throughout the Festival, who did not talk directly to the audience. She had a Festival staff member read her teaching notes before the concert began, where all the other performers did their own teaching directly. And then Dana's performance was outstanding. I could watch her face throughout; she emoted through her music and through her ecstatic expressions, and her technical skills were unbelievable.

Then I saw a play, 'King Size', spoken in German with Italian sub-titles and American pop music. It was hysterical, with lots of physical comedy and lots of really strange happenings and singings and characters. It had a lot to do with dreams, and what was real was always somewhat in doubt.

The next stop was a Beethoven and Schubert concert, with Riccardo Muti conducting his 'beloved' Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra. This was another of the 'invitation-only' events which I had never figured out but somehow got invited to. The actual venue for the orchestra was tiny, so the overflow audience went to a gorgeous theater with the live performance on a huge screen; the screen performance was great because the camera showed the pianist's hands, the musicians' faces and the conductor's hands and face. The seats were comfortable, the acoustics were glorious and the audience was beautiful; in addition, each guest received a 'goody-bag' from the Carla Fendi Foundation, the sponsor of the event. Unfortunately, we had to leave early to get to the Roman theater to see the Paul Taylor Dance Company; even with such a valid reason to exit early, it was a shame to do so.

On the other hand, the Dance performance was nothing short of miraculous. The Company presented three long pieces, and the complicated choreography, with all members of the company dancing his or her own intricate steps, was dizzying and electrifying for me. The artistry, the beauty, the physical achievement were amazing.

During the intermission before the final presentation, 'Tango', it sprinkled rain on the audience and on the stage. A delay (longer than usual) ensued, and then an electric floor sweeper came out and slowly, slowly, slowly cleaned the stage; fortunately, during the subsequent performane, no dancer slipped and fell, so the floor sweeper crew certainly did a good job!

Th 'Tango' piece was lovely in all possible ways. The costumes (each one was a different work of art in many ways), the bodies, the leaps, the emotion, the sheer physical accomplishment were all gorgeous.



The last day of the Festival was a bit slower, which was great. The final Chopin concert, featuring Sandro de Palma, was just spectacular. He seemed to be a nice, gentle, unassuming man and then sat down and played Chopin, angelically. I saw him later in the day at a bar at the Mercato, and I thanked him for his music; unfortunately, neither he nor his wife or friends invited me to join them for a drink.

The Final Concert, in the Duomo Piazza, was titled, "The American Musical of the 40s and 50s', featuring soprano June Anderson and baritone Paulo Szot and the RAI (Italy's national public broadcasting company, owned by the Ministry of Economy and Finance) National Symphony Orchestra playing the music of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner. I loved it all, knew the words and would have sung loudly if allowed.

The setting and the view from the seats we had were outstanding, and we were in the midst of gorgeous, proud and sexy Italians of all ages; the folks around us were really lovely to watch. The Italians love to see and be seen, and their nightly 'passeggiata' (walk around town) is just one indication of their social nature and is just so much fun. And so everyone seemed to be preening and talking and laughing and enjoying it all before the concert started. Then it started to rain.

Since we were in the seated section, we got special attention, and ushers rushed to give us each a heavy plastic bag to use as a rainhat; I noticed lots of creative rainhat styles going on around me. The scene was really really funny; to see the highly stylish and dressed-up beautiful people donning an incongruous plastic rainhat (effortlessly) was quite a scene. Since the plastic bags avoided the need for everyone to open their umbrellas simultaneously, they were a great idea!

And the concert was terrific, too!!! The rain stopped before the first number and the night was yet another spectacular one here in Spoleto at the Festival dei 2Mondi......No one sang along, though....



Almost as an after-thought, the fireworks that, apparently, signify the real end the Spoleto Festival dei 2Mondi didn't happen right after the concert, as I had supposed they would. Of course, the World Cup Final was happening right after the concert, but I am not sure that was a reason for the delay. The fireworks started much later, around midnight, actually, just when I was falling asleep and imagine most people (including kids) are doing the same. It was too much for me to get out of my bed, so I missed the show. I just don't understand.....