I arrived in Bologna last night for a delicious vegetable flan with porcine mushrooms. The sun shines bright over an ancient town, and I’m off to discover early music instruments in the Cathedral of San Petronio before directing a photo shoot with an all-male early music ensemble this afternoon. Here’s the thing about early music: it’s passionate. Especially with an Italian interpretation.
There is this ancient stereotype about Italian men being sexy, the best lovers, the most passionate. How would I know? But if you’re talking about music, the answer is absolutely yes. Take Stile Antico, for example, the very popular early music ensemble sings like a group of pious nuns. If you want to be lulled to sleep after a long day – go to their concert.
Italians (specifically this group) inject an energy into the interpretation that will keep you drinking of their rich tonality and crusty texture like an addictive ambrosia. Erotic, indeed. There was nothing holy about about early music, even if it was written to ecclesiastical ends.
A musical orgie, I daresay. Thank God this blog is anonymous…
It’s early morning even though I vowed to go to bed early tonight. I will rise in six hours for a work session tomorrow before catching the train to Bologna. The photographer and I explored the city today, taking in a trip to the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, the second most important film museum in the world, and catching the glass elevator up to the top where we watched the sun set over the city from the soaring look out point. We walked in comfortable comradery.
The shoot took about an hour, and after that we were free. We walked, observed, laughed – and then had pizza and beer to close the day. The plans that are contrived over good Neapolitaan food are positively daring, and by the time we’d slurped up the last bit of oil with our foccacia, we’d conceived a new but related piece, condensed it into a useable pitch, and decided who would talk to whom about the possibilities of connecting with Switzerland’s most prestigious newspaper in … French? Horrors! We shall see. For now, to bed with a large cloud of hope hovering above.
I arrived in Torino yesterday on the noon train and was taken immediately to the atelier and home of the great Ugo Nespolo, who, I learned, designed the Campari campaign among a thousand other world-renowned projects. There was Luigi Nono from the Frani studio in Rome, the Neapolitan Stefano Vizioli of opera, Aaron Carpene, the Aussi conductor who became my instant friend the minute he called Corelli music ‘erotic’ to a roomful of scholars in Fusignano. An artistic dream team.
It was the first time I’ve sat down to a home-cooked northern Italian meal, and this one was just a ‘snack’. A two hour snack. Not only was the food so delicious Stefano kept adding portions to my plate. “She’ll have a-one of each-a! And-a darling… you have such a sad a-relationship-a with a-food-a. Just-a eat! Then we take a nap…”
After pasta con melanzane alla napoletana, three kinds of Neapolitan fried desserts, the creamiest gorgonzola, a pear with amaretto chocolate baked into the top (qualified as “pure perversion”) Ugo insisted that Aaron and Stefano play a little ditty on the Steinway in his newly renovated living room. The artistic stimulation for an afternoon laying the groundwork for a new project the team will be launching next year in the States.
I feel full and empowered. These people make me feel that I can do anything, go anywhere, reach my personal dreams and goals, and enjoy myself doing it.
Before we left for the night, I was scrolling through my email and asked them: “I’m invited to the launch of Cecilia Bartoli’s new CD in Versailles, and to a 5-star spa in Chianti on the same days. Which should I do?” The answer was so obvious to me because in the world of music, Bartoli is a goddess. I’m a big fan.
“The spa!” they called in unison.
Of course they did.
It’s still dark outside the gaping train window as I speed toward Bern – Brig – Milan – Torino. I kissed the children goodbye after having stocked the fridge with homemade zucchini bread and vacuumed the house. I feel comfortable in my jeans, white tee and little black jacket; deceptively stylish. I need to feel stylish today. On the other end of the line waits the celebrated costume maker Farani.it who designed (and won Oscars for) two Hollywood films. They’re also designing for Sofia Coppola’s Borgia TV Series. And then there’s me… world champion whoopie pie maker.
There is a surge that’s pushing me into a world where I feel good, if somewhat afraid. The world of the arts; of music, design, opera, history. Many times it is Italian.
Nearly two years ago (we’ll celebrate that) I was embraced and espoused by Italy. Growing up feeling somewhat out of synch with my environment, I’d spent years trying to suppress that side of me that is most real: the artist. A little off-colour, decidedly off-center, walking every line there is. Italy accepts that. The Italian arts say it’s ok to be unique.
Every time I think my career is over (I get like that, you’ll come to know), someone shows up and says, “We like you. Come work with us.” I’ll probably never be the journalist who takes that for granted; I’m surprised every time. The challenge is whether or not I am willing to take the risk. And the risk is not only a professional one (am I skilled enough to write this piece), it is a personal one (am I brave enough to drop the facades). Someone once told me: “Your own voice has done okay by you so far, right? Be yourself.”
Grazie, Italia. Arrivo subito!
My eleven-year-old turns on the light to wake me up. About six or seven years ago I slumped into this habit of just letting the world get ready for school without me. The last time Stefan (the Swiss husband) had breakfast or morning coffee with me before he left for work was about 10 years ago, poor fellow. So many women I know rise early to have that special time together before the day begins; it shames me. There was even a year when the little ones would bring coffee and sing funny songs to get me to drive them to school. I call that happy times; my girlfriends call it negligence.
But I’ve raised four kids.
A few years back I started working more, travelling and writing through Europe from our home in Switzerland. In between trips I clean the house, do laundry for six, dole out as much love and affection as I can to my little darlings and, quite possibly, the happiest corner of my life. Sometimes it’s exhausting, much of the time it’s rewarding.
This is the time to wake up. There is a great beauty to raising a family and caring for them, and there is a raison d’être behind finding your own place in this world. Reconciling those is what today is about.
I’m off to make the beds…
Candle light rims the glass on the table beside me. Fall is here, and the crunch of dry leaves like so many years passed and fallen. They might have been pencils had they not been the lovelier part of the tree. But their fate is past; they can’t go back.
I take a sip.
I will tell you a story about how I came to live in Europe two decades ago from Los Angeles, and about why I chose to stay. But tomorrow. Tonight, the candles melt and fade, the clock ticks hours into the silence, and the Brunello is nearly gone.
I’ll bring another bottle back with me from Torino this weekend. Coming?