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Friday, June 22, 2012

Oh What a Night... out on the (Roman) town for the European Music Festival

at Teatro Coloseo (at least that's where we think
 we were)
The current Festa Europea della Music (European Music Festival), taking place in 100 European cities, has a very full Rome schedule for 4 days, through this Sunday.  Never ones to miss what might be free and somewhat improvisational events, we booked 4 on our calendar for Thursday night and jetted off on our Malaguti about 5.30 pm for an early one at 6 p.m.

We were in the right place at the right time for what looked like the right performers (woman on piano, man on violin).  As we waltzed into the space, festooned with posters that seemed to indicate we had it right, Bill pulled back a red curtain and whispered back to me (“there are only 3 people”).  I responded “well, now we’ll be 5,” fully expecting to sit in the back of a concert hall, or at least something resembling a theater, only to find 2 benches along a wall, the performers in between.  We took our seats, along with the 3 others - men- for a very intimate performance of familiar classics in this performance billed as a “Salut d’Amour.”  A couple other men joined us on the benches and within a few minutes, they started standing up, then getting instruments from back rooms, and then performing as a group – an accordionist, two vocalists, later a trumpeter.  It seemed only the man next to us was not performing (and us – “we could get up and dance,” said Bill, “that’s about all we can contribute”).

What a performance it was!  The singing was full-throated (there was even one “song” that was completely whistled), the playing passionate, and the pianist and violinist seemed “in” on the whole thing. 

In fact, we had come early for the performance we thought would take place after this one, at 7 p.m., of Italian and German songs from the intra-war period by what was listed as “Fratelli d’Italia” (“Brothers of Italy”).  But, after the 6 p.m. performance(s) ended, we were invited to come to the “real” show “with 10 people on stage, at 9 p.m.” And so it appeared that would happen, and that we had just been given the gift of an amazing rehearsal.

It would be hard to top those great, intimate performances we just witnessed, but we were on to our next event (since the 7 p.m. one clearly wasn’t going to go on until 9 p.m.) at the Brazilian Embassy in Rome’s enormous Piazza Navona… we were a bit early for that, and, as we parked our Malaguti,  we heard coming from the nearby courtyard of Palazzo Braschi – a Rome museum, a woman singing jazz in English. 
When we followed her voice inside, we saw free-flowing wine and even snacks.  Well, never shy about joining a party, we proceeded to experience healthy “tastes” of wine, even gelato, more music (violinists) and even a fashion show of sorts.  With some effort, we discovered this was a promotion for artisan workers in the centro and around Piazza Navona in particular – sculptors, basket weavers, dyers, you name it.

Borromini's Hall and Pietro da Cortona's frescoes
We dragged ourselves away because we weren’t sure if the Brazilian event (to which we had taken the immense effort of getting on the invitation list by sending an email earlier in the day) was at 8 or 8.30.  We walked a few steps over to the Embassy and found our names on the invitation list and walked up the grand staircase into some of the most beautiful rooms we have ever been in (The White House included). 
take two
Waiters in white jackets were serving Proseco and water and we weren’t turning it down, especially while gliding through rooms designed by Borromini and frescoed by Pietro da Cortona, with the best views one can imagine overlooking the bustle of Piazza Navona.  The Embassy is housed in the 17th-century Palazzo Pamphili, and the Brazilians seemed more than happy to open its most beautiful rooms to everyone in attendance.  After 30 minutes or so of this astounding visual treat, we went into the performance by Esdras Maddalon, one of Brasil’s young classical guitarists.  As we listened I thought how much the Buffalo Philharmonic director Joann Faletta – whose instrument is guitar – would have enjoyed it. 

And, so, as we know but constantly are delightfully reminded, Rome is never as billed.  One has to be ready for the unexpected.  And sometimes the unplanned and unexpected is the best.  Rock on Fratelli d’Italia.


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