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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, April 6, 2006
Caricature of Glenn Loney
by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
AMAZING THEATRE ADVENTURES IN TORINO: *
The International Association of Theatre Critics Worries about the Future of Theatre Criticism--And Even the Future of the Performing Arts: *
CNN May Have Some Innovative Answers! *
HAROLD PINTER WINS ANOTHER PRIZE! Denounces the United States Yet Again-- *
Not Only Prizes & Papers: Also Big Books & Mini-Productions! *
European Theatre Prizes Also For Oskaras Korsunovas & Josef Nadj! *
Remembrance of Awards Past? *
PLETHORA OF LUCA RONCONI PRODUCTIONS! *
Shroud of Turin Not On View-- *
A Tale of Two Hotels: Three Stars in Turin Beats Three in Milano! *
Leonardo's Last Supper & La Scala Sold-Out-- *
Northern Italy's Historic Theatres Preserved, but often on holiday: More "Product" Needed! *
AMAZING THEATRE ADVENTURES IN TORINO:
Although the European Theatre Prize was established in Paris--as was the Union of the Theatres of Europe--in 2006, the honor of presenting this prestigious award was given to the North Italian City of Turin. It was an obvious choice as the site of the 2006 Winter Olympics & the Para-Olympics. The original Athenian Olympics traditionally included the Arts, and this has been revived in recent decades.
Europe Theatre Prize Poster for Harold Pinter in Turin.
This year is also the 50th Anniversary of Turin's Teatro Stabile which hosted the 10th European Theatre Prize, awarded to British playwright Harold Pinter. Both Pinter and the Teatro Stabile were celebrated in style. Turin has a number of beautifully preserved Historic Theatres--as well as some very Modernist performance-venues--so the city is dedicated to ensuring that the Living Theatre is always on view in its various playhouses.
As a member of the European Theatre Union--composed of city, state, and federally-subsidized theatres from all over the European Union--the Teatro Stabile and the City of Turin invited theatre notables and delegates from many lands. They also generously extended this hospitality to IATC: the International Association of Theatre Critics. This made it possible for several Americans--including your NY Theatre-Wire scribe and his professorial colleague, the playwright Mario Fratti--to share in the productions, Pinter-papers, and general festivities.
The International Association of Theatre Critics Worries about the Future of Theatre Criticism--And Even the Future of the Performing Arts:
IATC President Ian Herbert had warned fellow-members that the central topic for discussion at our meeting in Torino--"Little Bull"--would be a colloquium: The End of Criticism? As newspapers continue to die, or cut down on arts-criticism and reportage, or even disappear as printed-resources into online websites, not only critics, but also interviewers and arts-journalists are seeing jobs and venues vanish.
[At last summer's combined annual conferences of the American Theatre Critics Association, the Music Critics of North America, and the Dance Critics Association in Los Angeles, all three organizations held panels on this looming loss of professional expertise. Not to mention all those free tickets to major performing-arts events for the affected critics! Press-tix, over time, become an addiction…]
Nonetheless, Ian Herbert made the point that he'd put a question-mark at the end of the topic-statement. As creator, editor, and longtime publisher of The London Theatre Record, Herbert certainly knows the London and the wider British theatre-scene and its reviewers very well.
He invited Russia's Nicolai Pesochinski--currently teaching in the United States at Wesleyan University--to persuade members that "criticism is no longer necessary." This he wittily did--with tongue in cheek--by quoting from a number of quite different reviews of the same contemporary production. The effect was rather like that of the mythical five blind-men describing an elephant: one on the tail, another on the trunk, and yet another on the left leg!
Perhaps the most impenetrable of these critiques was one favoring a French Deconstructionist vocabulary. But some of the others revealed a current problem in theatre criticism: no central formula for analyzing both play and production--not necessarily the same things--nor a system for evaluating their relative effectiveness. Instead, immediate personal responses & opinions, not influenced by any apparent familiarity with theatre-history, production-practice, or dramatic-literature…
Lisbon's Maria Helena Serodio answered with a spirited defense of informed criticism of plays and productions in specialist and academic journals, one of which she edits in Portugal: Sinais de cena. Although few of these reach the potential popular theatre-audience, they do have some value for playwrights, directors, designers, actors, and technicians who may have access to them.
For the most part, however, such publications are print-venues for academics talking to themselves and colleagues, in the special languages of erudite arts-criticism. All too often, such reports--especially if they are very incisive and exploratory--incite envy, rather than admiration, in fellow-academics. Especially those whose own peer-jury-submitted-critiques were not accepted for tenure-rewarding publication…
[How about "The Presence of Absence in the Dramas of Eugene O'Neill"? Or perhaps "Henrik Ibsen's Attitudes About Women, On-Stage and in Real Life"? As long as Theatre Lecturers and Assistant Professors need to make tenure, such journals are safe-havens for drama-critiques. They are also useful for validating Distinguished Professorships!]
Ian Herbert's successor as Editor/Publisher of The London Theatre Record, Ian Shuttleworth--who is also a theatre-reviewer for the London Financial Times--defended newspaper drama-reviews as essential for the survival, not to overlook the success, of commercial theatre-productions. He proposed such reviewers as "Uniformed" members of the public, helping readers to know more about new theatre-stagings and decide if they want to see them.
He also praised the spontaneity of an informed review--written against a newspaper-deadline. Rather than recollected in tranquility, as is the custom of most monthly or quarterly reviewers. Essentially, Shuttleworth defended the Uniformed, serving the Un-informed…
CNN May Have Some Innovative Answers!
The final colloquium paper proved the most provocative and innovative. This was Porter Anderson's Theatre Criticism and the New Media: From Empty Space to Cyberspace. Anderson--a longtime theatre-critic and member of ATCA--is now the Senior Producer of CNN Pipeline, based at CNN HQ in Atlanta.
Before joining CNN--initially as a news-reader--he was theatre-critic for the Village Voice, the Dallas Times-Herald, and newspapers in Tampa and Sarasota. Anderson is also a Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Center in New London, CT. So he is a very well-informed and experienced theatre-critic and arts-journalist.
He continues to share his expertise for CNN.com, writing about music, theatre, dance, and the visual arts. But, more importantly, he is now developing CNN's potential for providing live performing-arts productions & events, shared worldwide on the Internet!
This will happen through the CNN Pipeline, which can now offer four simultaneous live streams of news as it happens from--as Anderson says--"anywhere in the world." CNN's basic news website has more than 27 million viewers "on a slow day." When there's a disaster anywhere in the world, this can jump to 50 million viewers in one day.
Looking around the historic, ornately decorated, and richly gilded Teatro Gobetti in the heart of Turin, Porter Anderson noted its intimacy and beauty, but with only 150 seats. What if a live production on this very stage could be shared instantly at its premiere, around the world on CNN Pipeline? With some three-million viewers or more?
Some theatre-professionals--not only critics--in the audience were appalled: This will kill the theatre! Who will pay money to see a show you can see for free at home?
[Actually, viewers will have to subscribe to CNN Pipeline: only the first two weeks are on free trial. For more info: CNN.com/pipeline--Live Video on demand, all commercial-free!]
While it is true that Austria's ORF--Federal Radio-TV broadcasting--provides live and taped TV broadcasts of major Salzburg Festival opera and theatre productions, these are not now available worldwide.
Last summer, a Salzburg ticket to La Traviata--with Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazon, and Thomas Hampson--cost some $400. And these precious tickets were totally sold-out in January 2005!
At the premiere, my colleague, NYU's Cynthia Allen, could have sold hers for $4,000! No way was she going to sell it. Later, we watched the ORF broadcast on a giant-screen--courtesy of Siemens--in the great Cathedral Square. That Sunday--being press-guests--we got to meet the charming Anna and the charismatic Rolando at a press-reception: Even more dynamic as real live people and artists!
What Porter Anderson is suggesting is that viewers who see such stunning productions on CNN halfway round the world in, say, Detroit or Dallas, may well want to plan to attend the Salzburg Festival next summer. Good Luck! Tickets sell-out months ahead.
At the Bayreuth Wagner Festival, even Bernard Shaw's "Perfect Wagnerites" have to wait nine or ten years to get a single ticket for his historic Festspielhaus. There are thousands of Germans now living who will never see an opera in that famous opera-house. [But your reporter has been attending every year since 1956, making this summer a 50th anniversary: The Power of the Press?]
Or, considering how intimate most European Court Theatres and Opera-houses are, seeing a La Scala staging on CNN Pipeline may be the only chance millions of people will have to enjoy an opera at La Scala Milano. I was there the week after Turin and the opera was sold-out! So was Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper--but that's another story…
So live shows on the Pipeline may actually increase live audiences and not Kill Theatre!
But where & how do Dinosaur Drama Critics come into this new Cyberspace Mix? Anderson has invoked the image of Peter Brook's Empty Space: that the Theatre of the Future may develop outside the gilded baroque auditorium-walls of La Scala or the Art Deco ornamentation of Radio City Music Hall.
And Cyberspace needs both Critics & Commentators to provide interesting & energy-charged introductions and easy-to-understand perceptual-frameworks for Pipelined Performing Arts--"This is what you're looking at, buddy, and this is why they do it!"--to help audiences in their millions get even more value from such live transmissions.
Of course, this may present a problem for some critics who are overweight, sloppily-dressed, or generally unattractive. [Your scribe needs to lose 30 pounds and get a new blazer!] Not to mention those reviewers who are boring to listen to…
Maybe CNN's Porter Anderson can persuade CNN's Anderson Cooper to help out with this problem?
[Not to overload Porter Anderson's Virtual Mailbox, but if you want more information about his suggestions and proposals, you can contact him at: Porter.Anderson@CNN.com--or try the CNN Pipeline, with 2 weeks free trial!]
IATC members were pleased to receive a handsomely printed book of past Conference Proceedings in Bucharest--with promise of an invitation to come back and enjoy more Romanian Theatre! An even bigger volume recapped an even older Montreal IATC Conference--it costs cash to publish these archival anthologies, after all!--but all the more welcome for its important critical-content.
[My favorite memory of that Montreal meeting was walking down a broad French-named boulevard with Jeffrey L. Jenkins, then president of the American Theatre Critics and now Editor of Best Plays. He looked around and said: "It's almost like being in a foreign-country!"
["Jeffrey! Canada is a foreign-country!"]
HAROLD PINTER WINS ANOTHER PRIZE! And Also Denounces the United States Yet Again--
Model of Proposed International Theatre Critics Award
Those who were able to be present in Stockholm when Britain's Harold Pinter received the Nobel Prize for Literature were treated to an extended indictment of the United States of America as a war-mongering empire-builder.
Exactly the kind of live content you should be seeing on CNN Pipeline! But the speech-text itself is now available online on several websites.
Aside from the presentations of International Theatre Critics, most of the activities of the Tenth European Theatre Prize were devoted to papers on Pinter and mini-productions of some of his iconic works. For an interview with Pinter by Michael Billington--longtime critic of the Guardian--the intimate Teatro Gobetti had to be abandoned for the much larger and even more opulent Teatro Carignano.
Billington was also Moderator of the papers and discussions on Pinter & His Work, under the general rubric of Pinter: Passion, Poetry, and Politics. The list of contributing experts and critics is impressive. The published proceedings will surely weigh several pounds: Weighty Tomes for Heavy-weight Theatre-Geniuses!
Instead of discussing with Billington his famed Pinterian Pauses in Pinter-Classics such as The Caretaker and The Homecoming, Pinter the playwright chose to recycle his accusations against power-hungry American Leaders since World War II. He is passionate about this, and those who have read the Nobel Address may realize that he has indeed "connected the dots" in a way that few Americans have done.
[The current documentary-film, Why We Fight, underscores and, in fact, confirms some of Pinter's charges.]
On the award-evening, Pinter again made his accusations. He even challenged the astonished panel of European Culture Officials & Theatre Dignitaries to galvanize the European Union into forming a political counterpoise to America's Superpower.
Pinter walked on stage with the assistance of a cane, wheelchair in the wings. He noted that his cane had slipped on rainy pavement at Dublin Airport, and he fell flat on his face. And still had the stitches to show for it. In addition, he said he was suffering from some rare jungle disease, but had never been in that jungle.
Despite his anger at the US, Pinter seemed genial and genuinely moved to receive the European Theatre Prize, already awarded to such outstanding colleagues as Peter Brook, Pina Bausch, Ariane Mnouchkine, Giorgio Strehler, Luca Ronconi, Heiner Müller, and America's own Robert Wilson--more admired in Europe than at home, alas.
Not Only Prizes & Papers: Also Big Books & Mini-Productions!
Europeans not only subsidize their theatres, but they also fund publication of weighty tomes about their theatres and theatre-makers. Thus, on arrival at the Teatro Gobetti, I was given a huge book on the work of prize-winner Peter Brook, very welcome as I have done one of my own: Peter Brook: From Oxford To Orghast, with a number of our conversations and chronologies of his work in theatre and film.
On top of this was piled another heavyweight: the combined prize-papers on Pina Bausch--with whom I did the first interview for American readers. On top of that came the volume on prize-winner Lev Dodin, virtually unknown in the United States.
The festival-program is itself a large and handsome volume, as is the Domani Project publication, celebrating the Luca Ronconi productions on view during the Winter Olympics. On top of these--for an already overweight carry-on case--came the 50-year Chronicle of Turin's Teatro Stabile!
An interesting dividend to the prize-giving was presentation of some Pinter works. France's distinguished director, Roger Planchon, provided Pinter texts under the title of The New World Order. These included that work, plus Press Conference, Mountain Language, Party Time, and One for the Road.
From the Gate Theatre in Dublino--Italiano for Dublin--came Alan Stanford's production of Pinter Plays, Poetry, and Prose. This featured Michael Gambon, Penelope Wilson, and Charles Dance.
British Actor Michael Gambon, in Turin for Gate Theatre Pinter Production.
Gambon was memorable in some famous Pinter rants, and Dance was ironically amusing, discussing Arthur Miller's socks. This text recalled the time Pinter and Arthur Miller were asked by PEN to go to Turkey and interview poets, authors, and journalists who had been interned and tortured by the reigning Turkish Military Junta--America and Europe's treasured NATO Ally.
The interviews were shattering, as Pinter reported. But during their stay, Miller was invited to dinner at the United States Embassy, and they also had to invite Pinter. One of his suitcases was lost in transit, so Miller gave him a pair of his own socks! Pinter was impressed with their quality: not the kind of footwear you get at Marks & Spencer, apparently.
At the dinner, Pinter was taken to task by an Embassy Cultural Aide for his anti-American stances. He responded, with reasons, after which the Ambassador appeared to remind him: "You are a guest in my house." So Pinter departed, taking Arthur Miller with him…
European Theatre Prizes Also For Oskaras Korsunovas & Josef Nadj!
Can it be that Peter Brook and Pina Bausch--once on the cutting-edge of European Theatre's avant-garde--are now themselves Theatre Classics, even Drama Dinosaurs? That may be the reason a parallel Theatre Prize was introduced, this winter in its VIII season.
It is called--in the program's English translation-- Prize Europe New Theatre Realities. It's even more impressive in German: Preis Europa Neue Theater-Wirchlichkeiten!
The two winners were innovative stage-director Oskaras Korsunovas and director-choreographer Josef Nadj, whose productions have yet to be seen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music--BAM--a sure sign that everyone else in World Theatre but Americans have already seen their work.
International Theatre Critics and European Subsidized-Culture Mavens were treated to a Korsunovas staging of Michael Bulgakov's The Master & Margherita and a new creation, Playing the Victim, plus Josef Nadj's Duo: estratto da Canard Pékinois. Peking Duck, anyone?
Earlier winners of this award include London's Royal Court Theatre and Théâtre de Complicité, both of whom have shown productions in New York. Also saluted were Vilnius's Eimuntas Nekrosius, a Baltic theatre-genius, and Christoph Marthaler, who gave the Bayreuth Festival an appalling production of Tristan recently.
Remembrance of Awards Past?
As if to salute past Prize-winners, Ariane Mnouchine and Luca Ronconi were on hand for Incontri, Intervisti, or onstage interviews.
PLETHORA OF LUCA RONCONI PRODUCTIONS!
Now that Milan's Giorgio Strehler is long dead--as well as Lucino Visconti--and Franco Zeffirelli apparently lost to opera and film, Luca Ronconi is now apparently The Grand Old Man of Italian Innovative Theatre-Production.
The theatrical centerpiece of the Europe Theatre Prize festivities was an astonishing program of Luca Ronconi productions, staged in various Turin theatre-spaces. The umbrella-title of this drama-fest was Domani.
All the delegates were bused to the suburbs and what seemed a disused factory-space for an epic 5+ hour Ronconi vision of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.
The Hallmark of a Ronconi staging is an unforgettable stage-picture or environment: stark or bizarre, or both. Almost half the performance-space was filled with what looked like the rocky terrain of Arizona's Painted Desert. Chunks of this would rise up from the surface--or sink deep below it--for various scenes. A long, movable barrier-rod, stretching from upstage to downstage, marked the changing lines of battle in the Trojan War. Or the environs of the Greek and Trojan Camps.
This stony surface was closely enclosed on three sides by towering brick walls. These separated at various fractures and junctures for various kinds of visual emphasis.
Anyone familiar with the text of Troilus may well wonder how Ronconi could stretch it out to five hours or so--intermissions included. The Lumiq Studios space was so far from the city-center that there was no cab-rank for those who wanted to escape after two or three hours. Only those with cell-phones were able to summon emergency transportation. After the first intermission, only half the seats remained filled.
As what was revealed to the bleacher-audience during those hours was not all talking-warriors or fickle women, there was ample occasion for varied vigorous physical activities. In one scene, a rock rose from the desert-plain to reveal a totally nude Paris--backside only visible--lying atop Helen. Or was it Cressida?
Although the Bard's drama is necessarily set in Classical Antiquity--or, more accurately, Greek Pre-History--it was an unusual Ronconi directorial-decision to costume his armies in Medieval Armor and the latest US Combat-gear. Thersites appeared to be a battle-front war-correspondent, as he was armed with a typewriter. Possibly these visuals were designed to make the drama seem more topical, more relevant: Troilus in Abu Ghraib?
If any innocent viewer had any doubts about Achilles' sexual-orientation, all was made very clear in scenes involving this Hero and his best-buddy, Patroclus [David Sef]. Frequently, Achilles [Raffaele Esposito] spread wide his legs--in the posture of a Male Porn Star--to welcome his dear friend and Comrade-in-Arms, so to speak.
Francesco Scianna was a baffled Troilus, to the Cressida of Irene Petris. Iaia Forte was a handsome Helen, with Francesca Chiocchetti a riveting Cassandra. Paola De Crescenzo was a stoic Andromache.
Edward Bond's Acts of War: A Trilogy was also promised Turin Olympics audiences, but--as translator Maggie Rose told me--Ronconi had cast the same actor in four roles. After ten performances, he could not continue, so the delegates missed this staging.
Nonetheless, there were still three other Ronconi stagings available: Il Silenzio dei Comunisti, The Devil's Mirror, and Biblioteca. Dizionario per l'Uso. As the Italian Communists--as well as others in Western Europe--have been very quiet since the Iron Curtain fell, their silence was certainly worth exploring.
Lo Specchio del Diavolo seemed to take place in the world's biggest Wal-Mart and the gold-vaults in Fort Knox: quite a visual coup de théâtre!
But these three productions are not dramas in the usual sense. Their texts are more in the nature of verbal provocations to inspire discussion and debate.
That's especially true of Il Silenzio, described as "a sort of epistolary full of passion between [Vittorio] Foa, [Miriam] Mafai, and [Alferdo] Reichlin, that asks the Left strong and embarrassing questions on the necessity for revolution, involving old and new Communists." Ronconi sees society as in intense crisis "caused by the transition between two historical periods."
Lo Specchio is also not a traditional drama. As Ronconi says: "The non-fiction writing [of Giorgio Rufollo] was divided into headings, in order to recount, in a kind of historical cavalcade, the race for development, economy, and the contradictions of world finance."
As for Dictionaries, Ronconi posits two reader-goals: Discovery or Confirmation. "In the performance, each Headword has a space of its own, that one can enter into, or come out of. The spectator has, in some way, the freedom to choose--within a sort of labyrinth--certain itineraries, partly given, partly free…"
For opera-lovers, Turin's Teatro Regio was offering only a production of Carmen for the entire month of March. In February, in contrast, there were four productions in stagione: Puccini's Manon and Bohème, Purcell's The Tempest, and Il Colore Bianco, a spectacle of theatre, dance, and circus-arts. But this was during the heart of the Winter Olympics, when Turin was overflowing with tourists.
In April, the Teatro Regio is presenting Gian-Carlo Menotti's The Consul, followed in May by Mozart's Il Ratto dal Serraglio. This does not, of course, indicate a previously unknown Mozart Italian opera about rats in the Seraglio. Unless those two young Christian kidnappers could be viewed by the Muslim Harem-guard Osmin as really ratty…
Shroud of Turin Not On View--
Photo of Shroud of Turin, Showing Ghostly Outlines of Male Body: Is This Jesus Christ?
Turin's real Claim to Fame is The Shroud of Turin, bearing the faint imprints of the body of a man who has been tortured--and some say, also Crucified--with some ghostly bloodstains. For centuries, this has been closely guarded in a special chapel--closed for repair of fire-damage--attached to the Duomo. This long winding-cloth is seldom actually on view, except for notable Church Anniversaries.
Not to disappoint both Pilgrims and Tourists, the Cathedral offers Shroud-videos in the Crypt and brochures in the Nave.
Although the Holy See has long insisted that this is the very Shroud in which Jesus Christ was wrapped after His Crucifixion, recent scientific tests suggest that its fibers and its weave date, not from 33 AD, but sometime in the 12th or 13th century.
That the Shroud was first exposed to the public around 1353, by the family of a Knight Templar who was executed as was the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay--burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Inquisition--has encouraged some Da Vinci Code-type theorists to insist that this is in fact the Shroud of Jacques de Molay!
They believe the imprints are those of De Molay, before his fiery death, but after horrible torture. As he could hardly have been wrapped in this shroud after being reduced to ashes on l'Isle de la Cité, the stains are, they say, not those of a dead man.
What makes this possibly plausible is the little-known fact that, from a Knight Templar's induction into the Order of the Temple, he always carried with him the shroud in which he would be wrapped upon his death--especially handy if killed in battle, freeing the Holy Land from the Muslim Saracens.
I asked a former Jesuit about this: What if this really is De Molay's Shroud, not that of The Christ? His response: "It doesn't matter. Belief in The Shroud enhances Faith!"
This echoes that old saying: "For those who do not Believe, no explanation is possible. For those who do Believe, no explanation is necessary!"
A Tale of Two Hotels: Three Stars in Turin Beats Three in Milano!
There were so many theatre-notables and general delegates to the Europe Theatre Prize in Turin, the city--which was the host and provider of free-accommodations--had to lodge guests in many of the auto-industry metropolis's fine hotels. Your scribe's good-luck, as a late-registrant, was to be taken to the handsome boutique Hotel Victoria. With well-deserved Three Stars!
This is virtually a museum-hotel, its various public-spaces, hallways, and bedrooms crammed with artworks and arts-posters. Every bed has a canopy and elegant furnishings. There is a two-level baroque courtyard in the center of this elegant structure.
Although it's in the heart of Turin--close to all the major attractions--it is sited in a small side-street, closed at one end, between two major avenues. Across from one of these, a huge Canadian log-cabin and monster-letters advertised Vancouver's Olympics Bid!
With or without athletic-contests or Luca Ronconi productions, Turin's impressive Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture--as well as its many museums and castles of the House of Savoy, onetime rulers of Italy--is well worth a visit.
[And Hotel Victoria is certainly a very attractive place to stay! Via Nino Costa 4, 10123 Torino/Italia. www.hotelvictdoria-torino.com]
Having decided to spend an additional week in Milan, photographing every detail of the famed Duomo--now undergoing an epic exterior cleaning--for INFOTOGRAPHY, I was guaranteed a hotel near the Main Station, with a "superior room with double-bed." Milan is constantly afflicted with Trade-Shows, so central accommodations are often impossible to secure.
Arriving by train from Torino, I looked around the station for the three-star Hotel La Residencia. Nowhere to be seen. I asked a taxi-driver, but he'd never heard of it. In the event, he found it at last in his city-atlas. It was some three or four kilometers to the north of the heart of Milan, in a kind of multi-national worker-bedroom community.
It was like a large box: in a side-street, three blocks from a bus-stop--no stops called out by the driver on return-trips--that led to the end of a subway-line that, in turn, led to the Main Station. This meant I would never find my way back if I spent the evening in downtown Milano.
Worse, my "superior room with double-bed" turned out to be a tiny cubby-hole with a single bunk built into the wall. It looked out on a concrete soccer-court--bright lights and games till after-hours--with a major highway beyond. And green fields beyond that.
When I pointed out that my "superior room with double-bed" had been reserved weeks before, I was told that, as a single person, I did not need a double-bed. Finally, I was given a double for two nights of the five, being moved back to the single on my last day photographing the Duomo and the crystal sarcophagus of Saint Charles Borromeo, legendary Cardinal/Archbishop of Milan.
Leonardo's Last Supper & La Scala Sold-Out--
Poster for Mozart Year at La Scala
Not only can you not see the Shroud of Turin in Torino, but it's almost impossible to see Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, or Cenacolo, in the refectory at Santa Maria della Grazia. At the ticket-windows, sullen girls give you a telephone number to call. Calls are not answered, but, at the hotel, I was told the 25-person-limit tours are booked weeks ahead by travel-groups.
As the recent restoration back to only what little remains of Leonardo's original colors & composition, there's not all that much to see now, anyway.
At Milan's famed Teatro alla Scala, it was impossible to find the press-office to request comps, but a box-office in the bowels of the Metro/subway didn't have much to offer either. Currently, La Scala programs more orchestral and vocal/instrumental concerts each week than operas.
In fact, the only opera scheduled, with one performance that week, was Leos Janácek's Katya Kabanová, a Flemish Opera production from Antwerp, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. And I had already seen it…
Milan Cleans Its Medieval Cathedral--
In vintage photos of Milan's impressive Cathedral--and some taken fairly recently--it seems constructed of dirty dark gray stone. Not now! Extensive cleaning and repair or replacement of historic statues and decorative details now make it look like a Disneyland-fresh creamy ivory architectural confection.
The façade is still under wraps, but its sides, choir, and flying-buttresses are gleaming as never before. This is because it had been afflicted with ever-increasing air-pollution for centuries. In fact, it was not even finished until the early 19th century, when Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte "freed" Milan and ordered the Duomo completed.
The "Little Corporal" also commissioned an Arch of Triumph. It is still standing, but enclosed in fences & wood-panels for what seems a permanently stalled "restoration."
Northern Italy's Historic Theatres Preserved--But Often On Holiday: More "Product" Needed!
Theatre Museum of Teatro alla Scala Milano
It is a curiosity of Italy's Theatre-Culture that so many beautiful and historic theatres have been Historically Restored & Preserved--especially in Northern Italy. But, even in Florence, such famed playhouses as the Teatro alla Pergola and the Teatro Verdi are often dark.
There is obviously a "shortage of Product," as well as a dearth of permanent repertory acting-ensembles. Thus the touring productions of Luca Ronconi are especially welcome.
Fortunately, in Milan, Giorgo Strehler's Piccolo Teatro was active with a jazz show, and a production of Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology was promised for the Teatro Nazionale. Spoon River?
But no less than 22 Milanese theatres were that week in Riposo. In Repose! That would drive a Broadway theatre-owner crazy. The same Riposo was also true of playhouses in Bergamo, Lodi, Brescia, Lecco, Varese, Pavia, and Monza!
Long ago, theatre-managers in many cities--not only in Italy--could blame this inactivity on radio & movies. Then on TV. But now the Internet seems to have captured the audience…
Copyright Glenn Loney, 2006. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney, New York Theatre Wire." Reproduction rights please contact: email@example.com.
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