Friday, September 16, 2005

Rome, sweet Rome

There's been a good reason for my blogland silence this week. I've been in Rome. Almost didn't come back.

When Dorothy taps her ruby slippers together and says the magic words, I reckon we all misheard her. What she should be saying is "there's no place like Rome..." That city has an atmosphere like nowhere else on earth. Part of it is the climate, part the history, part sheer beauty. Yes, the traffic is crazy - basically anarchy - and you take your life in your hands whenever you cross a road. But after dark, you're in another world, entirely gold and black and floodlit and shining. Who wants to go to sleep when you can be out in warm, fresh air, gazing at gleaming Roman ruins, enjoying the finest Italian food and sipping Chianti with friends? Not many Romans, it would seem, because the place buzzes until the wee hours.

I somehow associate Rome with freedom, revival, renewal and some kind of inner release that, when I was last there years & years ago, allowed me to get on the back of a Vespa with a strange Italian man and ride through the city's cobbled roads past the floodlit Colosseum at 1am...those were the days...

I went to the Eternal City this time to interview Signora Bartoli about her new album of Italian baroque arias, Opera Probita. The launch event began with a concert in an extraordinary church in the Forum; later, dinner on a roof terrace by candlelight. We did the interview in a building that looks out across the ruins of the Forum, knowing that Handel could have stood on the same spot, drinking in the same sight, nearly 300 years ago.

The album will be out at the end of next month & Cecilia will be giving a concert of this repertoire in London, at the Barbican, in December, for which I recommend begging, borrowing or even buying a ticket at your first possible opportunity. Before then, she'll be in the States, so I urge everyone across the Pond to run to hear her as well. There's a touch of genius about this woman. What a voice. What a personality. What musicianship.

There'd probably be a touch of genius about anyone who could make me rave about an evening of Italian baroque opera accompanied by period instruments. Normally I run a mile from such things, probably because I had it rammed down my throat ad nauseam at university. The other night, however, I was on the edge of my seat all the way through and afterwards was almost ready to go and hug Marc Minkowski and all his Musiciens du Louvre as well. I even elected, later on, to listen to a recording of a counter-tenor (Scholl, naturally), and liked it when I did. This is getting serious!

But would it sound the same away from Rome? South West London is a bit short of ruins and even the antipasti in our local supermarket ain't quite the same......