More than one person has asked me what Jack and I do in a teeny, tiny Southern Italian village. The implication being that we must be bored to tears. Usually, I give a snarky response like – the laundry or pick tomatoes. The reality is, we are involved in more cultural activities here than we are in New Jersey. Italians have a passion for and a commitment to the arts. The arts are part of the fabric of who they are and their lives. Yesterday, after doing the laundry – no – not really, I got a text from my friend Adele. She alerted me to the free symphony orchestra concert in neighboring Morcone. Jack and I were absolutely in! We love classical music and until we got there didn’t know or care who we were hearing.
I expected students from the music conservatory and was surprised to see the Grande Orchestra Sinfonica Russa della Repubblica di Udmurtia. ( I just googled Udmurtia to see what part of Russia it was – they breed great musicians!) Their conductor, Leornardo Quadrini, is not only Italian but is committed to sharing the music of the world with the people in our Sannio Mountains. I found out that some how he donated the concert to Morcone! He has been recognized with a load of awards for his commitment to the Province of Benevento. The maestro has conducted for places like La Scala and a variety of other opera houses. Not too shabby! Maestro Quadrini is also gorgeous and has a larger than life personality. The orchestra entered in dress black, he bounded into the space on his cell phone giving directions to someone. Folks in the audience were yelling out additions to the directions. When they were finalized – all applauded! He beamed and then looked down at his clothes – “it’s hot and I didn’t have time to change – do you mind?” No one minded – including the musicians who obviously adore him.
Morcone is one of those towns that appear in guide books. They seem to have been dropped onto the side of a mountain and by some magic of construction defy gravity and don’t slide down. The historic center is at the very top of the town. My friend Adele grew up in Morcone and can bound up the steep steps to the top like a gazelle. “Are we there yet,” I would wine as we wended our way up another flight. “How do people bring their furniture up here – or groceries?” Jack poked me and said keep walking. Suddenly, we were in this incredible piazza. Piazza San Bernardino sits in front of the municipal theater. There are stone buildings on three sides and than a view of the valley. It was beautiful and incredibly well kept. We walked a wee bit further to the bar – I thought someone picked up a 1970’s West Village NYC bar and dropped it here. If there weren’t a million steps to get there, I’d become a regular. The owner was as unique and charming as his space. After a glass of wine, it was time to secure seats.
Not that many people still live in the historic center of the town, but lots of people came to the concert. It was a NYC kind of crowd – well dressed people mingling with a younger set in jeans or bermuda shorts. Aging hippy garb sitting next too a silk suit dress ensemble. No matter who they were they became one with the music. Some people even hummed along! The concert started with a Russian composer – I thought he said Rimsky Korsakov but I could be wrong. They then played Verdi, Rossini, Bizet and more. Ending with a rousing tarantella that included the Maestro conducting claps in the audience. Una Bella Serata! No one wanted the night to end. The applause and shouts of bravi insured an encore.
Next time someone asks me how we fill our time in a teeny tiny Italian village, I might just say – I put on my glamour rags and go to the symphony.