Milan’s Moonlight Castle Concerts

Castle at night

Castello Sforzesco

Under a moonlit sky in Milan, my friend and I discovered a rare evening treat: an ingenious pairing of art and music. Enclosed behind the Castle walls, for only 15 Euros, we thrilled to dramatic staging of details from the paintings of Caravaggio accompanied by the Milano Chamber Orchestra playing Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Monteverdi among others.

Three actors from Teatri 35 captivated us as they deftly draped fabric around themselves changing scenes, positions, and dress 19 times using only the billowy material. They enacted images from Caravaggio’s artwork, then adapted final postures, posing like statues for up to a minute or so while Baroque music enveloped the emotional staging. How they held the poses for as long as they did was astonishing to witness.

Called Vivant Tableaux (Living Paintings), this performance technique of scenic representations originated in the Eighteenth Century and gained popularity in the Nineteenth.

Another night we watched an operatic rendition of Cinderella, using student actors in a parody of the fashion industry as a setting. Among the more amusing takes we recognized were four men in white, pony-tailed wigs and sunglasses lampooning Karl Lagerfeld, and a blond-wigged woman spoofing Donatella Versace in expression and gestures. Though clever and amusing, the performance–accompanied by the beautiful operatic voices of students–went on too long.

We noted (but did not go) that Notturni in Castello (Nights at the Castle) planned a fantasy Harry Potter performance another evening. Clearly, the Castle has something for everyone.

Innovative concerts starting at 9 PM en plein air at Castello Sforzesco run from June through August. You can buy tickets in advance on the grounds during the day. For more information: https://www.notturnincastello.it/

 

Massena Museum in Nice, France

 

Massena MuseumMassena Museum, Nice, France

http://www.nice.fr/fr/culture/musees-et-galeries/musee-massena-le-musee 

Housed in a stately, 19th century villa on the promenade des Anglais overlooking the Mediterranean, the Massena Museum —the façades and roofs of which are classified by French Historic Monument Association—offers visitors a viewing of Empire Age salons and furnishings, tranquil English-style Gardens, and temporary exhibits, such as its current photography exhibit, Jean Gilletta et la Cote d’Azur, paysages et reportages, 1870-1930.

 

As the primary and inexhaustible landscape photographer of the Riveria, Gilletta documented its art and culture, commercialism, and tourism. According to Gilletta’s great nephew, “…nothing escaped his lens,” as he captured a time in flux, casting that lens on the modest and humble as well as the privileged. On construction sites, railways, and bridges. On market vendors, washerwomen, presidents and princes. He recorded rural life and the high life of Nice and Monaco among other sites. From fashionable spa towns, olive groves, and snow-covered mountain peaks to the 1887 earthquake, he was an exemplary reporter and witness for his times.

A 19th century Cartier-Bresson, Gillette preserved those times–forever gone or transformed–through at least 10,000 photos as he tooled around the Cote d’Azur on his three-wheeled, motorized bike—an example of which is on exhibit. In addition to snapping photos, he was also a prolific publisher of postcards and books.

Massena Museum Cut out photo 2The delightful exhibit opens with head cutouts of peasants of the day. Go ahead, stick your head though the opening slot and journey back in time. (I did; Noel was less enthusiastic.) The guards will take your photos. The balance of the exhibit holds numerous original photo prints of people at play and work along the seaside and in the country. The photographs are small and require time and close-up inspection, but to get a sense of the larger exhibit, the designers have created life-size impressions projected on the walls in each room recreating the ambience in which Gilletta worked. In addition to the photos, there’s a three-wheeled, motorized bike that Gilletta tooled around the Cote d’Azur setting his sights on images to snap. A large box camera he used is also on view.

The show recalls an insouciant time along the Cote d’Azur through five principle themes: Nice the resort capital of France, Nissa la Bella (Nice the Beautiful–the city’s unofficial anthem. Listen on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15oZvZtsYYw), By the Mountains and the Valleys, Under the Azure along the Coast, and The News in Pictures.

The exhibit closes March 5, 2018.

The Museum’s permanent collection displays the history of Nice from the 19th century up to the end of 1930s. Highlights include Napoléon’s death mask and Josephine’s tiara with its glittery gemstones, gold, and pearls.

Massena Museum view from window

Practical Info

http://www.nice.fr/fr/culture/musees-et-galeries/musee-massena-le-musee

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11-6, winter; 10-6, summer.

Closed Tuesdays and certain holidays

Tickets: 6 Euros or buy a 7-day pass for 20 Euros (Access to all 12 municipal museums and galleries for 7 days in Nice)

Location: 65, rue de France (ticket entrance)

Val Lewton From Hollywood to Breezewood at AU Katzen Center

VL Paint CansLast few days to see Val Lewton From Hollywood to Breezewood, a retrospective of one of the most talented Washington (by way of Hollywood) artists. Former exhibit designer for Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, Val Lewton had a supreme and unique command of color and composition. (Full disclosure I’m friends with his widow, Claudia Manizozzi (also a painter), and knew Val from my former Smithsonian days. I also own two of his paintings as well as one of Claudia’s. And I wish I had wall space for more.)

VL Truck Cab

I have long been fascinated with building cranes that pierce the sky at construction sites, marveling how something so industrial can be so elegant against the sky. Val Lewton elevates these same scenes and more with his paintbrush to create penetrating and cinematic close-ups of mundane cityscapes: trucks, construction sites, cranes, shovels, gas stations, cars, highways, taxis, traffic jams, smoke stacks, police call boxes. From wrecked and razed construction sites to massive in your face truck cabs you can feel the power of the movement on the road.

VL Whitehurst Freeway

Val makes the ordinary extraordinary in such diverse images as his colorful, overflowing paint cans and his Dale City depictions of suburban sprawl. All on view just till August 13th. If you miss it, check out the accompanying full color catalog with essay by former Washington Post critic, Ben Forgey.

http://www.american.edu/cas/museum/2017/from-hollywood-to-breezewood.cfm

VLTaxisVLDale City VL Bee Bee VL Bee Bee air handler

 

 

Morgans Hotel NYC

Trees grow in NYC– I was surprised to see this little green city oasis from my room at
Morgans Hotel.

After being at a noisy writers conference over the
past weekend at the extremely loud Roosevelt Hotel on Madison Avenue, it was a
pleasure to come back to the calming atmosphere of Morgans Hotel (https://www.morganshotelgroup.com/originals/originals-morgans-new-york)
just eight blocks away on Madison. I’m a bit leery about giving away my secret
because I love this hotel and never want it to get too popular. That said, it
deserves a little mention. If you don’t know where you’re going, you might miss
the nondescript entrance under the triple arches. I’m not sure there’s even a
sign outside. Designed by Andree Putman, Morgans is a boutique hotel with a
modern yet European-style flair. The small lobby is instantly welcoming as is the
pleasant staff. The room’s color scheme is contemporary black
and white. The rooms are small unless you happen to get upgraded to one with a
sitting room. There’s not much space in the bathrooms and the HVAC is on the loud
side, but each room has an inviting, comfy, cushioned window bench—perfect for
stretching out your legs. There’s a small health club, free Wi-Fi, and a breakfast
buffet in a library-like atmosphere. It’s conveniently located just a block away from The Morgan Library Museum (http://www.themorgan.org/), which always has interesting exhibits and is itself a little oasis of art.