“Weekend Update”

As some of you know, this second week of MOS has been challenging to me due to physical issues…the chronic soreness of my left ankle is pretty much controlled if I do my calf stretches and wear these blasted orthotics, but also depends on a fairly minimal amount walking. When I am home, I get my exercise OFF my feet at the gym with either an elliptical machine or stationary bike. All this walking has been very challenging. 

But the biggest challenge has been dealing with the ugly red splotches all over my lower legs, ankles, and feet, and trying to get some sort of diagnosis and remedy. The local “emerencia” clinic advised me to see the local dermatologist (this was last Thursday), whose office hours are:  Wednesdays from 9:30-11:00. What a life!

I may or may not bother to go see him or her. Fortunately, these spots don’t itch or hurt. I have some cortisone cream to rub on them, which is also minimally effective. They are basically just UGLY, but since I mostly wear pants or the currently fashionable maxi skirts, that’s not much of an issue.

Enough about this. Let’s move on to the past few days.

Our first public concert was last night at the unbelievable, privately owned Castello di Verrazzano. Yes, the famous explorer (for whom the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge is named) is from this landlocked region of Tuscany. For some reason, my AAA Spiral Guide to Tuscany does not mention this fantastic castello (castle), so I will just describe it.

It lies about 10 km from Greve, and of course is accessed via a narrow, winding road UPHILL, past olive groves and vineyards. I understand it is privately owned. There is a winery, of course (the wine is called…taDAH – Chianti Verrazzano – and they also make their own olive oil). When I say “castle”, it’s not exactly a fortress, but a series of walls, stairs (LOTS of them), terrazzi (terraces) and gardens overlooking the most romantic and beautiful Tuscan scenery imaginable. Jack arranged for us to give a concert in a small open air theatre of sorts, and there was a grand piano and some ad hoc lighting. In exchange for this opera concert, we were given an incredible feast afterwards…a buffet of Tuscan specialities such as grilled vegetables (zucchini, squash, peppers); various meats (carpaccio of chicken, ham, salami); couscous w/vegetables; boar sausage; lasagne; incredibly sweet melon (cantaloupe). At every table was  selection of sparkling wine and of course, Chianti. 

The final course was vin santo with biscotti. Vin santo, which means “strong wine” is made from raisins and is a beautiful golden color, quite strong and not to be sipped, but to be consumed by dipping an almond biscotti into the small shot glass of vin santo and then you eat the wine soaked biscotti. DEE-vine!.

Getting back to the pre-dinner concert, sadly there were few “civilians” in attendance because I don’t think it was very well marketed…aside from the MOS singers and staff (about 26 of us), there were only about 10 other people in attendance.

The 3 concerts that MOS has scheduled will use about 6 or 7 singers in each, singing solo arias and ensembles. All of us were, of course, required to attend since the concert ended with the traditional “Libiamo” (drinking song) from Verdi’s La Traviata.

All of my colleagues were in fantastic voice, and it is thrilling to hear so much talent onstage.

Here goes:

  • Shi Li, 26, from China, currently a student at Manhattan School of Music – opened the concert with “La Calunnia” from Rossini’s Barber of Seville…he is a fantastic bass and was very funny in this aria
  • Francesca Aguado, American soprano fom Maryland, sang “Come scogio” from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutti
  • 3 of our younger singers – Vivienne (Canada), Melanie (US), Chris (US) sang “Soave sia il vento”, the gorgeous trio from Cosi
  • Leah Crowne, one of the working pros, also from Maryland, sang a Mozart aria from Idomeneo
  • Nadine Benjamin, a gorgeous black soprano from London (with whom I sang the Butterfly Flower Duet last year, and we will sing it again in this week’s concert) sang “Ebbedn, ne’andro lontano” from Catalani’s La Wally, a rarely performed opera 
  • Christine, from MASS, but is Canadian, sang the Czardas from Strauss’s Die Fledermaus
  • Nadine and Nicholas Simpson (American tenor) sang an incredibly moving duet from Verdi’s Otello
  • Iris Luypaers (Belgium) sang Violetta’s big aria from La Traviata, Sempre libera
  • and then Jack and Nelly treated us with the big first act duet from Puccini’s Tosca
  • We all ended the concert with Libiamo…

And then retired to the elegant dining room for the above-described dinner. Jack had chartered a private bus to get us all to and from the Castello di Verrazzano…such luxury!

I am too tired right now to post photos, but will tomorrow…a DAY OFF!

But wait, there’s more…the above is only about Friday. Today is Saturday, and most of us spent the day in FIRENZE (Florence)…this will be described in a forthcoming post.

Ciao for now!

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