Tuesday 27 May 2008
Verdi and Strauss all'Abruzzese
Scenes like this greeted us late every afternoon as we drove in our hire car back from our daily hikes in the Maiella mountains of Italy. At that time of day, having otherwise resolved to have a break from music, we'd resort to one of the three CDs I'd brought with me, sounding very good indeed on the car stereo. On the long drive back from Pescocostanzo we squeezed in the Prologue and Act One of Simon Boccanegra, with the peerless Abbado recording ensuring that memories of last week at the Royal Opera weren't too overwhelming (and with much more vivid conducting, of course). And after a high walk along the ridge of La Maielletta until snow blocked our way and the clouds rolled in, there was a serene spotlight on Daphne's transformation followed by Harteros in the Four Last Songs - whereupon a rainbow obligingly appeared between a heavy shower and blue skies:
After this we had to sit in the car back at our destination and wait for 'Im Abendrot' to sink to its final rest, the car windows wide open on all kinds of birdsong to complement Strauss's two larks.
The camera does not lie: this dramatic corner of the Abruzzi really is an earthly paradise, a land of milk and honey(and by night a feast of nightingales and fireflies). Home-cooked food and home-grown wine overwhelmed us, as before, at our simple but ever-hospitable agriturismo; having decided to return when flights to Naples, a hopping-off point to explore the Matese, proved much pricier than Ryanair to Pescara, three of us had no regrets at all (and the fourth member of our party, new to our annual Apennine experience, was so captivated she thought of holing up there to work on a project for a month or so). So friendly are the Abruzzesi - we ascribed it to the Allies' help in WW2, but it may just be in their nature - that they welcome the relatively few homebuying Brits who've settled in the area. Even by Italian standards this is as good as free and easy human relations can get.
As with Mali and Cyprus, I can only justify one more holiday snap in this context, so I'll take my leave now with a jolly shot on top of the world: