Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fabrizio De André

Despite living in Italy for more than two years now, I don't listen to very much Italian pop music. To be honest: most Italian pop music is really awful. It shares this property with most German pop music, by the way. But since we've been listening to more music at work recently (not because we're more lazy, but because we've improved our experiment in such a way that we can now play music without disturbing it), I've been exposed to more Italian music.
The one artist I've come to like is Fabrizio De André, a cantautore (singer-songwriter) who was active from the sixties up until his death in 1999. He has been compared to (and was influenced by) Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, both in his musical style (though he does enunciate much better than Dylan!), and in the importance of the texts in his work. It seems that his lyrics are sometimes taught in school nowadays, and certainly my Italian colleagues have a pretty good grasp of his most popular songs. Of course, the texts are also the area that I have difficulty with, since my knowledge of the Italian language is still lacking. There are however translations of some of his songs available, and for German-speaking readers, there's an entire website with line-by-line translations.
Many of his songs concern themselves with people at the edges of society: murderers, prostitutes, rebels, etc. Textwise, one of my favorites is "Carlo Martello ritorna dalla battaglia di Poitiers" ("Charles Martel on His Way Back from Poitiers"), a satiric song in which Martel is tricked by a prostitute, complete with archaic language and musical accompaniment on the harpsichord.
You can get an idea of his output by searching YouTube for some of his most popular songs: "Il testamento di Tito", "Il pescatore", "Andrea", "Fiume Sand Creek", "Creuza de mä". There are also two good compilations available: Blu and In Direzione Ostinata e Contraria.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Opera at the amphitheater

Instead of watching the semifinal Uruguay-Holland, we chose a more cultural alternative, and went to see "The Barber of Seville" at the Cascine amphitheater yesterday. Cascine is a rather large park (one of the few in Florence) that stretches along the Arno from downtown to near our apartment. It's nothing special, and I had never heard of any events taking place in the amphitheater, but it seemed like a nice evening activity. The opera was a production of the Teatro Comunale, where we had seen several pieces before, and it did not disappoint. Billed as a "low-cost" performance, it might have been lacking in fancy sets, a big choir on stage, or super-titles, but certainly not in ideas or humor. This started during the overture, which was staged as a rather bumpy train ride, in rhythm to Rossini's music. The young cast -- Enea Scala as the Count of Almaviva, Salvatore Salvaggio as Don Bartolo, Stephanie Lewis as Rosina, and Mauro Bonfanti as Figaro -- sang well (with the discreet amplification helping to lift their voices above the orchestra in this open air venue). In the end, it was a nice balmy evening with some very good entertainment.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hamburger Bun Instructions

That's right. These are the instructions on the back of the package that explain to you in detail how to toast a hamburger bun (it also lets you know that they can be eaten at room temperature).

"Per una buona tostatura Vi consigliamo di portare la piastra ad una temperatura di circa 200-220oC, di tagliare a meta' il panino e di appoggiare per circa 1 minuto sulla piastra la parte interna (mollica) senza schiacciare. Il panino puo' essere scaldato anche in altro modo (es. infrarossi); e' importante, pero', rivolgersi sempre la mollica verso la fonte di calore. I panini 'non tostati' devono essere consumati a temperatura ambiente."

It's not important if you don't speak Italian, the point is that there is a paragraph describing what to do with the bun. I would have to conclude that this is not a familiar subject here. Everyone knows what a hamburger is, but some of the details don't make it. Often they just eat the meat by itself.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

grilled burger with potato salad and insalata caprese