Saturday, September 17, 2011

What do can-can dancers and muskets have in common?

They both were fired up and ready to go to open the 2011 Fratta Otto Cento festival in Umbertide last night.  Remember when you were a kid and went to your first big Barnum and Bailey circus?  Remember the excitement,  the chaos, the 3 rings with elephants and lions and tigers, oh my, the overhead trapeze, and the ring master?  Ok, hold that memory,  take out the animals and add into that circus space, opera singers, um-pa-pa bands, roving soldiers with muskets that are fired off indiscriminately and now and then a cannon that goes off and scares the crap out of everybody.  Or take a small county fair and put it inside a small town. Instead of cotton candy and hot dogs there are 12 taverns, 12 trattorias, people wandering around on stilts, a huge puppet show, clowns, a brothel, a jail, and artisans sculpting the map of Italy into marble. The centro storico of Umbertide is the stage and the towns people are, as always, the actors upon it.

Mani's son, Antonio, brought me up a flag to hang out the window.  Now our apartment has joined into the festivities.

The heat has lessened a little, but it is still scorching during the mid afternoon.  This morning there is a soft breeze that comes down from the hills above and drifts into my window.  It is astonishing how quiet the mornings are here above the piazza.  I can hear the birds and the traffic from the distant highway.  A night it is another thing.

Last night's big event was a modern dance interpretation to Carmen, the opera.  For those of you who don't know the plot of Carmen you would recognize the music.  Think about hearing "Gaily the troubadour, strums his guitar,  ta da.."  Anyway, here is the plot, much simplified.  There is a gypsy girl, Carmen, who works in a factory with other girls.  She is a bit of floozie and loves the boys.  One young man, who is engaged to another, falls in love with her.  The girls have a big fight over him (The Italians loved the fight) and he eventually leaves with Carmen.  She convinces him to leave not only the girlfriend but the army and he turns into a smuggler.  (You had to really know the plot to get this piece.  The reenactment looked like a big black caterpillar swallowed him.)  Anyway they are happy for a while, then a bull fighter comes by and Carmen is entranced by him.  The guy and bullfighter have a minor skirmish.  Carmen and the other dude have a fight, the dude kills Carmen, she lies dead on the stage.  The dude is taken away in handcuffs and the other girls do a rather boring dance without Carmen. Apologies to Franco, our opera expert for this translation.

I fortunately, watched this from my bedroom window.  It is like having a box seat above the stage.  The Italians were all standing for this show.  They formed a semi circle of about 30 people and stood 5 people deep.  They were mostly quiet for the performance.  The evening was lovely with a full moon in the background, and the church bell ringing at 10:00pm when they were mid way through the dance.  I was mesmerized by the modern dance interpretation.  Carmen had boy short hair, bleached blond.  She was seductive and provocative in her movements and heartbreaking in her death. My friend Adelle has the idea of a memory box where we store memories we can later revisit.  This will definitely be in my memory box.

The night ended with the crazy ones bellowing YMCA beneath my window.  The Stoic One slept through it.  How the Stoic One can sleep through this and why the Italians love this song are both mysteries to me.  The Italians do all the hand gestures and fall into fits of giggles. It would have been funnier if it weren't 1:30AM.  At 2:00 all noise magically stopped. Do the police come by and tell them to go home?

Guess who is going to spend the night in a charming villa away from Umbertide?  Yours truly.  I don't think I can take 4 nights of Can-can dance music.

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