One could say that Madama Butterfly is a distilled and simplified presentation of the stereotypical opera plot. It is a romance told very straight with spurning, madness leading to the female lead's suicide with good songs and a bit of exoticism, but it lacks the twists in the plot which Mozart's operas have (at least Donna Elvira tries to chase down Don Giovanni) to deepen the characters' relationships. This leaves all the characterization to the music and I don't think Puccini's is up to it. Cio-Cio-San is too pathetic and doormat-ish and it's hard to feel into her character when the music doesn't sink deeply enough into the listener to help them understand her or link her into the greater universe. Perhaps that is unfair to the music since the libretto and story itself doesn't give much to go on to divine her motivations, but Puccini did choose the story. Pinkerton too isn't exactly 4-dimensional. He is a cad with neither redeeming qualities, magnetism nor charm. Having said that, the opera can be enjoyable at some level if, as in this case, the music is well played and sung, making the more dragging parts of Act II bearable, though this enjoyment was marred by a certain noisy leading tenor.
Complementing the drawings shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year is this exhibition at the Strozzi Palace featuring fifty-four of Bronzino’s seventy paintings: the largest exhibition of the Florentine master’s work to date. The son of a butcher, Agnolo di Cosimo Tori (1503-1572), nicknamed “Bronzino”, spent the bulk of his career in the Medici court until Giorgio Vasari succeeded him in 1564. Vasari in fact plays a large role in this show, as curators Cristina Acidini, Carlo Falciani, and Antonio Natali rely heavily on information contained in his biography of Bronzino. The pictures themselves tell much of the story, demonstrating that the artist is not readily classifiable as a Mannerist given his tendency towards natural, austere beauty in affectedly bright colors.
Mexican art comes to Rome, making the present and the past converge, combining the crafts of the most ancient civilizations with photographic images of the revolution of the first decades of the twentieth century and once again with the contemporary creations of Carlos Morales. A panoramic experience which can stimulate the mind, as it seeks points of contact in the evolution of Mexican culture and thought.
Caravaggio’s power to captivate us today makes us wonder whether he was not four hundred years ahead of his time. This anniversary exhibition, perhaps more than others across Italy, shows that he was not. His genius was readily recognized and tirelessly sought even during his own day, and even by the Grand Dukes of Florence who had every reason to restrict their patronage to the their own well-established Tuscan tradition. So while artists in Florence remained aloof to the emerging naturalism and quotidian predilections of Caravaggio and the Caravaggeschi, their rulers worked assiduously to acquire the master’s Bacchus, Medusa, and Cavadenti within the first two decades of the seventeenth century. Evidently, the Medici even had it in mind to lure Caravaggio to Florence; something they might well have accomplished had not the painter been forced to flee Rome as a wanted murderer. In his stead, the Grand Dukes enjoyed the presence of protégés such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Battistello Caracciolo, and Theodor Rombouts.
L’arte messicana arriva a Roma, incrociando presente e passato, combinando le produzioni artigianali di civiltà antichissime, con le immagini fotografiche della rivoluzione dei primi decenni del 1900 e ancora con le creazioni contemporanee di Carlos Amorales. Un’esperienza a trecentosessanta gradi che sa stimolare la mente andando alla ricerca di punti di contatto nell’evoluzione della cultura e del pensiero messicano.