Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Paolo Fresu Devil Quartet and the Nuovo Verdi Teatro
Last night I went to a concert in theNuovo Verdi Teatro . It was interesting night in 3 unique ways. First and most important were the people that I was there with, second was seeing the new theater and third was the concert itself.
First, I went there with my neighbor and her sister and then we met up with friends at the theater. My neighbor’s sister is in a wheelchair and navigating this old town from our apartment to the theater can be a hassle and I was also interested to see people’s reactions or stares as we made our way through the passeggiata. Italians are very interested in “la bella figura” so anything different is worthy of conversation or stares in this small town. The problem is everyone is used to seeing them (as they are usually together) but now they are wondering who that guy is with them. So in whatever group I travel, I’m still the odd one. If I hear “Di dove sei?”one more time!! I would think by now everyone in this town knows where I’m from!!
Then there was the theater; oh man, of course, it’s a heck of a story. In the 1960s they thought that Brindisi should have a new great theater, one of the biggest in the south of Italy. The old theater (built 1893) was bombed in WWII but continued to operate until 1960 when it was finally demolished as being unsafe. The new theater was fighting an uphill battle all the way and had a problem common in Italy. Where they wanted to build it was also where the town had just found ruins from the Roman era. They found streets and foundations of buildings from Brindisi’s heyday as THE port to the east during the Roman Empire. So what did they do? They built the entire theater on concert stilts over the ruins. I love this idea. The theater stays in a very central and convenient location without destroying the past. I have to get a picture of this. Last night was the first time you could see “under” the theater. From the street you can literally see all the way to other street on opposite side of the theater with just a steel fence keeping you from falling into the ruins, which are about 6 feet below street level. They are still working the archeological site and uncovering new items while the theater is working overhead. So they solved the biggest problem but they created another. The theater itself is just plain ugly from the outside, in my opinion. Inside it’s very nice and the acoustics are great but outside it looks completely wrong. You have wonderful stone buildings here but this monster is covered in sheet metal as you can see in the photo. I try to rationalize it with my engineering logic and I think they had to do this to keep the weight down (because it is after all suspended about 15 feet over the ruins). So I’m giving them a little benefit of a doubt. Work began on the theater in 1971 and didn’t go well but I won’t bore you with the story of that except to tell you that the first concert was held in the Nuovo Verdi Teatro in December 2006!!!! Yes, it took 35 years! The Jazz concert I went to last night for the Paolo Fresu Devil Quartet is one of the first concerts in a theater that’s basically as old as I am. I look at the bright side as finally Brindisi is using this concert hall. The place was almost completely full (about 1200 people) so I hope this is the start of needed boost in Brindisi. All the time I lived here I thought it was open I just didn’t know what was going on. I have to believe that this theater finally having shows will do nothing but help Brindisi. It will help preserve that style of life where everything is going on in town, “in centro”.
And I’ll close with a review of the show. The Paolo Fresu Devil Quartet consisted of trumpet (Paolo), guitar, contabasso, and drums. It could be broken down into two shows to me. They started out with some New Age stuff that I just plain didn’t like. I thought the concert was going to be very long. Too many guitar solos that I just didn’t “get”(I remember thinking “this is Paolo’s band, why is the guy on guitar doing another solo?”). But then the show seemed to change and they went into style I like to call smooth and mellow jazz. This part caught my attention and had me toe tapping and feeling the music. Almost everything was original! No jazz standards and I didn’t mind. I think normally you like to hear something a little familiar but his style was a good mix of slow and fast, highs and lows that keep me interested. He only stopped once to tell a very long story of the inspiration for the next piece to be played. It went back to a trip to New Caledonia for a jazz festival and how they stayed in horrible hotel with a horrible breakfast and they wanted to create something inspired by this experience but the music came out horrible!! They started their trip back to Italy and in Australia they stopped long enough to rework the music and it came out great so they called it “Stanley Music” in honor of that horrible hotel in New Caledonia. They jumped into the piece and it was the best part of the show. They did a couple of short encores and we left happy and content. The second part of the show definitely won me over and the first part probably impressed the true jazz aficionados. Something for everyone.