Monday, December 19, 2011

NAPOLI

Napoli represents the essence of August Bournonville's creativity, both in steps and ideas. It also demonstrates that the concepts of a Bournonville tradition? is not so straightforward and easily definable. Napoli has been danced in an unbroken tradition for 150 years. More than 700 performances. But this does not mean that it has not changed along the way. Quite the contrary. Ballet masters, designers and dancers have revised it time and again in accordance with the era in which they lived. They have tightened it up, adjusted, arranged and re-choreographed. They have created new scenic decor and offered new characterisations. Each generation has wrestled with Napoli from the quite proper point of view that a classic only lives if one can relate to it.
Napoli is a happy ballet and for Bournonville there is good reason for this happiness: the central couple do not give in to life's temptations - represented by the erotic universe of the Blue Grotto - but, with the help of Christianity, they return home to Naples and the gala dancing of Act III. Since the beginning of the 20.th century the third act has been the Royal Danish Ballet's visiting card. But seen in isolation this abundance of exuberant dance is actually quite unruly. The ballet should be experienced as a coherent whole.
Both Teresina and Gennaro pass the tests in the Blue Grotto and reach home. To Naples and to everyday life. Following her encounter with Golfo in the Blue Grotto, Teresina probably returns with the greater impression of other possibilities afforded by life. The music for her pas de deux with Golfo is both seductive and sensual.
Another world exists in the Blue Grotto; a Romantic universe where the everyday, with its joys and sorrows, disappears. Bournonville had experienced this himself, swimming into the cave under Capri. And it is this sensation of the compelling, mysterious and different - a world where eroticism, seduction, yearning and death are both dangerous and alluring realities - that should continue to move us today.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

THE TROTULA

The Trotula was the most influential compendium of women's medicine in medieval Europe. Scholarly debate has long focused on the traditional attribution of the work to the mysterious Trotula, said to have been the first female professor of medicine in eleventh- or twelfth-century Salerno, just south of Naples, then the leading center of medical learning in Europe. Yet as Monica H. Green reveals in her introduction to the first English translation ever based upon a medieval form of the text, the Trotula is not a single treatise but an ensemble of three independent works, each by a different author. To varying degrees, these three works reflect the synthesis of indigenous practices of southern Italians with the new theories, practices, and medicinal substances coming out of the Arabic world.
Green here presents a complete English translation of the so-called standardized Trotula ensemble, a composite form of the texts that was produced in the midthirteenth century and circulated widely in learned circles. The work is now accessible to a broad audience of readers interested in medieval history, women's studies, and premodern systems of medical thought and practice.

Monday, November 14, 2011

THE NEAPOLITAN SHOULDER

What is a Neapolitan shoulder? The tailors of Naples have become famous over the last ten years, in part because the rise in popularity of brands like Kiton. Many writers wax poetic about the famous shoulder/sleevehead. But what do they mean?
There are three things that can distinguish a Naples-made or Naples-inspired coat shoulder. The first is a lack of padding. The second is a pleated sleevehead. And the third is what the Neapolitans call the spalla camicia, or “shirt shoulder.”
Now, sometimes this latter is confused with the Neapolitan shoulder. But this is a mistake. The spalla camicia is a detail that is a specialty of Neapolitan tailors, but it is not in itself the necessary and sufficient criterion for a Neapolitan shoulder. Some Neapolitan coats are made with it, some aren’t. Some tailors like to do it, some don’t. There is a general belief—not universally shared—that the spalla camicia is only proper on odd jackets and informal suits.
Most Neapolitan coats are characterized by minimal or even zero padding. This in itself is controversial. Many people really hate the look of sloping, rounded shoulders. Some tailors hate to make it because it so hard to fit. Padded shoulders give a coat structure. The tailor can affix a great deal of cloth to the pad and hang the rest therefrom. It solves a lot of thorny problems. Unpadded shoulders have to be measured in increments of 8ths or even 16ths. There is no margin for error.
This is why the true Neapolitan shoulder is almost never seen ready-to-wear. RTW patterns are very exacting. They are developed over time with a great deal of care. They are designed to fit as many men as possible with minimal alterations. We tend to be dismissive of RTW clothing on the forums, and I can see why; it has many, many shortcomings. But some acknowledgement should be made of the complexity and difficulty inherent in designing a RTW pattern that fits men across a range of sizes yet looks similar in silhouette no matter what the size. It’s harder than we think. Doing that reliably requires a shoulderpad. Which is why Kiton and Borrelli and Isaia and most Neapolitan RTW suits sold in the US (with the exception of La Vera) are padded.
But back to the real thing. There is no pad. There might, or might not, be some wadding at the edge of the sleevehead, on the shoulder side. This depends on the tailor, on his judgment of the client’s needs, and the client’s preferences. Either way, the overall effect is most sloped, soft, and rounded.
The second hallmark is the pleated sleevehead. But actually, “pleated” is a slightly misleading term, since “pleat” implies a careful and precise folding. But that is not the case with a Neapolitan shoulder. Rather, the upper sleeve is deliberately cut much larger than the (typically very small) armscye. That excess cloth or fullness is then fed into the scye as the sleeve is hand-set into the body of the coat. This CANNOT be done by machine. Sewing machines can efficiently sew two pieces of the cloth together along edges of equal length. This is why even the very best bench tailors typically sew center backseams and the like by machine, even if they sew the rest of the coat almost completely by hand.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

THE CRONACA DI PARTENOPE

Narrating the history of Naples from its foundation in early antiquity to the year 1343, the Cronaca di Partenope was the first chronologically comprehensive history of the city and one of the earliest works of any genre composed in the Neapolitan vernacular. Drawing on earlier-medieval texts and a healthy dose of legend, it is a prime witness to Neapolitan identity and memory in the later Middle Ages and an important example of southern Italian civic historiography. This volume offers the first critical edition of the text, accompanied by an extensive introduction that establishes its author, date, historical context, source materials, and later fortunes, including its significant influence on the subsequent development of local historiography.

Monday, October 10, 2011

NEAPOLITAN PASTORAL

Aci, Galatea & PolifemoSerenata a 3,1708: Neapolitan Pastoral at its most perfect.
A "Serenata a tre" for a ceremony, Aci, Galatea e Polifemo belongs, in fact, to the genre of the Baroque pastoral. It is a little one-act opera typical of the early 18th century Neapolitan musical theatre. In this field the young Handel, newly arrived from his native Saxony, proved himself to be a perfect genius: "dazzling orchestral effects, beribboned trumpets, bravura arias, all is a sheer delight to the ear" (J.F. Labie). Eight years before its English counterpart (Acis and Galatea) this one was already a triumph!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

POMODORO

The meal being prepared in The Angels’ Kitchen was essentially the recipe that the Italians, especially the Neapolitans, then ruled from Madrid, acquired from the Spanish. At least, this is how Antonio Latini acquired it. According to his autobiography, after an unfortunate start as a poor orphan, first in his native Fabriano and later on the streets of Rome, in 1658 Latini was taken into the kitchen service of Cardinal Antonio Barberini. There, Latini quickly rose through the ranks to become kitchen steward (scalco). Over the next few years, Latini served as a steward in other noble and ecclesiastical households in Italy, before being offered the post of steward to Esteban Carrillo y Salcedo, a grandee of Spain and regent to the Spanish viceroy of Naples. This was powerful, wealthy Spain, with an empire bridging the Old and New Worlds, so it was a great success for the forty-year-old Latini. Upon his arrival, Latini was given forty gold scudi to defray his travel costs and his new clothes "in the Spanish style". He was now in charge of cooking in Carillo’s villa on the slopes of Vesuvius, overlooking the Bay of Naples, where Carillo "often banqueted with the most noble personages in royal splendor and magnificence." Here Latini was rewarded with the titles of knight of the golden spur and count palatine, dictated his autobiography in 1690, and compiled his masterpiece, Lo scalco alla moderna, published in two volumes a few years before his death in 1696.
Latini’s cooking is at once refined and eclectic, borrowing from his own broad range of experiences and contacts. Latini is not afraid to use popular food traditions, from vegetable soups to tripe and other offal; to develop a "new way of cooking without spices," using herbs rather than strong flavorings; and to experiment with newer ingredients, like turkey, chocolate, chilies, maize, and, of course, the tomato. All the dishes in which the tomato appears are indicated as "in the Spanish style" (alla spagnuola). The first is a fiery tomato condiment to accompany boiled foods. The second brings together eggplants, squash, tomatoes, and onions, a combination that became a Mediterranean standby. The third tomato recipe takes the form of a hearty mixed meat stew, named after the pot, cassuola, in which it was cooked.
Latini’s three recipes are the first time tomatoes were used in European culinary literature. They met the increasing demand for condiments and dishes that were flavorful but not based on spices. Cooks now were trying to stimulate the appetite with delicate and pleasing foods.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

CASTINGS

Brassaï: Picasso, do you know what the earth preserves best? Greco-Roman coins.
Picasso: It's insane how many Roman coins are being found! It's as if all Romans had holes in their pockets. They sowed coins wherever they went. Even in the fields. Maybe to grow money . . .
Brassaï: With excavations, I always have the impression they're breaking a mold to take out a sculpture. In Pompeii, it was Vesuvius that did the casting. Houses, men, animals were instantly caught in that boiling gangue. There is something deeply moving about those convulsed bodies, captured at the moment of death. I saw them in their glass cages in Pompeii and Naples.
Picasso: Dali was really obsessed with the idea of such monstrous castings, of that instantaneous end to all life by a cataclysm. He talked to me about a casting of the place de l'Opéra, with the opera building, the Café de la Paix, the high-class chicks, the cars, the passersby, the cops, the newspaper kiosks, the girls selling flowers, the streetlights, the clock still marking the time. Imagine it in plaster or bronze, life-size. What a nightmare! If I could do that, I'd choose Saint-Germain-des-Prés, with the Café de Flore, the Brasserie Lipp, the Deux-Magots, Jean-Paul Sartre, the waiters Jean and Pascal, M. Boubal, the cat, and the blonde cashier. What a marvelous, monstrous casting that would make.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

CAPRI SANDALS

Master of the chic accessory, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier "Jackie" Kennedy “O” Onassis is still one of America’s proudest sartorial figures. Her pristine, effortless style was punctuated by her characteristic dark oversized sunglasses, neat hairdo, perfect white gloves, gracefully placed hat, classic string of pearls, Hermès silk neckerchief, and off-duty Capri sandals. Perhaps her iconic shades were a product of her father “Black” Jack Bouvier’s teachings; he said, “Always let others see you as mysterious…unattainable”.
A pro at putting together separates, New York-born Jackie Onassis trailblazed the pantsuit at a time when dresses and skirts were the norm. She also felt an affinity with Hubert de Givenchy and Chanel’s subtle French tailoring; the double-breasted, strawberry pink and navy trim collared Chanel wool suit with pillbox hat worn on November 23, 1963 when her husband was assassinated, has become one of the iconic outfits of 1960s America. Valentino once said, “Much has been said about Jackie’s style. Her look was feminine and simple with a legendary ease… Her sense of elegance inspires me to this day.”
Despite being a lover of luxury fashion, Onassis's eye for artisan craftsmanship meant she championed designers she stumbled across during trips to the Italian island, Capri. She developed relationships with the local shoemakers Canfora, who would open the store out of hours to allow her to shop there in privacy. A sandal christened “K” was made exclusively for her; however, former American Vogue editor Diana Vreeland claimed to have ordered “Capri sandals” for the first time in 1935 from a native Cobbler, thus initiating their popularity.
The story of the sandals, along with a wider exploration of Kennedy’s relationship with Capri, feature in an exhibition and accompanying photobook Jacqueline A Capri (Jackie’s Capri), sponsored by TOD'S, fellow Italian luxury shoemakers. On show are images of the icon relaxed and smiling as she holidays with her husband Aristotle Onassis, her two children John-John and Caroline Kennedy, and various friends, shot by Settimo Garritano along with an accompanying revelatory essay by Giuseppe Scaraffia.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

CAPRI PANTS

In 1948, fashion designer Sonja de Lennart developed the first capri pant.
She had designed a line of skirts and belts a few years earlier and named the clothing line after her favorite vacation destination, the island of Capri in Italy. The capri pant was a new and cutting-edge fashion piece, featuring a length and style of pant not yet shown before on fashion runways. The capri pant was embraced by women seeking more daring fashion choices, and, once popularized by celebrities, the trend took off.
Pants which end mid-calf are capri-style pants. Capri pants are distinguishable by their length. They are typically three-quarter's length and end mid-calf or just below the calf. They can be worn either in a tight-fitting style or a looser style. They have been referred to as "clam diggers" or "long shorts," though their length is generally closer to that of pants rather than shorts.
The capri pant style was embraced by popular icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and Mary Tyler Moore. Audrey Hepburn wore them in the 1954 film "Sabrina," which started the fashion craze. Mary Tyler Moore further popularized them on "The Dick Van Dyke Show," where her character, Laura Petrie, wore them in the home. Capri pants became an instant fashion hit.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

NEAPOLITAN GRIMACE

The only business open to customers on Viale Augusto on a Sunday afternoon is the local betting shop where the football-crazy gambling-mad punters scour form books as they attempt to strike lucky. When Napoli play at home, the main drag heading towards the San Paolo spills over with pedestrians, cars and scooters careening their way to the stadium.
Fans stop by for a quick bet on the weekend’s fixtures and also a flutter on the lottery. This is when La Smorfia comes into its own. The ancient rite of interpreting dreams has adapted with the ages, held sway in popular culture, embedded itself in everyday life. The purpose of La Smorfia is to yield meaning from the odd array of characters who populate nightly visions, the figures strange and familiar who also creep into woken existence.
Serie A Round 33, Il’Anne ‘e Cristo, the age of Christ, already a good omen if ever there was one. 20 wins from 32 matches for Napoli before heading into the meeting with Udinese. 20, ‘a Festa, the party, another positive portent.
The Azzurri were enjoying their best spell of form of the season, four straight wins – the last, away to Bologna, witnessed an influx of 15 thousand supporters to the Dall’Ara to deck Bologna’s stadium in sky blue. Four, ‘o Puorco, you lucky pig!
Five matches unbeaten, the longest unbeaten run. Five, ‘a Mano, the hand pointing to glory.
As much as Napoli were on the up, Udinese on the other hand, were on the down. Two and two, 22, o’ Pazzo, the mad man was laughing at Udinese’s misfortune. The signs were evident: The unpronounceable dream could/would/must continue through to Easter weekend, when hope springs eternal.
Yet, the dream ended on Sunday, 17th April. The number six ruled.
In Round 33, the sixth from last match of the 2010/11 Serie A season, six minutes separated Gokhan Inler’s non-celebration after scoring the opener from German Denis’s goal, non-celebrated by apologising to the stunned onlookers.
Napoli lost at home to Udinese to slip six points behind leaders AC Milan. Six games were left, six minutes between the two non-celebrations, six points behind the Rossoneri: 6, which La Smorfia explains is chella ca guarda ‘nterra. And that which looks upon the ground did not look favourably on Napoli.
The feeling of contented disappointment was displayed by the entire support at the final whistle. The players were treated to a dignified ovation as the cold wind painted a painful grimace on the Neapolitan faithful.
Fitting when you consider the general meaning of smorfia? Grimace.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

TELESCOPE

For years Rome remained too dangerous. Cesi’s father continued to do everything he could to block the progress of the subversive society his son had founded. Federico Cesi himself still thought of setting up their “Lynceum” in the more propitious environment of Naples. (...) But then news of the telescope and its possibilities began to reach them. Sometime in early 1609 Galileo had turned his cannochiale to the night sky; and from then on matters moved ahead with unanticipated speed.
For a start, Giovanni Battista della Porta, the sage of Naples and father figure to Cesi and the other Linceans, began snapping at Galileo’s heels. Had he not been there first? “I have seen the secret use of the eyeglass and it’s a load of balls [coglionaria],” he wrote to Cesi on August 28, 1609. “In any case, it’s taken from book 9 of my De Refractione,” he pointed out, irascibly. In the same letter he made a simple drawing of his own invention and explained that it consisted of one tube with a concave lens inserted into another with a convex lens.
Looking just with the first one will see distant things nearby [le cose lontane, vicine, a phrase that would continue to reverberate in the next few years]; but since one cannot see within the tube [i.e., at the focal point], they appear obscure and indistinct. However, if one places the other tube with the concave lens inside, it has the contrary effect, and one sees things clearly and directly. It goes in and out like a trombone, and one adjusts it according to the eyesight of the beholder, since eyesight always varies from one beholder to the other.
In other words, Della Porta had long since established the basic principle of the telescope. But by the time he wrote to Cesi it was too late. Galileo had beaten him to the post. He had made a far more refined instrument than Della Porta ever envisaged - and had actually begun to use it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

LIMONE DI PROCIDA

The island of Procida, in the gulf of Naples is
coloured by numerous and robust lemon trees,
that offer fruits of medium-big size with a coarse
grind yellow skin characterised by a rather thick
pith, the white and spongy layer underneath
the yellow skin. Their scent is intense and the
juice pleasantly sour; limone di Procida is used
to prepare drinks and as aroma in local recipes,
although finer palates like eating the pith in
slices, as dessert, with or without a spoon of
sugar.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

CRISOMMOLE

The origin of the apricot is shrouded in uncertainty. One thing is sure; this drupe has found a second home in Campania, thanks to the environmental and climatic conditions which are particularly favourable to its development. Traces of the cultivation of apricots in the region are already present in the fourth century. However, it is in the sixteenth century that they are more precise when Gian Battista Della Porta, an illustrious Neapolitan scientist of the time, divided them into two large groups in his treatise, Suae Villae Pomarium: bericocche, are the most common, round with soft, white flesh, of the clingstone variety and crisomele, of variable size, freestone, much more highly valued for their taste and colour. The Neapolitan word "crisommole" derives from this old term and is still used today to refer to apricots. Today, Campania supplies about 50 thousand tonnes of produce, on just over 5,000 hectares (the surface area decreased by more than a quarter between 1989 and 1998 but the region is still the leader for surface area and production). The oldest and most traditional cultivation area of this species is to be found in the province of Naples, more precisely, in the territory of Vesuvius.
This strong presence in the Vesuvius area is ascribable to the mildness of the climate and the abundant fertility of the land that, being of volcanic nature, is rich in minerals, especially potassium: a fundamental element for improving the organoleptic character of the fruit (particularly the flavour and aroma).
Obviously there was already a wide range of varieties, many of autochthonous origin, that produced different fruit depending on the characteristics of the cultivar it belonged to and underlining the strong link between species and environment. According to the regulations for the production of the Vesuvius IGP Apricot, the Protected Geographical Indication nominates fruit from biotypes corresponding to the following cultivars: Baracca, Boccuccia Liscia, Boccuccia Spinosa, Ceccona, Fracasso, Monaco Bello, Palummella, Pellecchiella, Portici, San Castrese and Vitillo, cultivated using traditional methods in the 19 communes in the province of Naples. Some of the common features of the Vesuvius apricots are the medium-small size, intensity of fragrance, sweet freestone flesh and the presence of a reddish colour or speckling overlying the yellow-orange base of the smooth skin. Another peculiarity is the fact that most of them ripen early or medium-early and the harvest, exclusively by hand, goes from the middle of June to the end of July.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

NAPLES & THE AMALFI COAST

South-east of the anarchic flow of Naples and Vesuvius, a limestone Apennine shard called the Sorrentine peninsula juts into the Tyrrhenian Sea. At its wild tip, Punta Campanella, the inimitable island of Capri has been chipped off, while lofty Sant'Agata sui due Golfi sits astride the gulfs of Naples and Salerno. From here La Costiera Amalfitana (the Amalfi Coast) unfolds in dramatic cliffs and azure waters as far as Vietri. Man makes the most of a benign Mezzogiorno (southern Italian) climate and volcanic minerals here: defying the precariousness of life with stacked villages and cultivated terraces clinging to the rocks.
Before the 1850s there were no roads. A century later Positano and Amalfi's cobbled scalinatelle stairways began rustling with the seashell-studded sandals of arty-types and film stars after John Steinbeck holed up at Positano's Hotel Sirenuse. Overnight, a picturesque fishing village became more chic than Capri, and a once-glorious maritime republic resorted to peddling parasols and its past. Nowadays, the impossibly scenic SS163 "Amalfi Drive" and its pulse-quickening bends are clogged in the sticky summer months by slow coaches.
The Amalfi Coast's back may be turned to brooding Vesuvius, but it owes its fertility to millennia-worth of volcanic debris. Lemon, grape and olive-yielding terraces attest to this natural bounty and the ingenuity of its inhabitants. In Greco-Roman times, the area was dubbed Campania Felix – "Happy Land". Reflecting this natural bounty, Epicureanism flourished in its purest philosophical sense, surviving in Herculaneum's charred papyrus scrolls and the traditions of the coast's resourceful artisan producers and cooks. The Mezzogiorno's once-dismissed cucina povera ("peasant cooking") – vegetables and fish dressed in oil – and the lauded "Mediterranean diet" – a term first coined at the University of Salerno – make the Campania region a foodie haven.
The mineral-rich slopes of Vesuvius yield fruits with intense flavours such as San Marzano tomatoes and crisommole apricots. Lemon plantation terraces fashioned using dry-stone walling dating from the 10th and 11th centuries produce the elongated, pointy sfusato variety, prized for their thick skins and sweet flesh.
Higher up on the iodine-rich pastures of the Monti Lattari or "Milky Mountains", Agerolese cows graze, their milk producing fiordilatte (cow's milk mozzarella) and Provolone di Monaco (aged curd shaped into ovoid balls). Tramonti – named after the mountain wind which blew Amalfi's ships – celebrates its fecund soil through events including Festival della Pizza in August.
Meanwhile, ancient grape varieties Falanghina, Coda di Volpe and Greco di Tufo are blended to make Lacryma Christi Bianco. Gran Furor Marisa Cuomo in Furore offers tours of its vines and arranges tastings of its Costa d'Amalfi DOC wines, by appointment.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

MEZZOGIORNO SPORTIVO

In Naples, fan fever has always blown hot and heavy. So strong was the interest in a 1929 Napoli v Lazio play-off for Serie A that Neapolitan sports paper Mezzogiorno Sportivo invented one of the earliest ever "live" match reports. Basically, a reporter from the paper, who was at the game in Milan, phoned back minute-by-minute reports to his Naples office. These were then written up by another journalist and passed on to yet another reporter who then read them out to a crowd from the office balcony.

Friday, April 15, 2011

CONVERTIBLE TAXIS

In the summer of 1969, Aristotle Onassis's yacht Christina pulled into Capri's Marina Grande, where the Greek shipowner and his new bride, Jacqueline Onassis, disembarked and hailed one of the Tyrrhenian island's famous, brightly painted stretch taxis, a specially modified seven-seat Fiat convertible.
Those Fiat taxis and their drivers had already come to symbolize Capri's welcoming culture.
The first taxis on Capri—mostly Fiats and all convertibles—appeared before World War II. By the 1950's, they'd become an emblem of the island, and the drivers were as well known as their cars (visitors from Sophia Loren to Princess Margaret to Brigitte Bardot all had their favorites). In the seventies, however, the onerous task of finding replacement parts started to kill off the red, blue, and pink elephants.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

ROYAL SHIPYARD

The School Ship “Amerigo Vespucci” was built and fitted out in the Royal Shipyard of Castellammare di Stabia according to a design by Lt. Colonel of the Naval Engineers Francesco Rotundi. Laid down on 12 May 1930, launched on 22 February 1931, the ship was commissioned as School Ship the next 6 June, joining her sister ship Cristoforo Colombo.
In July of the same year she started her first training cruise in North Europe. Afterwards, she was extensively refitted in the years 1951, 1958, 1964, 1971, 1984, 1990, 1997 and in the year 2000 when the spaces for the female personnel were created.
The Amerigo Vespucci is the oldest ship in commission in the Italian Navy and her Leonardesque motto is “Non chi comincia ma quel che persevera”. From a technical-structural point of view, the Vespucci is a sailing ship with auxiliary power plant. As concerns the sail rigging, she is a square-rigged ship, with three masts, firesail, main and mizzen (all equipped with yards and square sails) plus the bowsprit, in every respect, the fourth mast. The ship has also fore-and-aft sails, jibs on the bowsprit, stays between the masts and the spanker.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

GRAND OPERA

First performed at the Paris Opéra in 1828, La Muette de Portici was an opera-ballet with music by Daniel Auber, choreography by Jean-Louis Aumer, a singing hero (the fisherman Masaniello), and a dancing heroine (the mute Fenella). The work, set in Naples during a seventeenth-century revolt against the Spaniards, capitalized on the Romantic era's fascination with local color, evident in the treatment of Fenella's costume. Many French works of the Romantic period had Italian settings and featured classicized versions of Italian folk dances. [...]
The history of grand opéra begins with La muette de Portici. The characteristics of the genre include a new degree of magnificence in the sets and sensationally dramatic technical stage effects, the culmination of each act in a large tableau and ingeniously staged crowd scenes. The opera provided new opportunities for the director, librettist, set designer and costume designer to work together, and they made a careful study of the historical background of the Neapolitan revolt. The climax of the final scene with the eruption of Vesuvius was a sensation, and its influence was felt in grand opéra from Meyerbeer and his contemporaries to Wagner's Götterdämmerung. The work's connection with the Belgian revolution of 22 August 1830 made it a general symbol of revolutionary ideas.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

ENRICO CARUSO

Before Pavarotti, before Bocelli, before Gigli, the extraordinary Enrico Caruso set the template for the massive-lunged, cavern-throated, fat-but-romantic Italian operatic tenor that became a 20th-century archetype. His significance lies not just in his uniquely powerful-but-lyrical voice (he could hit top C, even late in life) but his embrace of modern recording and communication systems.
One of the first classical singers to be recorded on the new phonograph, he was the first to sell 1m copies of a record – "Vesti la giubba" from Pagliacci, in 1907. Through RCA Victor his appeal went transatlantic. He was leading tenor at the New York Met for 18 consecutive seasons.
He appeared in newsreels, commercial movies, even an experimental film by Thomas Edison. And he remained rudely Italian: in 1906 he was fined $10 for pinching a woman's bottom in the monkey house of Central Park Zoo.

Friday, March 4, 2011

MARINE BIOLOGY

Study of life along the seashore, which became known as marine biology by the twentieth century, was first developed and institutionalized in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. Two distinct traditions contributed to its modern disciplinary form.
First to emerge was marine biology as a summertime educational activity, chiefly designed to instruct teachers of natural history about how to study nature within a natural setting.
The second tradition was European, where several marine stations operated by 1880, most notably the Stazione Zoologica in Naples. This marine biology laboratory was founded by Anton Dohrn in 1872. The "Mecca for marine biology," as Naples was soon known, attracted scholars from throughout the world.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

SAN MARZANO TOMATOES

Foodies and connoisseur's are fanatical about certified San Marzano tomatoes and talk about them with elitist sounding hyperbole. Gardeners too prefer them for homemade sauces and carefully and lovingly raise their San Marzano plants all season long. And finally, it is the only tomato sauce allowed on a Neapolitan pizza, "otherwise it's just meat and sauce," as one Italian cook puts it.
According to "oral tradition," the first San Marzano tomato seeds were a gift from the King of Peru to the King of Naples sometime during the 1770s. These seeds were then planted near the city of San Marzano in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. From these seeds, crossbreeding and careful selection led to the current day San Marzano tomato.
No Italian or English documents on the San Marzano tomato bring up those historical facts about Peru, and seem to prefer to let the myth of royal beginnings 'ride it's own wave.' 
Documented evidence of the San Marzano makes it's first appearance in 1902. According to Italian documents the San Marzano is a cross between 3 different tomatoes being grown in the region at that time: the King Umberto, Fiaschella, and the Fiascona. Of these 3 cultivars, only the King Umberto is still grown. The other 2 have since disappeared from the public. 
Legend from then and still used today declares that due to the San Marzano area's volcanic & rich soil, and due to properties from the Mediterranean climate, San Marzano tomatoes grown in the Campania region of Italy are far superior for cooking and sauces over any other paste, plum and even San Marzano tomatoes grown anywhere else, including other parts of Italy.
The cultivation takes place in flat terrain, covered with volcanic material, deep, soft, with good supply of organic matter and a high amount of phosphorus and potassium (Luciano Pignataro).
Other factors, including the use of wood stakes, raised by hand, it's delicate nature (meaning, it can't take being roughed up like some commercially produced/harvested/packed strains of tomatoes), harvesting when ripe, and harvesting "when the Sun goes down" reports one website, - all seem to factor in it's delicious and superior flavor. The tomato itself does seem to have some unique properties leading to it's flavor which include an unusual and often described distinctive rsweet flavor (when cooked into sauce, this flavor really comes to life), high density and pectin (which causes the sauce to be thicker), very few seeds (less than other paste tomatoes), bright red color and easiness to peel (convenient when you have to peel hundreds to thousands).

Saturday, February 5, 2011

ACTIVE CALDERA

The Campi Flegrei volcanic field is the largest feature of the Phlegraean Volcanic District, which includes the islands of Procida and Ischia, as well as submarine vents in the northwestern Gulf of Naples.
The key issue for a highly explosive volcanic area like Campi Flegrei, an extremely populated region, is the accurate estimation of hazards from eruptions, and their impact on urban areas.
In particular, it is important to estimate the probability of occurrence, at each point of the area, of the two main eruption products which constitute the highest risk: pyroclastic currents and the fallout products (ash, pumice, etc.).
Campi Flegrei has been one of the world's most active calderas in the last 40 years, generating unrest phenomena not followed by eruptions, characterized by huge ground deformation and seismicity.
Studies of the Campi Flegrei substructure, involving gravimetric data, earthquake locations, active and passive seismic tomography and laboratory experiments on rock samples, allow us to make some inferences about the location of the brittle-ductile transition, shallow aquifers, and the thermal-rheological state of rocks down to 5 km depth. Clear evidence for magma
chambers only comes from petrological studies, indicating two main depth ranges for magma accumulation (5-8 and 11-15 km).
The complex dynamics evidenced at Campi Flegrei, characterized by strict magma-water interaction not only during eruptions, and the problems linked to location and rheology of magma chambers, all indicate the need fordetailed, direct studies of caldera substructure by deep drilling.
Detailed study of Campi Flegrei caldera, which represents a typical example of partially submerged super-volcano located in a densely populated urban area, thus gives a unique opportunity to deeply understand the dynamics of the most dangerous volcanoes on Earth, representing the most catastrophic natural hazards, after giant meteoritic impacts.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

MENAICA ANCHOVIES

These anchovies are fished using an ancient technique that was once widespread throughout the Mediterranean but now continues in just a few isolated places, including the Cilento coast, in particular in Marina di Pisciotta, a small village on the coast between Velia and Capo Palinuro.
A group of fishermen go out at night with their boats (no more than 7 or 8) and nets, which are both called menaica or menaide.
Menaica anchovies are fished when the sea is calm, between April and July: boats go out at dusk and the net is laid to prevent the fish from going out to sea. The net makes a selection as only the biggest in size are caught. Lively and darting, once the anchovies get trapped, they quickly lose all their blood. The net is pulled on the boat by hand and the anchovies are extracted from the net one by one, removing head and bowels. Then they are placed in wooden cases and - most important - no ice or other refrigerants are used for transport. Once delivered to the harbour, the anchovies are immediately washed in brine, then layered with salt in terracotta jars and left to rest for at least three months in the so-called magazzeni, cool and wet premises where, before the harbour was built, boats were also kept.
Menaica anchovies are distinguished by their pale pink flesh and intense, delicate aroma which make them unique.