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BILL NEWMAN pays a tail-end visit
to the Italian festival's 42nd season


Spoleto. Photo: Bill Newman


Edmund Purdom. Photo: Bill Newman

The idea that I should go came from my old friend James Lock, ace engineer of Decca Records, recently retired, but still very busy proving he is the best in the business at retransferring to the finest optimum standards some of those internationally-renowned opera recordings - like Solti's Wagner Ring cycle, Karajan's Strauss 'Salome' - from a past decade. Some three year's back, Jimmy's services were sought for a rather important yearly event, namely the Spoleto Festival, whose organizers - Gian Carlo Menotti, the Founder, and his adopted son, Francis, now President and Director - had registered dissatisfaction concerning the sound quality of live events. As I was nuts about Honegger's Joan of Arc at the Stake and was also craving to interview the great Menotti, now in his 89th year, I was urged to fly to Rome pronto where I would be collected and whizzed off by fast car to my destination just a couple of hours away.

Who would be at the barrier to meet me? No less than Edmund Purdom, that heart-throb of the acting world (I pity the young lady at Foyles book shop who had no idea who she was serving, some years back until my colleague Alan Parkes pointed him out, whereupon she nearly fainted) - but I was too busy looking for the customary cardboard display when a booming voice interrupted my vigils: 'It has to be!....' and I was grabbed, kissed on both cheeks and bear-hugged. 'Sorry, Dear Boy, when in Rome!'... The Italian chauffeur looked on sympathetically, picked up my goods and chattels, and we were off!

Edmund at 74 has lost none of his guile; I was treated to an endless stock of jokes, complete with facial expressions (his photographer wife Vivienne complains endlessly that he always tells everybody the same ones), and I was left little time to contemplate the magnificent scenery. In between, the topic turned to music, and if he couldn't supply the right name for the auspicious occasion, I would chirp in. He dubbed me 'A mine for useless information', which in sincerity describes my quest for gleaning every item of interest about this fascinating profession. Edmund's hobby, by the way, is making DAT recordings of live concerts at Santa Cecilia for archive purposes - he made my mouth water! He and Vivienne live in Rome - lucky devils!

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Copyright © 22 August 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK




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