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Youthful comedies

DAVID WILKINS visits the Rossini Opera Festival
in Pesaro, Italy - August 2002


You can hardly imagine a composer who would have delighted more in witnessing the frolics of his fellows than Gioacchino Rossini. The fashionable, the flirtatious, all those opportunities for disguise and escapism, the silly but, in the end, entirely revocable escapades which fuel his operas are now an established part of the glorious institution that we call our 'summer holiday'. His rather stately birthplace of Pesaro has, however, moved on somewhat radically since his initial gasps for its air in 1792. It is, now, just another bit of Adriatic coast tourist opportunism. It is, though, blessed with a couple of advantages -- it's an access point to the riches of Urbino and it can boast an international opera festival dedicated to a lively and scholarly presentation of the works of the city's benign and beguiling most famous son.

Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, 9-23 August 2002
Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, 9-23 August 2002

The promenade area is all beach umbrellas and would-be beautiful bodies. The multitude of available ice-cream flavours is some kind of plus but a niggling memory finally drew me back to John Drummond's description of his own disappointment (Tainted By Experience -- A Life In The Arts). Escaping from the trials of directorship of the Edinburgh Festival in 1983, he tried his accustomed reviver of a trip to Venice but: -- 'After two melancholy days in the rain I knew it was not the answer, hired a car, and drove down the coast to Pesaro -- unrecognizable from my student days in Perugia, when we used to go there to swim: now like part of an Italian Costa Brava. I turned inland to Urbino, and was rewarded with the largest parking fine I have ever had in my life ...'

Well -- I see his point but it was my first visit, so I had no nostalgia to invoke. The Costa Brava aspects are avoidable if you don't feel the need of sand between your toes. There is a cheap and efficient bus service to Urbino that obviates parking fines and, if you make that journey, there is -- amongst other wonders -- the, to me, stunning impact of Piero Della Francesca's Flagellation: surely as provocative a picture as you might encounter anywhere in the world. And then, back on the coast, there is Rossini and his operas.

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Copyright © 8 September 2002 David Wilkins, Eastbourne, Sussex, UK


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