Contempo Artensamble

By Meaghan Sweeney (SACI)

The Opera di Firenze is one of my favorite places to visit here in Florence. Located right next to Parco delle Cascine, it is still a relatively new addition to the city, opening its doors for its first inaugural show in 2011. Following the long pathway to the front doors through the large courtyard out front, visitors are first greeted by some alluring equestrian statues with a vibrant red color before proceeding inside.

I was super stoked to attend this show, not only because of my fond memories of the opera house, but also due to my even greater fondness for Phillip Glass. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, I highly recommend you take a seat, enjoy some popcorn, and check out the film Koyaanisqatsi. Phillip Glass is an American composer, considered to be one of the most influential modern music makers today. He has done countless interesting works; not only with his compositions but in film and artistic collaboration as well, incorporating image and movement with specific sounds and instruments.

The show began with a recent composition, Concert for violin and orchestra n. 2, The American Seasons (2009), and the violin soloist was impressive to say the least. The intermingling of both contemporary sounds that could put your ears on edge seamlessly merged with classical and romantic rhythms, never missing a moment.

Following my (currently alive) favorite composer and a short fifteen-minute intermission, began a second ensemble by the late Argentine composer Ástor Piazzolla. I have to be honest; I didn’t know much about this man’s works previous to this show, only that he was a prominent tango composer. I expected the music to have more of an upbeat, fast-paced style in Las cuatro estaciones porteñas but found it to be a bit lacking, although the melody was incredibly captivating.  I could certainly sense the presence of tango rhythm at times, but mainly noticed more jazz elements, which was something I liked. Translated loosely to The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, the pieces coupled beautifully together and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them one after the other, only later knowing the relation between their titles and the inspiration of the seasons, one in South America and one North.

Both performances were mainly string compositions, aside from the light use of electronic piano keyboard in the works of Phillip Glass. I’m passionate about the cello and the stand-up bass, so the solo done by the first chair cello in the second half of Piazzolla made me loose my breath for a moment. The violin soloist, Duccio Ceccanti, was remarkable in his harmonious transitions, which were smooth and coherent in the face of a very difficult and strenuous musical performance.

Make sure you make it to the Opera di Firenze sometime this month, ticket prices are reasonable and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is taking place now, so there continues to be some stellar concerts for everyone to enjoy.

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