One of my favorite things about New York City is going to the free concerts in Central Park. I first moved to New York in January of 1999, and all it did was snow. I didn’t know anyone. I spent six months buying furniture for my new apartment and wondering why I’d moved from sunny Southern California to this miserable place.
Then June came around, and someone told me about opera in the park and symphony in the park. I met some of my new friends with a blanket and some cheese and crackers from Zabar’s, and all of a sudden I understood why New York City was so amazing. Sitting on the Great Lawn with friends among fellow New Yorkers and listening to the best of the best: the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic playing the greats from Puccini to Tchaikovsky while drinking a Solo cup of wine…it doesn’t get much better than that!
Tonight, I met my friend LaRue, and we listened to the NY Phil play Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and…here’s where the Italia comes in: They played Ottorino Respighi’s “Fountains of Rome” and “Pines of Rome.”
I wasn’t really looking for something to add to my new blog and I’m not sure I knew who Respighi was. But when I sat on the grass, started eating my St. Andre’s cheese with Trader Joe’s pita crackers (salty goodness!) and heard the symphony strike up the tone poem “Fountains of Rome,” suddenly I felt I could have been in Italy.
Born in Bologna, Respighi studied in Russia under Rimsky-Korsakov and “Fountains of Rome” reminded me of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” But Respighi was a traditionalist and this piece, composed in 1915-16, is part of what is known as his “Roman Tryptych.”
The “Fountains of Rome” was inspired by—you guessed it!—four fountains in the Eternal City. Rome’s fountains help to define the city, and Respighi captured the grandeur and beauty of those fountains.
Following the symphony’s performance, came something truly American: Fireworks! Sitting closer to the East Side, we were not in the best position to see them—a tree blocking our view began to look like the Burning Bush!—but it was pretty spectacular anyway!
And don’t miss the next two outings: Symphony in the Park on Monday, July 16 and Opera in the Park, where Puccini’s Madam Butterfly will be performed at the Naumberg Bandshell on Wednesday, July 18, which happens to be my mother’s birthday—and she’s probably Puccini’s No. 1 fan! Who’s with me?