When In Rome (Auditorium: Parco della Musica)

We’re in Rome this week, for our long-awaited Summer break. It’s our second visit to this city, but some things have changed a bit over the past fifteen years. For a start, the Auditorium wasn’t even build then; so that’s where we headed today – where we learned more about regeneration through culture, we were disappointed as tourists, and we thoroughly enjoyed a concert by the virtuoso pianist Stefano Bollani.

Our visit to Parco della Musicastarted rather on a down. The hoped-for guided tour at 2pm was not it transpired on offer, and the guy at the Box Office for some reason didn’t want to give us our pre-paid tickets (‘Come back at 8pm’: Why?, when they’re there on the table?) but we did persuade the chap at the gate that we could explore the upper terrace garden. Here were well-kept grassed areas with a view across the north of the city; and not a soul in sight. Further more, it didn’t look likely that our concert in the evening would be in the Cavea (open air area) as the seats were being taken up and the place appeared to be a building site. But, fingers crossed, we decided to take a wander and return for the concert at 9pm

And that’s how we came to discover the award-winning Maxxi – a Zaha Hadid-designed brand new Museum of the 21st Century, opened in 2009 – but closed on Mondays – and just a few hundred metres down the road in this otherwise unprepossessing downtown part of Rome. The reincarnation of Rome’s 1960 Olympics site into an enormous cultural park is but one aspect of the grand plan for the north of the city.
And beyond that, constituting another element of plans for the regeneration of the area, a very major piece of infrastructure: new bridge across the Tiber River. Clearly here are ambitions for this quarter of the city. And, impressively, these plans have sustainability at their core. The new Ponte della Musica will provide a route only for walkers, cyclists and eco-buses.
So as the new construction reminds us, roads are only one of the ways to get around a city. With (intentionally) no car, our next move was to the Piazzas Flamino and del Popolo, noting on the way the intriguing Explora Children’s Museum:

It was in Piazza Flamino that we enjoyed our roasted vegetables and likewise roast (but always described as ‘baked’) potato supper, before returning on the very eco-conscious tram Line 2 for the concert at Parco della Musica.

This time, the Auditorium’s restaurants and excellent music bookshop were frenetic hubs of people looking forward to their evening’s entertainment.

Gone was the deserted silence of earlier in the say, when a vast expanse of grass and concrete was all that we had seen.

Instead, the Auditorium’s largest concert hall, to which the performance had been transferred, was busy with people of all sorts looking forward to their night out. True, the seating reservations no longer worked, but hey, does it matter when you’re about to have fun?

And that was self-evidently what the audience expected.

And happily, we discovered, the buzz of excitement was fully justified. There was not a seat left vacant in the vast Santa Cecilia Hall (which accommodates 2,742 people). Stefano Bollani is a hugely popular local figure, cracking little jokes as he introduced his (largely Gershwin and Novello-inspired) repertoire. He’s a virtuoso who knows how to engage and enthuse his audience – a very special talent.

Bollani’s style may not be to everyone’s taste, but then nor is straight classical music. This is a pianist who can take on all comers, someone who actually asked members of the audience what they wanted to hear, and then served the number up in his own way. Isn’t that what Mozart, Liszt, Paginini and many others have also done over the ages?

It was a triumph of its kind. And so was the way we were spirited back from the concert. The ‘Music Bus’ returned us to the city centre in no time at all.

I guess the next challenge for the Rome authorities, as they develop their ambitious infrastructural plans, is to find a way of engaging their local communities in the Auditorium complex, day by day, in the same way that Stefano Bollani engaged his audience within the concert hall itself.

Posted on August 1, 2011, in Arts, Culture And Heritage, Cities, People And Places, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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