Dialogues and readings with contemporary U.S., Italian writers
The stunning 15th-century Villa La Pietra in the Montughi hills of Florence will be open May 28 through August 7 to host readings with contemporary Italian and American authors, concerts and theater performances organized by New York University Florence.
The 10th edition of NYU's The Season, a city-wide annual event, will debut with the first of four readings on May 28 which will see novelist Nicola Gardini present "Fiction Talk - Heroic Dogs and Hysterical Sopranos: A Portrait of Italy as a Would-Be Country" at Villa La Pietra.
La Pietra is one of Florence's few intact historic estates which was bequeathed by British-American scholar and writer Sir Harold Acton at his death in 1994 to New York University and its School of Fine Arts.
The other readings will continue at Palazzo Strozzi in downtown Florence, in cooperation with cultural institute Gabinetto Vieusseux, with poets Dorothea Lasky and Eileen Myles on June 4, writers Jonathan Lethem and Chris Kraus on June 11 and poets Marco Simonelli and Mark Wunderlich on June 18.
All readings are part of the NYU Creative Writing Department's program.
The Writers' Season, a two-day literary extravaganza June 5-6 organized by NYU Florence professor and writer Alessandro Raveggi, will see American writers in residence Kraus, Lasky, Lethem and Myles, as well as Thom Donovan and Heidi Julavits, dialogue with Italian authors including Gian Maria Annovi, Vincenzo Latronico and Giorgio Vasta in both English and Italian.
Readings from novels and poems are part of the Writers' Season program along with two concerts with Bettibarsantini duo Marco Parente and Alessandro Fiori on June 5 and the interesting literary cabaret of the Rapsody group on June 6.
Comedy traditions in the 21st century will be at the centre of the lecture "Commedia Tonight" on May 29 by NYU arts professor Laurence Masion, who will trace the evolution of Commedia dell'arte and its influence on contemporary theater, film, television and the Internet.
Maison is the co-author of the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary series Make Them Laugh: The Funny Business of America, and the lecture at Villa La Pietra will include clips from the series with highlights from Groucho Marx, among others.
On June 10 Mark Wing-Davey, chair of Graduate Acting at NYU and the only non-scientist to become a member of the Emotional Brain Institute (EBI), a joint initiative between NYU and New York State to study emotions and their impact on mind and behavior, will discuss whether neuroscience, neurobiology and neuropsychology can help us in our jobs and whether great actors can contribute to transform neuroscience, investigating the connection between theater performers and spectators in Being Me, Being You: Acting, Neuroscience and the Audience.
Theatrical events will follow with Iliad: Guerrillas of Troy performed by the Continuum Company of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts on June 19 at Villa La Pietra, an insight into Homer's epic through the eyes of English literature greats ranging from Alexander Pope to William Shakespeare as interpreted by NYU professor Laurence Maison.
The event continues at Palazzo Strozzi on June 25 with The Maiden & The Tyrant about the biblical story of Judith Slaying Holofernes performed by the NYU undergraduates' Commedia Troupe.
The same company will perform July 3 in Captain Gloriosus by Plautus, a comedy about a soldier who swaggers his way through high society, wars and lovers until he falls for Lucinda.
The visual concert Action Painting and Irascible Composers - New York and Europe during the Abstract Expressionism Time on June 26 will see the joint performance at Villa La Pietra of pianist Luisa Valeria Carpignano and video-artist Veronica Citi to link visual arts to music.
Standing in a Safety Zone, a sound performance on July 1, will reflect on the universality of culture and will be followed by a concert with Justin Randolph Thompson and the Blip Trio.
Other concerts will include Winterreise, Franz Schubert's great lieder cycle presented on July 6 by two internationally acclaimed performers, tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist and Thomas Ades to mark the birthday of the late Sir Harold Acton.
A concert by pianist Kirill Gerstein is scheduled on July 7.
The event will end on August 7 with Shakespeare's The Tempest presented by the Aquila Theater Company.
Along with the events and performances scheduled, NYU's The Season offers a unique occasion to get acquainted with Villa La Pietra, the most important building at the 57-acre estate that is the university's Florence campus, and its stunning park.
Sir Harold Acton's parents, Arthur Acton and Hortense Mitchell, bought La Pietra in 1907, pursuing a vision of Renaissance revival of the house and grounds, reinventing its garden and collecting furniture and paintings over decades.
Intellectuals and artists including Vita Sackville-West and Henry Moore were regular visitors, as well as the British royals.
The fascination with historic revivals cultivated by Arthur Acton, a painter and dealer who collected art for the mansions designed by Stanford White, and his heiress wife Hortense, has given an aura of timelessness to La Pietra's garden and the ancestral house built in the 1460s by Francesco Sassetti, which showcases Renaissance, Baroque and Modern art.