Monday, August 27, 2012

A Capri "Casa"


The island of Capri (accent on the first syllable) has always been a retreat for esthetes. The names of Norman Douglass, Axel Munthe, Graham Green, and W.H. Auden come to mind, having all of them been residents or at least regular visitors there over the years.

It's a fantasy island that allows you to make of it what your informed classic and nostalgic dreams suggested it might be.

The universally exotic, for instance, in which you all at once feel ubiquitous.

This was once the home of Raffaele La Capria, the Neapolitan author.

But now it's the holiday residence of friends of ours from Lucca, a generous and hugely hospitable couple whose artistic talents are everywhere evident here.

You see this talent in all the collectables which they've taken years to amass.

This is a kind of shrine to the author La Capria, whose typewriter  still sits on his very own desk left behind when he sold the house to our friends about fifteen years ago.

It's a house carved out of a rocky mountain and so the windows are on one side only.

But life on Capri happens outside, for the most part, as here on this charmed terrace whose decor places you on the threshold of all the world's color—the grand tour is complete and you're home now with your mementos!

This is my bedroom.

These are the visions. Certain characters out of Henry James would have called it a "scrapbook interior," without bothering to take a second look.

And there's a little pavilion of glass and wood in the garden. The owners' daughter, who is married to a Spaniard and lives in Madrid, did the bull fighter painting.

But the house is full of precious little paintings, like this 19th century gouche of the "Grotta Azzura."

A Capri cliff.

And so I leave you in this little shadow box of Capri life.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Our Summer Festival


We met Stephen Porter when he was fifteen years old, but little did we know, upon that first meeting, that he would become the celebrated pianist he is today. That meeting took place here in Lucca more than thirty years ago when he was traveling with his parents, friends of friends, and we've never lost touch. As our house guest this week, he offered to perform for a few of our music-loving local friends.

It was a short program of Debussy, Scarlatti, Chopin and Bach...

... played on our 1845 Bosendorfer fortepiano.

You need to be a consummate musician to make this stubborn old piano do what you want it to. A few of the keys stick and the notes don't always complete but when making music is your goal the end result is perfection, moving and even thrilling, like a musical voyage back in time.

This is Stephen rehearsing for the evening recital.

I've never seen him with a piece of sheet music in front of him.

This is Stephen Porter, later that evening, in the midst of a short discussion about friendship and what it means to him, just prior to playing Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze," dedicated to Gil and me. I confess to getting a bit teary.

Stephen is now a "Resident Ancien" at the Cité International des Arts in Paris, where he was invited to play mostly Debussy for this, the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth.