Monday, January 4, 2016

Freude Schoener: Celebrating the New Year in Florence

Annamaria on Monday

Over the next several weeks, I will be traveling in Italy and France, and I am hoping to take you with me.  Here is an account of my first joyful hours on this longest trip of my life so far.

Arriving from New York by way of Madrid on New Year's Eve, I had just enough time to unpack, grab a coffee and a snack and gussy myself up for the festivities, delightfully arranged by my Florentine friends.

Good-bye to 2015

On may way to meet them at the Ponte alle Grazie,
I passed the via Calzaiuoli ......

and through the Piazza della Signori, where the revelers were gathering.

And then along the Arno, with San Miniato upon the distance...

and the old tower lit with changing colors.

We arrived at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino's new, beautiful opera house, just three years old.

Nicoletta and Paola with your reporter in the lobby.

My ticket to a heavenly performance of Beethoven's 9th.

Before the concert, a lively, clear, detailed introduction by a musicologist.

Afterwards, the orchestra, soloists, and chorus accept enthusiastic kudos from the audience.

Back at my place, we sit down to a lovely dinner, planned and prepared by
Nicoletta and Paola, beginning with antipasti and a lovely Sauterne, and including
a main course of lentils and cotechino--the traditional good luck New Year's
meal of the Italians--to bring health and prosperity in the year ahead.

And of course a lovely dessert and bubbly.

At One AM there were still throngs along the street below my windows...

 I gazed at the view from my sitting room (where I sit now
writing this blog).  In the wee hours the orchestra in the piazza
serenaded me with some of my absolute favorites from the film
scores of the great Ennio Moricone.  I only hope these great joys
are a harbinger of what's to come for us all and our world in 2016.

January 1

A New Year's Day treat of major proportions.
If you haven't seen this film, correct your error immediately.  It is brilliant.  I think it is Spielberg's best.  The screen play is fabulous and the art direction splendid.  To say nothing of the great actors and editing.  I know.  I am gushing.  See and then decide if I am wrong.  Best of all is the theme, showing how wrong a people can go if they succumb to fear and fear-mongering.  The film is historical, but this is the story that had to be told RIGHT NOW.  THIS MINUTE!!

Which brings me back to Beethoven and his choice of Schiller's Ode to Joy as the text of the sublime final movement of his masterpiece.  For you to enjoy today, I have chosen my fellow New Yorker's genius conducting of the Vienna Philharmonic.  Music and musical performance do not get better than this.

Here are some thoughts to ponder while you wait for it to boot up:  
This symphony could never move us as it does without the human voices.   Let your mind dwell on their words.  "Joy, beautiful spark of Gods....Be embraced, millions/This kiss to the entire world....Those who dwell in the great circle/Pay homage to sympathy/It leads to the stars...Endure courageously, millions!/Endure for a better world...All sinners shall be forgiven/And hell shall be no more...."

Happy New Year, my dear, dear friends.


  1. We did have a wonderful time and having you here with me was a real gift for the Year to come! XO Nicoletta

    1. Nicoletta, your friendship is a great blessing for me! Thank for for the great welcome of our celebration together.

  2. Annamaria, what a wonderful new year and what a wonderful trip you are having! I'm so looking forward to following your travels. If you are inviting yourself to Greece, I'm going to invite myself to Florence! I haven't been there since I was a student, and my memory's not so good anymore...

    1. You're on, Michael. Let's plan an exchange. Me in Africa with you! You in Florence with me!

  3. Ode to Joy is one of my favorite pieces of music!

    Thank you so much for sharing your New Year's celebration. Your photos made me tear up--it was wonderful to think of you there, with friends, in that magical place. I hope, someday, you will show me 'your' Florence, too. (I've never been to Italy, despite several trips to Europe, and it's an error I'm longing to rectify!)

    Happy New Year, dear friend!

    1. Susan, Never been in Italy? We MUST rectify this. You will love it here. Don't wait too long!

  4. Sounds to me as if you're on a long deserved Journey to the Center of Your Mirth! will be fabulous.

  5. Fantastic. Love reading about and seeing photos of your stay in Florence.

    Happy New Year!

    And, thanks for reminding me to listen to Ode to Joy and also to part of Handel's Messiah, which I heard every year at my family's house.

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed it, Kathy. Schiller's words are bound to appeal to me and you! Happy New Year to you! I hope to see you here often!