Saturday 14 May 2016


“Don’t follow trends, start trends.” - Frank Capra

Jacopo Peri (Zazzerino) (20 August 1561 – 12 August 1633) was an Italian composer and singer of the transitional period between the Renaissance and Baroque styles, and is often called the inventor of opera. He wrote the first work to be called an opera today, “Dafne” (around 1597), and also the first opera to have survived to the present day, “Euridice” (1600).

Peri was born in Rome, but studied in Florence with Cristofano Malvezzi, and went on to work in a number of churches there, both as an organist and as a singer. He subsequently began to work in the Medici court, first as a tenor singer and keyboard player, and later as a composer. His earliest works were incidental music for plays, intermedi and madrigals.

In the 1590s, Peri became associated with Jacopo Corsi, the leading patron of music in Florence. They believed contemporary art was inferior to classical Greek and Roman works, and decided to attempt to recreate Greek tragedy, as they understood it. Their work added to that of the Florentine Camerata of the previous decade, which produced the first experiments in monody, the solo song style over continuo bass, which eventually developed into recitative and aria.

Peri and Corsi brought in the poet Ottavio Rinuccini to write a text, and the result, “Dafne”, though nowadays thought to be a long way from anything the Greeks would have recognised, is seen as the first work in a new form, opera. Rinuccini and Peri next collaborated on “Euridice”. This was first performed on 6 October 1600 at the Palazzo Pitti. Unlike “Dafne”, it has survived to the present day (though it is hardly ever staged, and then only as a historical curio). The work made use of recitatives, a new development, which went between the arias and choruses and served to move the action along.

Peri produced a number of other operas, often in collaboration with other composers (such as “La Flora” with Marco da Gagliano), and also wrote a number of other pieces for various court entertainments. Few of his pieces are still performed today, and even by the time of his death his operatic style was looking rather old-fashioned when compared to the work of relatively younger reformist composers such as Claudio Monteverdi. Peri’s influence on those later composers, however, was large.

Here is Peri’s complete opera “Euridice”, a work in one act based on the well-known Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. It is performed by I Solisti di Milano directed by Angelo Ephrikian. They are supplemented by Coro Polifonico di Milano directed by Giulio Bertola.

The painting is “Orpheus and Eurydice” by Pieter Paul Rubens.

Friday 13 May 2016


“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” - Paul Prudhomme

With Autumn upon us and with the temperatures getting lower, we have been enjoying heavier, heartier food that warms us in the cold and dark evenings. This recipe is one that has many traditional variants in many cuisines. Cabbage rolls is a dish consisting of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings. It is common to the cuisines of the Balkans, Central, Northern, and Eastern Europe, as well as West Asia. Meat fillings are traditional in Europe, often beef, lamb, or pork seasoned with garlic, onion, and spices. Grains such as rice and barley, eggs, mushrooms, and vegetables are often included. Pickled cabbage leaves are often used for wrapping, particularly in Southeastern Europe. This is a Greek recipe and the dish is called Lahanodolmáddes.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
500g beef mince
1 cup parboiled calrose rice
Salt, pepper to taste
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
400g can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
12-14 large savoy cabbage leaves, bases trimmed (use the inner tender leaves)
6 savoy cabbage leaves (use the outer tougher leaves)
500 mL beef stock
Lemon juice or home-made tomato sauce for serving.

Heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until tender. Add mince. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up mince, for 5 minutes or until browned. Add spices and stir through. Add wine, tomato paste and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes or until sauce thickens. Stir in parsley and parboiled rice. Remove from heat. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add four of the inner cabbage leaves to the pan. Cook until just softened. Refresh in a bowl of cold water. Drain and pat dry with paper towel. Cut the tough part of the stem in a V-shape and discard stem. Divide the leaf into two pieces. Repeat process with remaining inner leaves.
Finally boil the remaining outer leaves. Use these outer leaves to line the base of a large saucepan. Drizzle olive oil on top of the leaves.
Place one of the boiled inner cabbage leaves on a flat surface. Place 1/4 cup mince mixture at stem end of leaf. Fold edges in and roll up firmly to enclose filling. Repeat with remaining leaves and mince mixture.
Place cabbage parcels, seam side down, in prepared lined saucepan, making sure they abut onto one another with no space between them. Repeat in layers with remaining parcels. Cover with the remaining boiled outer cabbage leaves and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Cover leaves with a heavy plain ceramic dinner plate. Add the beef stock.
Cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes, checking that the stock doesn't all evaporate away. A few mL of stock should be left behind in the pan when ready.
Remove plate and discard outer cabbage leaves before serving.
Serve lemon juice and heated tomato sauce on side for those who wish to drizzle either of these on top of the rolls just before eating.

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Wednesday 11 May 2016


“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” - C. S. Lewis

This week the theme of Poets United is “Birds”. My contribution below:

From Egg to Earth

The egg has just hatched
And the nestling dreams sweetly;
As flower buds unfurl.

The bird sings joyful
Songs, in noon’s white blinding heat,
Hidden in leafy bower.

As golden leaves fall,
The bird eggs on its offspring,
To leave the nest, fly.

Snow falls and covers
The dead bird: A life cycle ends;
Soon, new beginnings.

Tuesday 10 May 2016


“To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.” - Goethe

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us! Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.

Palermo is a city in Insular Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Metropolitan City of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old. Palermo is located in the northwest of the island of Sicily, right by the Gulf of Palermo in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The city was founded in 734 BC by the Phoenicians as Ziz (flower). Palermo then became a possession of Carthage, before becoming part of the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire and eventually part of the Byzantine Empire, for over a thousand years. The Greeks named the city Panormus meaning “complete port”. From 831 to 1072 the city was under Arab rule during the Emirate of Sicily when the city first became a capital. The Arabs shifted the Greek name into Balarm, the root for Palermo’s present-day name. Following the Norman reconquest, Palermo became the capital of a new kingdom (from 1130 to 1816), the Kingdom of Sicily and the capital of the Holy Roman Empire under Frederick II Holy Roman Emperor and Conrad IV of Germany, King of the Romans. Eventually Sicily would be united with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification of 1860.

The population of Palermo urban area is estimated by Eurostat to be 855,285, while its metropolitan area is the fifth most populated in Italy with around 1.2 million people. In the central area, the city has a population of around 676,000 people. The inhabitants are known as Palermitani or, poetically, panormiti. The languages spoken by its inhabitants are the Italian language, Sicilian language and the Palermitano dialect. Palermo is Sicily’s cultural, economic and touristic capital. It is a city rich in history, culture, art, music and food. Numerous tourists are attracted to the city for its good Mediterranean weather, its renowned gastronomy and restaurants, its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches, palaces and buildings, and its nightlife and music.

Palermo is the main Sicilian industrial and commercial centre: the main industrial sectors include tourism, services, commerce and agriculture. Palermo currently has an international airport, and a significant underground economy. In fact, for cultural, artistic and economic reasons, Palermo was one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean and is now among the top tourist destinations in both Italy and Europe. It is the main seat of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale. The city is also going through careful redevelopment, preparing to become one of the major cities of the Euro-Mediterranean area.

Roman Catholicism is highly important in Palermitano culture. The Patron Saint of Palermo is Santa Rosalia whose Feast Day is celebrated on 15 July. The area attracts significant numbers of tourists each year and is widely known for its colourful fruit, vegetable and fish markets at the heart of Palermo, known as Vucciria, Ballarò and Capo.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post!

Monday 9 May 2016


“I’m a walking, talking enigma. We’re a dying breed.” - Larry David

Alan Mathison Turing OBE FRS (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was a pioneering English computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and theoretical biologist. He was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general purpose computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.

During the Second World War, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Britain's codebreaking centre. For a time he led Hut 8, the section responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. He devised a number of techniques for breaking German ciphers, including improvements to the pre-war Polish bombe method and an electromechanical machine that could find settings for the Enigma machine. Turing played a pivotal role in cracking intercepted coded messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements, including the Battle of the Atlantic; it has been estimated that this work shortened the war in Europe by as many as two to four years.

After the war, he worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he designed the ACE, among the first designs for a stored-program computer. In 1948 Turing joined Max Newman’s Computing Machine Laboratory at the Victoria University of Manchester, where he helped develop the Manchester computers and became interested in mathematical biology. He wrote a paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis, and predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, first observed in the 1960s.

Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts, when such behaviour was still a criminal act in the UK. He accepted treatment with DES (chemical castration) as an alternative to prison. Turing died in 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined his death as suicide, but it has been noted that the known evidence is equally consistent with accidental poisoning. In 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated”. Queen Elizabeth II granted him a posthumous pardon in 2013.

I preface Movie Monday with Turing’s mini biography as the film we watched at the weekend concerned him. It was  Morten Tyldum’s 2014 film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear and Allen Leech. The film is based on the book by Andrew Hodges, “Alan Turing: The Enigma”, the screenplay by Graham Moore.

The film is set in Bletchley Park where the cryptanalysis team, run by Alan Turing, cracked the code of the German Enigma Machine during World War II. The film is well structured in that it alternates between the efforts of the code-breaking team to solve the Enigma code, and the life of the young Alan Turing and the events after the war that destroyed his life. The non-linear narrative and flashbacks allows the viewer to develop an understanding of how complex a man Turing was. The movie is further enhanced by the inclusion of newsreel footage and scenes of the world at war. It is not all doom and gloom, there is quite a lot of humour in the film too.

Benedict Cumberbatch delivers an amazing performance as Turing. It is a fine actor who can convince you that you are looking at a real, living, breathing character replete with his mannerisms, flaws, good qualities and allow you to piece together a mental image of what the person is like, what he may be thinking and what he may be feeling. Keira Knightley turns in a fine supporting role as Turing’s colleague  Joan Clarke. Her role may not be as meaty as Cumberbach’s but she makes the most of her lines and her presence gives Turing a three-dimensional quality and increases the “based on a real story” appeal of the movie. The remaining actors also deliver great performances. The cinematography of Oscar Faura is good, the editing by William Goldenberg crisp and the music score by Alexandre Desplat appropriate and non-obtrusive.

The important thing to realise about the film is that it is not a documentary, it is a bio-pic. Facts do not get in the way of the good story and one has to take the film with a grain of salt. There are inaccuracies, anachronisms and a little bit of lionisation. However, as film it has to do all of that in order to appeal to the masses… The film makes a point about society’s prejudice against anyone who is “different” and deviates from acceptable societal norms. It stretches the truth a little in order to drive home these points.

It was an engaging film, quite seriously watchable, but at the same time one has to keep on reminding oneself, that the Turing one sees on screen is sufficiently different from the real Turing, but yes, one does appreciate somewhat who that person was and what he did. If you want the real truth, read a biography or watch a bona fide documentary. This was a movie!

Sunday 8 May 2016


“I shut my eyes in order to see.” - Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin, (Eugène-Henri-) was born June 7th, 1848, Paris; died, May 8, 1903, Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. He is one of the leading French painters of the Postimpressionist period, whose development of a conceptual method of representation was a decisive step for 20th-century art. After spending a short period with Vincent van Gogh in Arles (1888), Gauguin increasingly abandoned imitative art for expressiveness through colour. 

From 1891 he lived and worked in Tahiti and elsewhere in the South Pacific. Gauguin’s art has all the appearance of a flight from civilisation, of a search for new ways of life, more primitive, more real and more sincere. His break away from a solid middle-class world, abandoning family, children and job, his refusal to accept easy glory and easy gain are the best-known aspects of Gauguin’s fascinating life and personality.

During his first stay in Tahiti (he was to leave in 1893, only to return in 1895 and remain until his death), Gauguin discovered primitive art, with its flat forms and the violent colors belonging to an untamed nature. And then, with absolute sincerity, he transferred them onto canvas.

The painting above is “Two Women” was painted in 1901 or 1902. It is Oil on canvas (73.7 x 92.1 cm) and exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum in new York. Gauguin based this formidable composition on a photograph of two women seated side by side on the stoop of a house. The photograph was taken in 1897 by Henri Lemasson in Mataeia, Tahiti (Archives Nationales d'Outre-Mer, Aix-en-Provence – see it here). Brettell (1988) identifies the younger woman as Teahu A Raatairi and the older woman as Teahu’s aunt by marriage, although Laudon (2003) asserts that the older woman is Teahu. Gauguin painted it just before or after his 1901 departure from Tahiti for the Marquesas Islands.