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Daniel Barenboim - Edward Said - Terme Di Caracala
Dance Umbrella - Teresa di Keersmaeker - Robert Wilson - Zeffirelli - Love Actualy
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The New Year 2003 started in Paris. I was next door to the French Prime Minister and adjoining the Museum Rodin. It was a fancy-dress party with Spain the theme. I wore a vintage dress of velvet – my fancy dress was supposed to be a drag queen unmistakably suffering a nervous breakdown from a film by Almodovar. You can‘t get more Spanish that this! Of course, I wore my sparkling blonde wig. It was so exciting because I love dressing up.

Madame, was very cool waiting to greet us from the top of the stairs looking charming and happy. She is a legend in Paris and one of the city’s most famous party-givers. I said “Thank you for having me” as she air kissed me. The house was an amazing spectacle of art and archaeological collections, decorations to die for! Highly sophisticated people were getting a kick out of looking at each other wearing masks. They were all old serious European money. If ever existed a Cinderella it was I that night. I must say in all honesty that I did not really know these people, friends brought me along (rather like excess baggage). But Madame was happy to find a place on the table for me. How very sweet of her! Friends took me at the last moment. I was utterly miserable – I had just lost my darling Helene. I still miss her deeply. The French gentlemen were all kissing the ladies’ hands as only a French man can. They certainly know how to appreciate a woman. I felt I was still in the market and that they would have fancied me if they had not been married. The adulation for woman over 40 in France is fantastic!

I was sitting at the table next to a man who introduced himself as “Je suis an industriel tres riche! I have three Cicero Dias in my collection!” (wotsisname? Sounds like new money this guy). Mrs “Je suis an industriel tres riche” was a much younger beautiful woman and was clearly sending out the message “Don’t you even think about it. The man is MINE!” Gosh – that put me in my place!!! He asked me about Lula, the new Brazilian President. I said I didn’t like the vintage Rolls Royce and the entire money spent for celebrations. Lula did not have a programme for four years of 20 millions new homes all around the country for the poor which would have preserve the green, yet provide schools, jobs and sport with 20 gold medal. And move all the favelas from the hills of Rio de Janeiro and make those hills green again. He didn’t have a programme for violence in the streets and protection for the people who pay taxes and for the tourism that could give hundreds of jobs to so many people; nor any solution for the gangs trafficking drugs and arms that have the cities in their hands. I hate the way poverty in Brazil is exploited as regards sex, drugs and violence. The poor have lost all hope for change in their country – it is a continuos cycle of depression and disbelief. They sound like a book of Garcia Marquez, so Latin American; so corrupt and bureaucratic Soviet look-alike. There are two Brazils. I have a dream that one day Brasil will be a better place for the poor and the hills will be green again! (I know we emigrants always have a Utopian solution.) There was non-more green conversation with “Je suis a industriel tres riche”!

The menu was really yummy. I did not eat the starter and he said: “Do you know these are truffes?” I said, “really truffes are aphrodisiac. I adore tartufo from Alba Piemonte, they smell wonderful, my ex-husband seduced me with them, and I also love the white tartufo from Umbria. I used to go Spoleto Festival and Umbria Jazz and eat only pasta with tartufo when I was there.” He said “We have truffes in France and they are the best!” On my other side was a scientist from the Pasteur Institute. I noticed that Monserrat Caballe was also sitting on my table but I was too drunk to be sure – maybe it was in my dreams?

Darlings coming as I do from the hills of Minas Gerais that was the height of chic for a poor provincial Cinderella. I was hoping for something exciting around the corner for the New Year. But with all the men being married I just got drunk and dance all night including – at the end – with Madame. What fun to see those bourgeois dancing revolutionary Cuban music. I dance with the most charming Doctor in Paris – a plastic surgeon, who smelled divine, also dancing really well. I was a Dancing Queen. At the end he said, “You dance very well”. It made my New Year Day. It was worth my Eurostar ticket. I went on eating sweets and drinking – all my rebelliousness was caught up in the whole mirage of Parisian glamour. And vintage champagne doesn’t give you a hangover, darlings! All in all, a perfect New Year’s night.

Let’s not forget that Madame is the mother of one of the founders of the Almeida Theatre - Pierre Audi , one of the most exciting theatres in London – I am a huge fan, and I was on the first row for The Lady from the Sea.

In Kensington Gardens I have been bumping into two sweet dogs that run up to me. I looked up and saw Richard III personified. As I spoke before him I thought he would cut my head. Yes darlings, the real Duke of Gloucester was walking his dogs – so I’ve finally spoken to a Royal Prince, a modern Elizabethan, walking his dogs. As I had just seen Richard III at the Globe Theatre it was very exciting to be rubbing shoulders with Royal dogs! I love the Globe Theatre – this season alternate casting of men and women was so intriguing. Richard III was a fantastic Kathryn Hunter.

Being a fanatic of those places I had the NIGHT OF ALL NIGHTS at the Rose Theatre, which is just next door to the Globe Theatre. The play was Tamburlaine the Great by Christopher Marlowe. I don’t know whether it was the excitement of being into the Rose excavations or because the only man that slept next to me the entire year 2003 was the famous Peter Hall. The cast of young actors was screaming their souls out. I can imagine their frustration trying to give the performance of a lifetime for Peter Hall, hoping to be in his next production. But no Gigi could have awakened the sleeping beautifully Peter Hall that lost Tamburlaine and Verinha the Great!

Being a guest of my cousin Vera and Tadeusz in Kensington I have, over the years, met a lot of Academic Americans and this year my best gaffe happened there. James Bogan an authority on William Blake handed me his card on which read DISTINGUISHED Teaching Professor. Not knowing that “Distinguished” was an America University title I went bananas regarding the “distinguished” Jimmy. He was not amused at my ignorance! And if that was not enough I kept talking about the only thing I know about William Blake – his poem Jerusalem that we usually sing at the end of the Proms. I didn’t sleep that night, having nightmares about Blake – and that was pretty scaring!

On a guided walk in Kensington the friendly guide stopped at a Blue Plaque and said: “T S Eliot lived and died here and his second wife Valerie still lives in the flat.” Folks, believed it or not, I did get a glimpse of Mrs T S Eliot one Spring day! That day I really loved spring! Coming from the hills of Minas Gerais…

I went at the RAH London to the concert of living legend Ennio Moriconi, celebrating his 75 years – all very emotional and we sang Happy Birthday to You. Hearing the sound of the coyote really gave me goose bumps: such genius.

My first love is the cinema and this year sees the celebration of 100 years of the western: “A man gotta do what a man’s gotta do” “Some day this country’s gonna be fine good place to be. Maybe it needs our bones in the ground before that time can come.” Ah!!!

This year I saw the film Respiro, them The Dreamers of Bertolucci at the London Film Festival (You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling', darling). Actually I love Bernardo the man. Love Actually uma merdinha but I went nuts for the sketch of the Portuguese and the Pop Star.

When this year I received the Gato Barbieri newsletter I was overwhelmed to see the links to my sites with my vintage photo of Gato, Pasolini and Marcello Melis. I was so privileged, coming as I do from the hills of Minas Gerais… a virgin photographer and pretentious, of course. I would like to think that it would go down in history like Alberto Korda’s famous photographer of another Argentinean. If you know which photo I am talking about there is an Internet award. Please E-mail me: verinhaottoni@yahoo.com.

For this year Christmas Card I choose the photo of Miles Davis playing for Francesca at the Umbria Jazz-Perugia; another vintage photo, because this year is the celebration of 30 years of Umbria Jazz and we spent so much time in Perugia and Spoleto. The book of photography is a MUST to have with Carlo Pagnota and his musicians. UMBRIA JAZZ TREN’ANNI – Come far suonare un libro. www.umbriafotografia.it - Luglio 2003.

Another intriguing afternoon was when I saw Bobby Mc Ferrin (www.bobbymcferrin.com) conducting the Wiener Philharmonic at the Proms and after few months latter at the London Jazz Festival and I sung Somewhere Over the Rainbow with Bobby the Great! The same with the Blind Boys of Alabama - I was feeling really good. They kept trying to convince us to buy their CD Down By the Riverside, the Royal Festival Hall is by the Thames anyway! Folks, what an evening, my bottom was moving!!!

Gerald Thomas claims that it is his right to make an artistic statement of showing his bottom on stage at the Teatro Municipal-Rio de Janeiro. After his production of Tristan and Isolde was booed. They should thanks Thomas for putting the Municipal on the map. Thomas is very clever at selling himself and is asking all the artistic world to support him, they say: he is guilty of “an unthinking attitude that is worthy of criticism but not of punishment”. As he may end up in jail as he is becoming a victim of provincial Latin America. Please guys do not take anyone who appears on stage to court. Thomas said to The Times: “I feel like saying to Brazilians: Look, start taking notice of your enormous social problems, and stop talking about my ass. It was just an opera, for God’s sake.” Brazilians; did you all get the message!!!

I think I shall propose myself for the post of Director of the Municipal. I have been going to opera for some time so who better that I to be in charge. This year I went to the Gala for Plagliacci with Placido Domingo directed by Franco Zeffirelli. I saw Placido first singing and then, on another day, conducting Plagliacci. I was so into it that the staff of the Royal Opera House had to ask me to go back to my place as I was trying to take pictures of Placido. Like the old ladies from America who follow him everywhere. God, I am getting so decadent too!!! Recently I saw Lucia di Lammemoor at Convent Garden with some scene of domination on stage perfect for the Municipal. Also the Rape of Lucretia at the Barbican. I have just finished the Ring with Twilight of the Gods – five hours and twenty minutes of Wagner with the English National Opera. Them Aida at Convent Garden with director, set and lighting by Robert Wilson. Previously I saw Aida at the Terme di Caracala Rome, and even in Egypt and was quite different. This one was minimalist – no camels or pyramids. Robert Wilson is also in charge of the most perfect Armani Exhibition at the Royal Academy, one of the sponsors being Gianola Grappa Nonino.

Now to the Proms - an orgy of music – more than 60 concerts in two months, sometimes two in one day: Valery Gergiev conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Paul Daniel conducting War and Peace, Simon Rattle conducting Berliner Philarmoniker, Zubin Mehta conducting the Israel Philharmonic. Daniel Barenboim conducting West-Eastern Divan Orchestra jointly sponsored by Edward Said. I would like to pay my tribute to Said who has just died, for believing with Barenboim that young Arab and Jewish musicians by playing together could work for peace with their music.

As you can see, I know a few things so I feel I am well suited for the post of Director of the Teatro Municipal. The only problem is as I read the Thomas CV I understand he was an ex-prostitute and drug addict. I am too boring so my CV would be lacking in these experiences. But I will propose myself anyway.

Dance Umbrella is 25 years old; it is incredible how the world of dance has evolved. At the Tate Modern Turbine Hall with Merce Cunningham Dance Company an event! With Olafur Eliasson’s luminous installation we were all sick looking tangerine colour. Rosas choreography by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker was dancing on Joan Baez part two scratched vinyl with activist anthems of my generation beginning: Once I had a sweetheart, and now I have none… As all my sweethearts have left me, tears ran down my middle-aged face. We shall Overcome only resulted in more tears running down my face.

My daughter didn’t have my experience like being in London in 1968, leaving Brasil and Military dictatorship. For myself, who in my twenties had been directing film, in 1968 Cosme Alves Neto, the Director of Cinemateca do Rio de Janeiro, sent my film Instantaneous 65 to the Brasilia Film Festival, but the military in power at that time in Brasil, seized my “masterpiece” and burned it. Ah!!!!!

Several politicians, such as Berlusconi, today wear make-up. They have destroyed the dream of my generation of We Shall Overcome.

Mon, just before her stroke, quoting George Black, said: “Life is hell, most people are bastard and everything is bullshit.” And she never said another word. I must thank Lady Fry for being so supportive for us. Conchita for her weekly visits and the fruit that she provides for Mon. And Teresa for everything.

Above all, I am very happy and lucky that I can still hold and hug Mon. If anyone cares to send a card to us please send it to my Mother as she will be very happy to receive it.

Francesca, is on her first job experience. She of course, has to deliver more than she is asked for, she works many hours and the money is very little. I confess that finally I have my biological clock ticking and would love to become a granny. AHHH!!!! This year, after seven years, we have spent two weeks together in our own house.

Darlings I did find one of the most beautiful historic buildings in Rio for my art gallery. Walking around I even found little historic area, which could be redeveloped as in Convent Garden. I also found a building just off Baker Street in London. The ground floor could be my art gallery with a flat above for my mother and myself; but most of all, I did not find the millions for the trustee: no Russian or Arab who would like to make an investment!

So my precious, it’s farewell to the Concorde!

Verinha Ottoni.


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