Rome, Italy


Dear Readers,

I am typing this postcard sitting in the middle of my bed, in the middle of my hotel room, a couple of days into my first visit to Rome, Italy.

When I arrived on Friday afternoon (2 days ago), I was one tired traveler – and my day had just begun. I had gotten up at 3am in Bordeaux on Friday morning to pack, so that I could catch an early flight to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, where I then caught a connecting flight here to Rome. Neither flight was long enough for a good deep sleep, so when I arrived at my hotel at 1:30pm, I was very muddle-headed. Nevertheless, I tried to practice for a 4:00pm orchestra rehearsal. After the rehearsal, to clear my head, I picked up something to eat from a sidewalk shop and went walking around the neighborhood of our hotel in Rome.

As it turns out, this is not a typical neighborhood: I turned a corner, and there was the Vatican, the center of Roman Catholicism – St. Peter’s Cathedral, the huge plaza in front of it, the double line of stone pillars, and lots of nuns and priests. My sleepiness completely deserted me. It was an incredible place. I walked into the cathedral, and was amazed: I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a large single room anywhere. It seemed to take forever to walk the length of it; or maybe I was just tired. I had the impression that any other great cathedral I had seen could have fit inside St. Peter’s, roof and all, with room to spare.

I’m determined to see more of Rome before I leave – especially the Colosseum and the paintings in the Sistine Chapel – whatever my work load. The concerts come first, though, and the first one – my debut in Rome and my first performance with an Italian orchestra – came last night, playing Mendelssohn with the Orchestra of Santa Caecilia conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch. Mr. Sawallisch (with whom I have worked a couple of times in Philadelphia) is 79, and for each of the last 40 years he has performed in Rome, often with this orchestra, so he has a definite following here. Because he is so popular, the orchestra scheduled four concerts in this series instead of the usual three – so at this point, it’s one down, three to go.

Last night’s concert was the first orchestral one in my life in which I played two Bach encores after the concerto. In France a couple of days ago, the audience had started to do unison applause after my encore, and I didn’t have anything else to offer them – so I had to tell them in my simple French that I didn’t have anything else prepared, and wish them good night. I felt like I’d let them down, but I learned a lesson. This time I was at least prepared. Good thing: I don’t have enough Italian to explain that I only have one encore ready to perform!

After last night’s concert, I did some business correspondence on the computer and exercised a bit, then went to bed and slept like a log – right through the time I had intended to go to the Colosseum, this morning. I’ll have to fit it in another day while I’m here. Sleep before all: that’s crucial on the road. The other place I particularly want to see on this trip is the Sistine Chapel, with the famous ceiling murals by Michelangelo. If I make it to either place, I’ll include photos – at least of the Colosseum. I’ve heard that you can’t take pictures in the Sistine Chapel.

Yours from Rome (for a few more days),

Hilary