Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna

The Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna was the one Dasniya and I intended to visit a few days ago, instead, we veered off to the very good Museo della Storia di Bologna. Today I was wondering which of the few I wanted to see would be the one, and kept coming back to this, despite weird opening hours. It took me until 3pm before I arrived, so some of the exhibitions were closed. I was feeling a little shoddy after yesterday’s performance – mostly tired and in need of low-concentration type activities – so it’s probably for the best.

The archaeological collection available to the public is massive, and concentrates specifically on the Bologna region and city itself, with artefacts dating from 800 000 years ago up till the end of the Western Roman Empire, filling the first floor of the fifteenth-century Palazzo Galvani. Some of the collections are simply hundreds or thousands of similar items – stone arrow heads, decorative clay urns – packed in rows into display cabinets. Unlike the Museo della Storia di Bologna though, it’s not such a good museum if you don’t speak or read Italian. There is an English audio guide, but it’s pretty rubbish; I kept thinking the speaker was about to say more, but, no, and on all but a handful of seemingly randomly selected items he had nothing to say at all. Likewise, there’s a couple of items with English notes, equally seeming selected at random, but these are even fewer than the audio guide, which left me doing an approximate pseudo-translation at first on the copious notes in Italian, then giving up and just staring at decontextualised objects for a couple of hours.

The objects are beautiful and it’s fascinating to see the beginnings of stone tools going from crude hacking to refined blades and heads, then becoming smaller and extraordinarily delicate; the first appearances of bronze and copper, similarly becoming refined and delicate; then with the arrival of the Celts, the first glass, becoming mastered by the time of the Roman Empire. Pottery, glazing, and firing also follow this path, even becoming cruder at one time during mass-production in the Roman era. Of course I especially liked the fully exhumed graves and skeletons displayed in glass-topped coffins (and the head of Athena Lemnia).

It just felt altogether a diminished experience. Almost every item or group of items had at least a paragraph of notes which I was entirely excluded from understanding, and the audio guide, for which I paid an extortionate 4,-€ felt like a thoughtless obligation rather than an object of use, especially next to all the QR codes which seem to be the preferred method of interaction, provided one has a smartphone. For a museum which appears at the top of the list in tourist guides, and despite the quality of the collections, it offers merely superficial, casual, almost careless participation for non-Italian speaking visitors.

As for my understanding of what I was looking at, I’ve done enough reading to have the bones of an idea of the European Palaeolithic, but I’m pretty hopeless at Classical antiquity, and can’t tell Etruscan from Roman; perhaps a good choice for my next subject of study.


Via di San Luca

Arriving from the airport at the start of January, the day being lightly clouded, we could see a hill south of the city capped with a russet basilica, the Madonna di San Luca. Friday just past, being a day off, I decided I needed something non-museum and outdoors, and all maps led to the Portico di San Luca. It seemed to be about 12km walk from the apartment, foiled by a bus from outside the door which took me to Arco del Meloncello, which is where I thought the Portico began.

Up the hill, ascending 215 metres in around 2km, split between steps and incline. The arches began unexpectedly from number three-hundred-and-something, which committed me to diligently following them back to number one on the way back. It was grey, misty turning to drizzle, turning to rain. Visibility swiftly shrunk to a couple of score metres, and arriving at the last turn, the church hove into view as a hulking apparition, a derelict and holed ship run aground.

On my way up, my companions were few of the penitent kind, and rather more of the technical attire clad who tend to congregate in all places in or near cities where the geography can serve as a test of self, here divided between walkers and runners. Some chose to drive most of the way, and a small few perhaps were there for the original intent.

As for me, I was there for that last arch, 666.

Foiled by ambiguous numbering, which stopped at 658, the remaining arches depending on how counted giving a final total between 664 and 669, I decided the last before the end of the steps was probably the intended, the one with the small door. I also paused on the way down to photograph arch 616, the other number of the beast.

Back at Meloncello I followed the portico all the way back to Porta Saragozza, the south-east city wall gate. Another hour of wandering, finding a market near the theatre and generally ambling along still further porticos, and I was home.


Museo della Storia di Bologna

The day after opening Parsifal, and I couldn’t even persuade myself to sleep in, so … To the Museums!

Unlike Berlin, where I live and know a reasonable amount about the city, Bologna is entirely new to me (ok, besides spaghetti bolognese). Indeed, this is my first time in Italy. I suppose this means I experience a museum in this city more as it is intended: an educational summary of a specific topic. Dasniya and I decided to go to the Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna, but it seemed it would close not long after we got there. Across from Piazza del Francia we passed the Palazzo Pepoli, containing the Museo della Storia di Bologna, one of several museums that are part of Genus Bologniae. Open until 7pm and barely 2pm, we decided it would be a perfect choice for an hour or two. It was nearly closing by the time we left. I think the sheer number of photos I took and the number that ended up here illustrate what a fine time both Dasniya and I had.

This is the museum of the history of Bologna, and it goes back to the Etruscans, around 700BCE, when it was known as Felsina. It was also the city of Cassini, the Cassini, a satellite bearing his name orbiting now around Mars, who was a remarkable astronomer at a time of revolution in the field. This, and the art of building time-pieces (along with mercantile families and their ventures, and the famous university) is what the museum is built around. The Palazzo Pepoli of the family Pepoli dates back around 800 years, and while the museum doesn’t cover them as much as I’d have liked, it did devote the last exhibit in the formal dining hall to a series of 11 busts made in the 17th century of generations of women from the family, each of them spectacular in their own right.

I took an audio guide again, after my very good experience with one at the Musikinstrumenten-Museum a couple of weeks ago. It was a good decision, as all the exhibits are in Italian, though they also have information sheets in several languages in every room; the audio guide really adds a fantastic amount. It’s tempting to go through each room as a recollection here, but I think the photos capture something of that, and it’s sufficient to say I understand the city I’m working in far better than I did a few hours ago and have fallen into something of a love affair with the place, and Italy.

So, some flat notes amidst what is one of the most splendid museums set in one of the most beautiful city palaces I’ve ever been in. Despite the Pepoli women mentioned above, it’s unavoidable the museum gives a wide berth to the role of women in the history of the city. Even in the contemporary section, where 48 Bolognese are interviewed, only 5 of them are women; barely clearing 10%. Otherwise, it’s a sausage-fest, which is a pity, as the Pepoli women prove, the city has a history at least as long their family in which women play a central role.

The other, which coming from Berlin could never have been gotten away with in that city, was the exhibit (about a fifth of one of the 35 rooms) covering the Second World War. Or rather, “Liberata. Risorgere! Ai vittoriosi” “Liberation. Rise again! For the victorious”. No mention of Italian collaboration, fascism, Jews sent to concentration camps, just, “April 1945! Yay! … Oh, and the city was heavily bombed … Sad city is sad …” In Germany a museum would probably end up in prison for historical revisionism.

Besides that, this is a brilliant museum, varied and stimulating, beautifully laid out, so much attention to detail and the creative display of exhibits (a red Ducati next to a Roman chariot in the exhibit on the Roman Via Emilia trunk road!). I feel delightfully spoilt, and a little worried; if all museums here are so good going back to Berlin is going to be a torment.

Breathing with the Annas

Tomorrow is the premiere of Parsifal and yesterday was delightfully lazy (I walked as far as a nearby café with Bonnie and ate croissants), so today was intended to be a gentle couple of hours in the studio waking up my body enough to have some momentum for what’s coming. A couple of hours turned into three, which could have gone on even longer but more excitement was at hand.

Last time, when we were in Brussels, I met the breathing/voice teacher of Anna Larsson, the other, Mad Anna, Anna Sims. A couple of times we joined them for some breathing and four-minute pauses, out of which I sensed the dim possibility that I might be able to sing. Today, primed with coffee and those hours of yoga (much sternum-elaboration at the moment), we all climbed the five flights of stairs to the rehearsal studio we’d just been in and … well, to write about it properly would take the rest of the night. I made notes though, and seemed to remember much from the last time, three years ago, and seemed also to be able to put it to use this time.

Many questions, some dizziness (and some tips from Anna, who is almost as tall as me for breathing my way to avoiding it), some singing, humming, buzzing, much talking, joined by Bonnie around the halfway point, some really interesting discoveries (like I can sing very high notes I could never previously find my way to, even though I sensed it was just a matter of sorting out the thinking and it would work), strange, uncoordinated use of muscles and breath that were I walking would be the equivalent of forgetting how to and falling over, and three hours later we plunged back down the stairs and out. It’s days like this I’m unfathomably grateful I decided to be a dancer, for all the amazing things it’s brought me.

Romeo Castellucci’s Parsifal at Teatro Comunale di Bologna

One hundred years ago, Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal was first performed in Italy at Teatro Comunale di Bologna, and on Tuesday, January 14th, we celebrate this in the prémiere of Roméo Castellucci’s production that was first staged at La Monnaie | De Muntin Brussels in 2011.

14 Gennaio 2014 – 25 Gennaio 2014
Parsifal – Richard Wagner
Dramma sacro in tre atti
Libretto di Richard Wagner
Nel centenario della prima rappresentazione Italiana, a Bologna il primo gennaio 1914

14 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno Prima
16 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno A
18 gennaio 2014 – 15:30 Turno Domenica
21 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno B
23 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno C
25 gennaio 2014 – 15:30 Turno Pomeriggio


  • Amfortas Detlef Roth
  • Titurel Arutjun Kotchinian
  • Gurnemanz Gábor Bretz
  • Parsifal Andrew Richards
  • Klingsor Lucio Gallo
  • Kundry Anna Larsson
  • Primo Cavaliere del Graal Saverio Bambi
  • Secondo Cavaliere del Graal Alexey Yakimov
  • Primo scudiero Paola Francesca Natale
  • Secondo scudiero Alena Sautier
  • Terzo scudiero Filippo Pina Castiglioni
  • Quarto scudiero Paolo Antognetti
  • Fanciulle fiore – gruppo I
    • Helena Orcoyen
    • Anna Corvino
    • Alena Sautier
  • Fanciulle fiore – gruppo II
    • Diletta Rizzo Marin
    • Maria Rosaria Lopalco
    • Arianna Rinaldi
  • Voce dall’alto Anna Larsson
  • Danzatrici
    • Tamara Bacci (solista)
    • Gloria Dorliguzzo
    • Francesca Ruggerini
    • Roberto De Rosa
    • Martina La Ragione
    • Francesca Cerati (riserva)
    • Angela Russo (riserva)
  • Bondage
    • Dasniya Sommer
    • Frances D’Ath
    • Bonnie Paskas
    • Georgios Fokianos
  • Contorsioniste
    • Anna Pons
    • Valentina Giolo
    • Ferewoyni Berhe Argaw
  • Direttore Roberto Abbado
  • Regia, scene, costumi e luci Romeo Castellucci
  • Regista collaboratore Silvia Costa
  • Movimenti coreografici Cindy Van Acker
  • Drammaturgia Piersandra Di Matteo
  • Ballerina solista Tamara Bacci (Gref)
  • Assistente alle luci Daniele Naldi
  • Video 3D Apparati Effimeri
  • Maestro del Coro Andrea Faidutti
  • Maestro del Coro Voci Bianche Alhambra Superchi
  • Orchestra, Coro e Tecnici del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
  • Coro di Voci Bianche del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
  • Allestimento Théâtre de la Monnaie Bruxelles


The Last Week of Parsifal Rehearsals

Last night was the second of two full dress rehearsals. While waiting for the curtain call, we celebrated with third Act pizza in the dressing room. This rehearsal period, a mere two weeks actually in the theatre has passed almost too quickly to become philosophical about the whole working process; I have had the occasional thought though, and perhaps these will achieve bloghood in the coming days. In the meantime, skin and the rest is enjoying two days off from the wigs, white bodypaint, ropes, long days of warming up and preparing for the twenty-five-ish minutes we are actually on-stage. Andrew is here, Anna is here, a couple of others round out the original cast; we have a new Klingsor who is a delight, Valentina and Gianni as stage managers who are also a joy to work with, a great, friendly crew who live on some of the best coffee I have tasted, which at 70¢ a cup is also the cheapest, a new conductor who makes it his own, and altogether it’s not merely a remount and going through the steps. Some photos I was thinking of saving ’til we open, but I’ve seen other photos elsewhere, so, here is something of the last few days.

Castellucci’s Parsifal – Bologna 2014 // Yoga & Shibari, February 2014

(from Dasniya’s mailing list:)

Dear Friends, Bondagisti and Dance People!

the most vibrant and delux start of 2014*** to all of you!
In January we will be part of Romeo Castellucci’s Parsifal again. Opening is on January 14th, 2014 in Bologna.
The next Yoga & Shibari workshop takes place in Berlin on Tuesday February 25th.

All the best e buon anno :)
Dasniya & Frances

  1. Parsifal at Teatro Comunale di Bologna
  2. Yoga & Shibari Workshop in February
  3. Individual workshops: Yoga and/or Shibari or Shibari Sessions

1. Parsifal at Teatro Comunale di Bologna

Musical Direction: Roberto Abbado
Director: Romeo Castellucci
Dates: Premier: January 14th, 19 pm. More dates: January 16/18/ 21/23/25, 2014
Where: Teatro Comunale di Bologna
More information: here
Blogged: Frances Blog

2. Yoga & Shibari Berlin, February Tuesday 25th, 2014

Hours: 7-11 pm
At Teatris/Alte Kantine or in our ‘Mini- Dojo’. Both locations are at:
Uferhallen Kulturwerkstatt
Staircase b/c
Uferstraße 8-11
13357 Berlin
U8 Pankstr/U9 Osloerstr

Please call when you are in the court yard, in case you don’t find it, or the door is locked: + 49 174 393 70 49.
Please register beforehand, then we send you the details
General Description: English + Deutsch
Yoga can be done separately from the Shibari part. Hours: 7-8.45 pm. Info here

3. Individual workshops: Yoga and/or Shibari or Shibari Sessions

Private coaching in yoga and/or shibari, or gift cards for new years bondage can be organized in Zürich from January 26th, or in Berlin from March 1st, 2014. Please write to either of us: or


A Day of Bologna Tourism

A day off from rehearsals today, and Monday plus the religious holiday Epiphany means no museums are open, so it’s off for a wander around Bologna to see some porticos, churches, terracotta colours, window shutters, more churches, more porticos, some excellent doors, not many trees at all, a lot of alleys and winding streets, a couple of city gates, quite a few relatively new-ish modernist buildings which are in sense architecturally identical to the old ones and are well-tasty in that high, internationalist modernism way, churches again, various small religious icons of the Mary (with or without Jesus) variety embedded in façades competing with plaques and coats of arms for quantity, and finally the grand Piazza Maggiore where I met Dasniya for coffee and cake while sitting outside Palazzo Re Enzo. Very tourist, me.


Parsifal Bologna ’til the end of the first week

“When do we do a full dress rehearsal again?” “Friday.” “Friday? … What day is it today, then?” “Saturday.” “Saturday? Really?” “Yes!” “Saturday … wow, it feels like Thursday … I think …”

Saturday turned out to be an unexpected long day in the theatre, with a full dress rehearsal of all three acts, despite us only having been on the stage once. In retrospect, it was a little like a dry run for launching a rocket, so everyone backstage (and onstage) could work out what they didn’t know needed to be done a couple of hours prior. We arrived very early and climbed the stairs to the attic studio for our warming up. My half-year of regular yoga and cycling training along with six weeks of boot camp for Parsifal seems to have spontaneously borne fruit, and I now have one or two muscles. Very handy, because for me it’s easier to hang both with and on muscles.

It’s all very familiar. New dancers and contortionists, but also a couple of the original cast; new singers and stage crew also, but also Anna Larsen and Andrew Richards again in the roles of Kundry and Parsifal. And speaking of whom, currently the sidewalls of Act 2, instead of being solid are semi-transparent scrim, so we could see all of what they get up to while de-roping sidestage. I was watching the DVD of the opera a couple of days ago, and Andrew is awfully scary in his anguish after almost following his desire with Kundry, and then Anna, when we were onstage again at the end of the rehearsal and she’s going crazy, it’s absolutely goose bump thrilling; she’s completely hardcore and metal, and this was only a rehearsal.

Us then, getting the wigs pulled back on (quite like scalp bondage), getting almost naked and covered in white body-paint (like skin bondage), and then on with the ropes. In Brussels, we were directly behind the stage, so we could hear where they were up to in the first Act and know where we needed to be. Now we’re upstairs and can’t hear them at all, so by the time our call came we were at least five minutes late. Not that it ultimately mattered; I think the most important part of the run was everyone working out their collective timing, rather than merely getting through everything onstage. In the end we didn’t hang anyway, as we hadn’t rehearsed with the mechanists and techies, so it went pear-shaped.

Which was the task of yesterday morning, Sunday at 11am onstage. We made a very approximate warmup and were there with the stage managers (who are amazing in that calm, efficient and dependable way) and Klingsor to get all the cues sorted out. It’s turned out the video I had filmed of the final dress rehearsal in Brussels (from which things nonetheless were changed) has been essential in getting this back together. Unlike dance, where restaging a piece in the last at least fifteen years has been a process of watching video, in Opera it seems dependant on the written notes in the score, which are open to far more interpretation than a video, especially when passed from person to person, and often miss a substantial number of important details.

Tuesday we’ll try and put all that together, and then sort out the going up and down once airborne, and for me the climbing on the back wall. Today, Monday is a day off and one of those stupid religious holidays where everything is shut, completely negating the point of having a Monday off. After rehearsal yesterday, we (Dasniya, Jorgos, Bonnie, and I) went for gelati, and after a quick stop at home (a mere 7 minutes dawdle from the theatre), Dasniya and I tried to get somewhat lost in the city. It’s not so easy as there is the former city wall as a circumference for any wanderings, but within … now I’ve finished breakfast, I shall be a tourist.


Parsifal Bologna Day 1

Our first day in the theatre today, Teatro Communale di Bologna, which is pretty much at the end of the street we are living on, all of us in the same apartment building. Bologna is covered in communist, anti-fascist (and occasionally, fascist), anti-capitalist graffiti, scrawled over the gently decaying terracotta, ochre, burnt umber façades, and so too is it with the theatre. Inside, I am memorising the path of least resistance for my head; it is not a theatre for tall people.

Today we made some administration stuff, pulled on our old wigs, and got on stage for some setting up of equipment and a first rehearsal with the new Klingsor. Also found our rehearsal room, once again far up the top of the theatre, our dressing room just below, wandered many corridors and stairs finding where everything is, discovered at least three elevators, one of which seems to finish on the roof.