In Rome, ‘Performing Voices’ and the Week that Followed

At the Academy’s Villa Aurelia, soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci and pianist Donald Sulzen receive a standing ovation from “Performing Voices” participants

It’s been quite a month at the American Academy in Rome—and it’s not much more than half over. Following hard on the heels of the Academy’s much-praised 2 December Cabaret in NYC, came a blockbuster conference in Rome, co-sponsored by the AAR and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. Entitled “Performing Voices: Between Embodiment and Mediation”, this ambitious conference ran for three days (Friday 4 December-Sunday 6 December) at the Academy’s Villa Aurelia. Co-facilitating were Martin Brody (RAAR’02), Heiskell Arts Director at the AAR, and Julia Kursell and Andreas Mayer, Research Scholars at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.

The aim of the conference was to foster a new understanding of the paradox of the singing voice, by bringing together singers, scientists, historians, philosophers, and musicologists. Carmela Vircillo Franklin (FAAR’85, RAAR’02), AAR Director, and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, jointly introduced the proceedings. A thrilling centerpiece of the conference was a recital at the Villa Aurelia, Echi della Belle Époque, by soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci and pianist Donald Sulzen.

Other key presenters at the “Performing Voices” conference included Martin Brody (AAR), Lorraine Daston (Max Planck), Juliette Deschamps (Compagnie La Scène du Crime, Paris), Martha Feldman (Chicago), Bonnie Gordon (Virginia), Philip Gossett (Chicago), Sebastian Klotz (Leipzig), Julia Kursell (Max Planck), Macha Makeïeff (Compagnie Deschamps & Makeïeff, Paris), Andreas Mayer (Max Planck), and Benjamin Steege (SUNY Stony Brook). For the conference, AAR Senior Programs Associate Anne Coulson organized practical matters in Rome.

Martin Brody, AAR Heiskell Arts Director, at the “Performing Voices” conference

Punctuating it all on Saturday 5 December was a ‘Masque’-themed dance party on the Gianicolo—quite unconnected with the conference—for which AAR Fellows hosted colleagues from all 20+ foreign academies in the Eternal City.

Then, after an Italian national holiday, on Wednesday 9 December it was the Fall 2009 Archaeology Lecture for the community, with Professor Paolo Carafa (Università della Calabria / Università degli Studi di Roma ‘La Sapienza’) and Professor Andrea Carandini (Università degli Studi di Roma ‘La Sapienza’). The subject was “Il sistema informativo di Roma Antica“—more specifically, a progress report on their collaborative digital catalogue of Rome’s archaeological remains (9th century BC through 6th century AD), from small finds to large monumental structures. Founded in 2005, the project is named Imago Urbis. Museo Universitario Virtuale della città e del territorio di Roma, and will be available in electronic format in 2011. Organizing and introducing the event was AAR Archaeology Liason Gianni Ponti.

Paola Carafa (left) and Andrea Carandini

RAI-TV short (2 minute) feature on Andrea Carandini’s “Imago Urbis” project

AAR group at EUR takes in Fascist-era mosaic by Enrico Prampolini, “The Corporations” (1941)

Bright and early on Thursday 10 December, AAR Fellows and affiliates grouped for what turned out to be a seven-hour exploration of the modern quarter of Rome known as EUR. After viewing archival newsclips related to the planning and construction of EUR in the late 30s and earliest 40s, AAR community members traveled to EUR to explore most of the major architectural monuments of an area originally planned to house a world exposition in 1942 (hence the original designation ‘E42’), including the interior of the breathtaking Palazzo degli Uffici (1937-1939), still the headquarters for EUR’s holding corporation.

At the Palazzo degli Ufficii: plan for “imperial arch” at EUR (1937-1940), never realized, as illustrated in the lavish official invitation to the ‘E42’ exposition

Wednesday 10 December 11.59 PM: AAR art installer Stefano Silvia puts finishing touches on Lincoln Brown ‘Flying Soles’ show

Later that same day, on Thursday 10 December, the American Academy in Rome presented an exhibition of the work of Lincoln Brown, curated by Ester Coen and AAR Programs Associate Lexi Eberspacher.
 Lincoln Brown is an unusually talented designer of shoes and accessories, and founder of the label Lincoln’s New York.

 The exhibition, entitled “Flying Soles”, until 14 January showcases some of the artist’s stylish and pathbreaking shoes.

Then on Friday 11 December the Rome Sustainable Food Project prepared and served a special Slow Food Dinner celebrating the American Academy’s membership in the Terra Madre network.  For it was on this day that the Academy’s Kitchen officially become a Slow Food Community of Rome.

Terra Madre is an international network of food producers, cooks, educators and students from 150 countries who are united by a common goal of global sustainability in food.



 At the dinner, Delegato alle Politiche Agricole Pietro Di Paolo presented the designation Comunità del Cibo to the RSFP on behalf of the Comune di Roma. In preparation, some of the Academy community’s children harvested lettuce from the RSFP’s on-premises organic garden (see above) and helped make orecchiette, each of which was served at the dinner.

RSFP Executive Chef Mona Talbott. Photo: Annie Schlechter

The next morning, Saturday 12 December, RSFP Executive Chef Mona Talbott (above) and three prominent members of the Friends of the Academy in Italy discussed recent books they have written or from which they have taught. Mona Talbott spoke about the role of recipes in the Rome Sustainable Food Project, and discussed three books used in teaching interns at the Academy: The Art of Simple Cooking by Alice Waters, The Food of Rome and Lazio by Oretta Zanini de Vita, and Mediterranean Grains and Greens by Paula Wolfert.

At the 12 December Friends/RSFP lunch. Photo: Annie Schlechter

In addition, Friends’ Chair Elizabeth Helman Minchilli presented on her latest book, Italian Rustic, a look at Italian rustic architectural styles; Jeanette Montgomery Barron spoke about her latest project, a book of still life images entitled, My Mother’s Clothes; and Vladimir Radunsky, the author of twenty children’s books, exhibited some work he has done on his two most recent  books, You and Hip Hop Dog. A festive Saturday menu followed in the dining room.

And on Monday 14 December, Academy Fellows received an informal, hands-on presentation on the ancient material holdings of the new AAR Norton-Van Buren Seminar Room.

Discussing the collection was Eric De Sena, an assistant professor of Art History at John Cabot University. De Sena has excavated at Pompeii, Ostia Antica and Rome, and is the director of excavations at Porolissum, a Roman city in ancient Dacia (Romania). He also designed the database of the AAR holdings.

Work on the study room collection has been a large collaborative effort that started in 1989 and is just now nearing completion. The aim is to open the collection for regular use by members of the AAR community starting early in the new year.

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