Category Archives: Cultural events
Recently, we had a museum-hopping weekend. On Saturday, we visited The Inquisitor’s Palace which included the jail and the torture chambers (my, they were nasty people!) and The Malta Maritime Museum which is quite rich with artifacts, ship models, and actual boats. Given Malta’s strategic location in the Mediterranean, she has a very full maritime history as you can imagine.
The highlight of the weekend was the trip to Palazzo Falson on Sunday. The Palazzo is in the old walled city of Mdina which is a beautiful “silent city”. Mdina was the capital of Malta prior to the building of Valletta. As there are no cars and very little foot traffic, it has the nickname of “the silent city”. It is peaceful, quiet, and beautiful with high walls and magnificent views. It is the highest point in Malta and you can see the entire island from the walls.
The Palazzo was a private mansion owned by a collector which has been turned into a museum. The collections are vast and amazing for one single owner – art, artifacts, silver, Oriental rugs, weapons, medals, books, jewelry, he even had a very old chastity belt on display (it was appropriately included in the armory as it sure looks like a nasty weapon!). The rooms are decorated just like they were when he lived there.
We ended the day with an incredible meal in Mdina at a restaurant called Sharma – Arabian and Indian food, and a beautiful ambiance. The cuisines & restaurant décor are inspired from the ancient spice trading between India, through the Middle East leading to North Africa & the Mediterranean.
This is where different cultures influenced each other’s cuisines and customs until they became as we know them today.
The restaurant is housed in Casa Magazzini, an antique building used by the knights as stores for their ammunition. There is a large terrace with a wonderful view from the top of the bastions, this will be in operation as part of the restaurant from later on in 2012, although you can still go on the terrace now to enjoy the view.
The Manoel Theatre (Teatru Manoel) started its 2012/2013 season last month. Named after a Grand Master of course, (Antonio Manoel de Vilhena) it is a beautiful example of baroque architecture and one of the oldest working theatres in the world. It was built in 1731 which makes it older than my country! It is in the heart of Valletta and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To date, we have seen two productions – Calendar Girls and The Ardeo Quartet.
Calendar Girls is a play about a group of middle aged English women who pose nude for a calendar to raise money for hospice. The nude photos are black & white artistic shots (“we will be nude, not naked!”) and the play is based on a true story.
The Maltese actresses also made their own calendar to raise money for hospice. The director was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to find 6 actresses on the small island of Malta (where everyone knows everyone else) willing to bare all. (Imagine seeing your child’s kindergarden teacher nude on the stage!) She was very pleased to find 28 women who auditioned for the play.
The Ardeo Quartet is a beautiful French chamber music ensemble. They are a string quartet of 2 violins, viola, and cello with the most expressive musicians I have ever seen. They performed an evening of Reicha, Debussey, and Ravel that was incredibly moving. Look them up on youtube, you will be quite amazed.
Theatre performances are so affordable here
(€20 – €25 euros, we’re not in New York anymore!) that anyone can afford to see as many of the productions as they choose. How wonderful to make live performances widely available to all.
The Ardeo Quartet
A few weeks ago we attended a play, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (what an ironic name for a play in Malta in July!). Click here for a synopsis of the story: The Winter’s Tale
It was performed by the Malta Amateur Dramatic Club (MADC) but these actors were definitely no amateurs. The play was 3 hours long with 11 actors playing 35 different roles! Quite a feat!
I have never studied Shakespeare so I didn’t understand most of the dialogue (all in verse), yet I still enjoyed it very much. The synopsis helped me to know what was happening, and it was a simple story line which was easy to follow. I was mesmerized by the actors, the story, and the bucolic setting.
It was an open-air production performed in the beautiful San Anton Gardens—part of a Baroque Palace built in the early 1600′s as a summer home for Grand Master Antoine de Paule, now the official residence of the President of Malta.
The play was performed on the terrace of the gardens using a bare stage, because the director believes that Shakespeare’s words can stand alone. An unusual twist was the costumes—they wore modern clothing rather than the usual period costumes—suits and tuxedos for the men, knee length dresses for the women. Personally, I prefer the clothing of the period, but this did work nicely.
So many wonderful events to experience in Malta, what a joy!
The second festival event that Tony and I attended was a concert version of Porgy & Bess. The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, with guest conductorWayne Marshall, was joined by four opera singers–two sopranos, a tenor, and a bass-baritone. Mr. Marshall introduced the program saying that Porgy & Bess is definitely an opera, not a musical. Interesting, yes? As a budding musician, I found it fascinating to watch all of the different musicians play, watching them getting into their music, keeping their tempos, and responding to the animated direction of Mr. Marshall who conducted the entire 2 ½ hour long program without using sheet music.
It was an amazing performance by him, what a joy to watch!
Two evenings later, we attended the opening night of The Malta Jazz Festival. There were three bands, the first one was a Maltese band—The Paul Giordimaina Trio—a bit boring; the second was The Jeremy Pelt Quintet from New York—an excellent band—but a bit too experimental/improvisational for my liking.
He is a jazz fusion and Latin jazz guitarist who has been around since the ’70’s and he is still a very influential musician. He plays so fast that his hands are a blur, wow! He was incredible.
PS – be sure to check out the Portfolio Gallery under the About Malta tab for lots of new photographs of Malta.
The 2 ½ weeks long Malta Arts Festival followed by 3 days of The Malta Jazz Festival were high-points for Tony and me this month which was otherwise dominated by the oppressive summer heat. Something was happening everyday including theater, art exhibitions, dance, concerts, recitals, demonstrations in dramatic composition, and master classes in performance training and movement. We attended three events—the first was a dance performance titled Old Salt: (A) Portrait of Seamen, it was like a play without words. www.rubber-bodies.com
The evening program took place outside at the Grand Harbour, with twinkling harbor lights and boats gliding slowly by adding to the ambience. Tony and I sat and watched the beautiful and haunting story of four women left behind by their men who went to sea. The dancers wore masks and costumes, and there was a fish who was a messenger, bringing the women notes from the sea. At times, the fish actually got into the water! About 15 – 20 feet above the stage was a platform which was built to resemble the skeleton of a ship—the ship’s ribs—and on it played a string quartet. It was so beautiful.
(My next post will be about the concert and jazz festival we attended so stay tuned.)