Una giornata stupenda

“… the good Lord has regaled us with the sun in all its glory. The beautiful asure lake and the green mountains that surround it melt into a splendor of light and divine harmony.” (The Letters of Arturo Toscanini, ed. Harvey Sachs, Faber and Faber 2002, 26 June 1937, p.262)

September is truly the most serenely beautiful time of year on Lago Maggiore, and the atmosphere is perfectly conjured up in the letters of Arturo Toscanini, which he wrote from the Isolino San Giovanni, the smallest of the Borromeo islands which Toscanini and his family rented as a holiday retreat for twenty years from 1932. Many of these were to his lover, Ada Maindardi, and his joy at the calmness he sought at the lake is stimulated by the ardently romantic feelings expressed in his letters (if admittedly the letter quoted above was written in June rather than September!)


Lieder at the Lake

“Mir ist so wohl, so weh/ am schoenen Lago Maggiore!”

So nearly ends Schubert’s Erlafsee if the poet Mayrhofer had been here rather than in Austria.

But the sentiment well matches the mood of the lake, particularly after such a lovely mini-recital with counter tenor Chris Ainslie who has sadly left to give some proper concerts in Belgium and Switzerland.

The Cavalry arrive in the nick of time!

Due to the timely and expert help of our local nurseryman, Luca Perret, at Le Solite Piante Insolite, the infestation of Box Tree Moth is now under control, having taken up about a week of our time, picking through hedges for caterpillars and spraying with insecticides of increasing strength. Without Luca the garden might well have lost one of its ‘money shots’ by now.

I expect most people’s experience of garden centres and nurseries is a bizarrely dissonant one – what should be colourful, passion-fuelled, and professional businesses, mostly turn out to be confusing, grey and rather useless.

Thankfully, we now have Luca on hand to advise us as he does many of the historic gardens on Lake Maggiore from his bijou nursery on the shore road in Verbania. He is D.O.C. Piemontese, has a complete passion for the history of Lago Maggiore, and restoring the gardens here would be simply impossible without him!

The Turn of the Screw

Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw is set in the Victorianised seventeenth century country House of Bly. So as a setting for this peerless ghost story, it’s entirely fitting that the gothic Villa La Scagliola, itself built for a Victorian Home Counties widow, should be used in the design of the latest stage version of Britten’s opera of the story at the oldest opera festival in the United States – Central City Opera, Colorado. As James was also a frequent visitor to the Italian Lakes, one hopes he would have appreciated the resonance.

Sinéad Mulhern (Governess). Photo by Mark Kiryluk.