I assured myself that I would be professional. No, hold on, I am professional: I had the intention of simply being a chronicle. But with familiar things, which you care about, which you value, and which you strongly believe in, the chronicle really has little to do but observe. Let me be clear: I am not talking about a chronicle in terms of truth. Mainly because it is actually the truth that makes the professional. The point is that, some time ago the Sferisterio Opera Festival in Macerata published an announcement inviting young people to put themselves forward for the position of graphic designer responsible for the 2012 opera season.
I am not certain about many things in life; I do not even know what I shall do with mine exactly. I grew like the ice in a glass, but my glass did not shatter: when you are able to do everything quite well, it means that you do not develop a wild passion for anything in particular, but instead you remain there, pressing on the rim, waiting for a great boom. It is great to be three years old and already know that you will be a firefighter, a journalist or a ballerina. It is great to be thirty and not have contradicted yourself. For me it is not like that. Nevertheless there is one capability about which I feel a certain conviction: I know how to recognise beauty. When eight years ago, on a cold day in Urbino I saw Francesca Ballarini’s first drawing, which depicted a man pushing a horizontal hourglass, I singled her out immediately. Over the years I have had the fortune of being able to share in the jewels that her hands have created and not even for a day, an hour nor a second did I think that such wonders could remain a private thing or risk being obscure to others. When beauty contains truth it becomes absolute, like poetry. And Francesca’s drawings are the most poetic I have seen. They turn up all over the place because truth is a bit like water: it diffuses fully through osmosis and takes the form of the object that holds it.
You will think that I am saying all this and that I am singing her praises (to stay on the topic of opera) because Francesca is the art director of Paradise Possible, but that is not the case. And do you know why? Because I am certain that through my words you will actually hear the absolute truth I am talking about.
Now, if, as I believe, ‘my twenty-five readers’ (Manzoni) are not exactly ‘as thick as two short planks’ (grandmother Iris), they will have put two and two together and realised that, of the 150 applications that reached the Sferisterio’s board of directors of, Francesca’s has in fact been accepted. And this is something that really reconciles with life, not because Francesca is one of us, but because it shows that there is still hope: involving the region and giving space to real talent satisfies the need for good communication and understanding, which is at the foundation of a society that does not want to regress but continually move forward with the power of ideas. In times like these, the opening up of the Sferisterio to young people is something of a miracle. Giving people a chance is something we need to do in order to change the world. Hold out a hand, open your arms, open your eyes. Put your faith in people and in hidden treasures. Only in this way does the Iron Age end and become the Golden Age, which, as Matteo Ricci said, was one of a happier community.
I am not certain, knowing her humility, that our art director supposed she would have been chosen, and it makes me smile to think of her putting herself forward whilst not overly convinced. But when an artist is a real artist, it is the conviction of those that appreciate them rather than their own conviction that is important: it is the others who believe; who risk the dreaded dialectical silences; who recognise and feel the living connection between the infinitely small and incredibly large. God only knows how much we believe in Nina (Nina, for those who do not know, is Francesca, but I will let her explain that). On choosing Francesca Ballarini, therefore, they have demonstrated that they have taste, intuition and sensitivity. And, above all, that they make sound investments.
The season, dedicated to the master scenographer Josef Svoboda who died ten years ago, will inaugurated with his La Traviata of mirrors (on stage 20–29 July, 4–12 August). In this golden age for the Sferisterio, Francesca will illustrate the love between Violetta and Alfredo, but also La Bohéme (on stage 21–27 July, 5–10 August) and Carmen (on stage 22–28 July, 3–11 August). The season’s programme and the new look designs have been presented last month at a press conference in the Svoboda Auditorium at the Fine Arts Academy of Macerata. A project like this, which makes the opera season the prime mover in a world of fringe activities (Off Festival), has an automatic positive effect, in both the short and long term, on the city’s and the region’s economy, thus increasing the value of the Marche region in an active and, above all, modern way. “There’s nothing more powerful than beauty in a wicked world,” goes a song I heard in a concert some time ago: evidently, at the Sferisterio they understand this.
The Paradise Trotter