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Thursday, 26 September 2013

A visit to Susanne Bisovsky's salon in Vienna. Photos & text by Glenn Belverio

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Dear Shaded Viewers,

Two weeks ago, during MQ Vienna Fashion Week, Carole Pope and I chased down shy couturier Susanne Bisovsky after her exhilarating catwalk show. We were over the moon when she and her gregarious partner, Joseph Gerger, invited us for a visit to their salon in the newly trendy 7th district. Tucked away westwards beyond the cobblestoned pedestrian zone of Spittelberg (the "village in the city"), Susanne's salon (and home, as it turns out) inhabits an old silk-fabric factory.

Joseph greeted us on the first floor and took us up in the elevator where, much to our amusement, he pointed out a bit of graffiti that had been inscribed by interior designer and fashion icon Iris Apfel. "She was playfully mimicking the tags left by gypsies," Joseph explained as he pointed to an example of said markings near Apfel's. "The gypsies have codes for certain things, such as which apartments are safe to rob."

The first thing one notices when entering the high-ceilinged rooms where Susanne and Joseph work and live, is the explosion of floral motifs--on upholstery, curtains, clothing, bags and in outsized bouquets of flowers rendered in bright yarn.

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Above: Susanne Bisovsky doesn't like to have her picture taken, but because I am a pushy New Yorker, I talked her into it.

A few things to know about Susanne Bisovsky...

She started out her career in fashion around 1990 when she worked with Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. A few years later, she was collaborating with fellow Austrian Helmut Lang. That's when she invented the process of creating lace dresses from latex which featured largely in Lang's collections (1995's "Dress of the Year"). It should be noted that Helmut Lang started out designing clothes that were traditionally Austrian, back in the 1980s--an aesthetic that has always informed Bisovsky's designs.

In the early 2000s, Lang wanted Bisovsky to move to New York and continue to work with him there.  But the two designers were moving in completely different directions at that point. "I wasn't interested in New York," Bisovsky tells us. "Or the whole fashion game." Instead, she invented the concept of the "everlasting collection"--an evergreen line of clothing that is handmade to suit particular clients' taste.

Susanne Bisovsky does not advertise and only stages runway shows according to her moods. But clients, mainy Austrian but also others from around the world, know how to find her. They come in, peruse the couture pieces and the treasure-trove of fabrics and trimmings that Bisovsky has collected from around the world. Measurements are taken, choices are made.

Every Friday, Susanne and Joseph hold a couture salon where clients drop by and a model parades a selection of looks. Very 1950s, very intimate. If a client wants a version of a couture piece, Susanne can reproduce it about 80% to the original, depending on the availability of materials. Her vintage fabrics are culled from flea markets and eBay, or spring from the suitcases of globe-trotting friends. 

While enchantingly old-school, Susanne's process (she calls it "slow fashion") goes beyond a '50s couture mentality--it's a new frame of reference with up-to-date technology and a multi-universal mix of cultures and history. At the end of the day, she's more of a fine artist than a fashion designer.

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 Susanne's big book documents her journey through design.

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 Each photo--such as this Frida Kahlo doppelganger in a Mexican-flavored ensemble--is lovingly bordered with intricate trim.

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Susanne and Joseph are obsessive collectors. I love these grained-wood candy & nut dishes.

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Carole models one of Susanne's hats.

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Buttons and badges and brooches and bricolage.

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Susanne shows off one of her pleated dresses.

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This fabric from China was dyed with pig's blood.

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Joseph is a shoe designer and he showed us some of the designs he worked on for Susanne's collections.

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 On the chair is a rather magnificent mantilla that one of Susanne and Joseph's friends brought back from Spain. Susanee thought it too special to cut up and turn into a dress so she is archiving it. Here she is holding up a shawl. I think it's from Poland? Suzy Menkes wrote about the mantilla in her wonderful piece about Susanne and Vienna fashion which appeared in the New York Times a few months ago.

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 And now, let's take a tour of the kitchen...

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Have you ever seen so many cookie tins?

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Of course many interior magazines have done stories on Susanne and Josph's home but wouldn't this have been a perfect feature for the now-defunct NEST?

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Oh, so lovely. The one on the upper right features the Karlskirche in Vienna (I visited it on my first trip to Vienna back in 2002). Constructed between 1715 and 1737, it was erected in honor of Karl Borromeo who was the patron saint that led the fight against the plague epidemic in 1713.

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Even the bathroom is resplendent in floral- and religous-motif tins.

I hope you enjoyed this visit.

Love,

Glenn Belverio

 

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Saturday, 14 September 2013

Babalon Working: The new film by Brian Butler

On the 19th of September 2013 MOCAtv presents a screening and performance event by Los Angeles artist Brian Butler at MOCA Grand Avenue. World Premiere of Brian Butler’s Preternatural Odyssey film Babalon Working featuring Paz de la Huerta and the performance Transmigration.

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photography: http://www.johnnysbird.com

 

Read more about Brian and his work with notorious Hollywood actress Paz de la Huerta

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Monday, 09 September 2013

Dziga Vertov's 1924 - Soviet Toys - Animated Soviet Propaganda film @presentfuture_

#SEEKANDLEARN

 

- GRIFFIN

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Thursday, 29 August 2013

THE SUN'S 8.2 BILLION YEAR OLD TWIN FOUND: HIP 102152

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"Oldest Twin Of The Sun Discovered, HIP 102152 Could Be Host To An Earth-Like Planet"

http://www.ibtimes.com/oldest-twin-sun-discovered-hip-102152-could-be-host-earth-planet-1401411

 

"Here comes the sun.."

 

 

- GRIFFIN

 

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Sunday, 25 August 2013

KEN RUSSELL'S 1980 ALTERED STATES @presentfuture_ #SEEKANDLEARN

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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

LA DANZA DE LA REALIDAD (DANCE OF REALITY) TRAILER - DIRECTED BY ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY

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Was happy to find the trailer for Jodorowsky's new film, LA DANZA DE LA REALIDAD (DANCE OF REALITY), which debuted at Cannes last May. My dear friend in Mexico City Alisarine Ducolomb did the production design on the film, which she has been telling me about for sometime. I am look forward to seeing LA DANZA DE LA REALIDAD, which is described as "a magic-realist memoir" of Jodorowsky's youth.

 

Here is an interview with Jodorowsky from Xan Brooks at The Guardian.

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- GRIFFIN

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Wednesday, 07 August 2013

A tour of Medieval Rome with Roam Around Rome. Photos & text by Glenn Belverio

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Above: Sisters are doing it for themselves at the Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati



Dear Shaded Viewers,

Last month I was in the gorgeous city of Rome covering Alta Roma for Diane, and I also made some time for a tour of some Medieval Catholic churches in the center of the city. I was treated to this tour by Roam Around Rome, a new boutique tour company comprised of Paolo Mechini and Antonio. Paolo and Antonio specialize in curated tours for discerning visitors to Rome.

So, forget about those tour guides with the ratty flag on a stick who have 50 people shuffling behind them. Roam Around Rome caters to discerning individuals and couples, and the occassional small group who are traveling together. They tend to attract a more well-heeled variety of traveler.

How it works is you tell Paolo and Antonio what sort of things you are interested in (I chose Medievel religious art and churches). They specialize in knowledge of sites that are off the tourist beat, so you may find yourself in a place completely empty of visitors. One of their recent clients requested an "iconic cinematic tour of Rome" and Paulo and Antonio took them to the famous sites where many Fellini films were shot. Another client only wanted to visit places that were off the beaten path.

Roam Around Rome advises that the tours be done on foot--because Rome is such a glorious city for walking--but they can also arrange transportation. You can also tour sites outside of the city, like the Villa Lante. Before I walk you through my photos, here is the website where you can find more information about Roam Around Rome and how to contact them:

http://www.roamaroundrome.com/

Also: Don't let the fact that it's August discourage you from visiting Rome. The city doesn't shut down in August as much as it used to. The downer is that many Romans can't afford to go on holiday so only 1 in 3 of them will leave in August. The upside of that is many restaurants and museums will be open. Yes, it's hot in August but you will get used to it--and the beach is not far away. Plus: Fall is just around the corner. A marvelous time to visit Rome.

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 And here they are! Paolo and Antonio. Paolo, originally from Turin, has been in Rome for 15 years. He's a construction engineer, a romantic and an enthusiast. Antonio is an architect, born in Rome, and studied Art and Archeology. I took this photo at our first stop, the Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati, or the Four Holy Crowned Martyrs.

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 The Basilica of the Four Holy Crowned Martyrs was founded in 4 A.D. and is devoted to four anonymous saints and martyrs. As the story goes, according to the Passion of St. Sebastian, the four saints were soldiers who refused to sacrifice to Aesculpius, and therefore were killed by order of Emperor Diocletian (284-305).

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The Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati is a very peaceful place, a wonderful respite from the hectic streets of modern Rome. Step back into the past and avoid the tourists here...

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The marble floor, "paviemento cosmatesco" of the basilica is "Cosmati style", dating back to the 12th or 13th century. It's typical of early Christian churches.

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 The red marble is called porphyry and in Roman times it was for emperors only.

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The beautiful, and hidden, Romanesque cloister. This is where we talked to a feisty old Augustinian nun who launched into a passionate and hilarious rant about some restoration work that has been going on at the Basilica for quite a long time. She has been waiting and waiting for the Art Superintendent to open a "new" frescoed room from the 12th century. "I was born from a family of engineers and builders," she told us in Italian as she gesticulated wildly. "And I know how long it takes to restore a building! Never this long! This is the Basilica of the Four Holy Crowned Martyrs and I am the fifth martyr after enduring all this construction!"

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 One of highlights of the Basilica of the Four Holy Crowned Martyrs is the Chapel of St. Sylvester which features frescoes from 1247 A.D. and a Benedettine cloister from the 13th century. This chapel showcases the amazing narrative power of Medieval frescoes, even if many of the artists' names have been forgotten.

I took this photo of a fresco of the Emperor Constantinus because my father's name is Constantino.

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 The frescoes tell the story about how Constantinus comes down with a bad case of leprosy and is healed by Saint Sylvester. Sylvester made him feel mighty real!

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 Later, we visited the Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo (St Stephen in the Round) where a wedding was in progress. (In fact, almost everywhere we went there was a wedding going on! July brides melting in the Roman sun...) This Basilica was consecrated by Pope Simplicius between 468 and 483 A.D. This is the oldest circular-plan church after the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

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 And now we get to the interesting part--interesting, that is, if you're a fan of splatter horror films! There are 34 frescoes from the 16th century in Basilica di Santo Rotondo that depict scenes of Christian martyrdom. Well, it all starts out innocently enough with this low-key fresco of Christians waiting to be devoured by lions. The lions looks very hungry (and "evil") but the ripping of flesh is tastefully left to your imagination.....

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 But then things get more vivid. The parade of Catholic torture porn starts now.

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There was, of course, classic decapitation...

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 ..being boiled alive...

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 ..a group of martyrs boiled in an iron tub....soup's on!

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 Oh yeah, it gets worse. Check out the pile of bodies in the background.

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Pressed to death..like a panini... 

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 Look at all those severed hands! Note the peaceful contenance on the hand-less, blood-gushing martyr.

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 Another classic: having one's tongue cut out so they can't pass on the words of Christ. That codpiece the torturer is wearing? It reminds me of some of the homemade stage outfits worn by the male dancers at Stella's, a long-gone hustler bar that was located in NYC's Times Square.

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 Just when I felt like I was going to faint after taking in all that ultra-violence, I had a moment of solace with this lovely starry-night fresco. Aaaah!

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 I really liked the juxtaposition created by the modern design elements in the medieval Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo.

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 Next stop was the Basilica of Santa Maria in Domnica founded in the 5th century A.D. with 9th century mosaics commissioned by Pope Paschal I.

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Here's the close-up. God is in the details, dolls.

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A Rolls Royce was waiting to drive us to Heaven.

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 No dear, this is not Liberace's bathroom. Actually, I can't remember which church this is, but dig all those crazy chandeliers.

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 Hey, hey, we're the monk-ees! People think we're monkeying around! But we're too busy praying, to put anybody down...

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 J'Adored this...it's a large mythological painting portraying a marine scene in the nymphaeum of the Roman house below the Celio Hill, which is regarded as a masterpiece of late antique painting. The subject matter has been widely debated but would appear to represent either Venus or Proserpina, accompanied by a train of feasting erotes, fishing from wooden boats. Divine!

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Classic Roman vista.

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 I love buildings painted in burnt sienna.

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 Before we made our last basilica stop of the day, we stopped for a toothsome lunch of pasta, incredible fritto misto (I live for fried zucchini blossoms with anchovy paste), calamari and baked eggplant.

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 Our last visit was the show-stopping Basilica di San Clemente, founded in the 4th century, which is comprised of 3 levels from different eras. The story of Saint Clemente involves him being thrown into the sea with an anchor tied around his neck (there are anchor motifs everywhere in the church). When he sank to the bottom of the sea, the angels built an underwater mansion for him to live in. His body was (allegedly) later recovered by fellow Christians.

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The Apse mosaic, circa 1200 A.D. showing a common form of Byzantine arabesque motif of scrolled acanthus tendrils.

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The ceiling.

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 Last but not least, the mithraeum, dating back to the 3rd century A.D., deep below the Basilica. A temple to the pagan Persian god Mithras, who is depicted in the bas relief of this altar, in his classic bull-slaughtering position. Popular before the Christians drove it out around the 5th century, the cult of Mithras was an all-male cult comprised of working-class and military men.

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 You can see a hole in the ceiling above the altar to Mithras. After a bull was slaughtered and sacrificed, the animal's blood would pour down like a waterfall from the ceiling. As an initiation rite, the strapping, naked young military men would bathe and frolic and wrestle around in the deluge of blood. Now that sounds like a great party!

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Thanks for taking this journey with me. And don't forget to book your tour with Roam Around Rome during your next trip to the Eternal City.

 

Baci, baci,

Glenn Belverio

 

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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Secrets of the Circus Maximus: a temple of Mithras & the ateliers of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma. Photos & text by Glenn Belverio

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Dear Shaded Viewers,

A few weeks ago, while I was in Rome, my friend the fashion designer Paola Balzano drove me in her Smart Car from Myriam B & Mario Salvucci's wonderful nature-themed collaboration in San Lorenzo over to the ruins of the Circus Maximus, which was the chariot racing stadium in Ancient Rome--and, I believe, where Charlton Heston and hunky Stephen Boyd romped around in leather gladiator skirts and engaged in clandestine homoerotic minglings behind the scenes of the filming of "Ben Hur" in 1959.

The reason that we came to the strange building adjacent to the Circus Maximus was because fashion and culture writer Rebecca Voight had mysteriously scribbled the address down on a cocktail napkin and thrust it into my pocket at the 17th-century Angelica Library and commanded, "Go here at 7pm. You won't regret it." I had no idea what, where or who was going on there but she mentioned something about people "having to make appointments months, maybe years, in advance to see what they have there." Naturally, I was intrigued. Plus: I heard they were serving complimentary prosecco and outsized capers. So, I folded myself into Paola's Smart Car and we were off to the races.

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 We arrived in this warehouse that had a bit of a pared-down Texas Chainsaw Massacre feel to it....the spooky leather pieces hanging in the back were part of Alta Roma's Limited/Unlimited exhibition...in fact, Alta Roma had organized the tour we were about to go on, which at this point was still rather mysterious...

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After a small group of us had gathered at the prosecco bar, we were taken down to this subterranean passage by a guide...the explanations were only in Italian so at first I wasn't sure what we were supposed to be looking at...

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 And then I saw this! My favorite Persian pagan god du moment: Mithras. I had first heard about Mithras when one of my colleagues at Tiffany's, Christopher Voigt, suggested I visit the Temple of Mithras (a "mithraea") that lies deep below the Cathedral of San Clemente. And as fate would have it, I was taken there on my second day of this Rome trip by Paolo and Antonio of Roam Around Rome, a boutique tour company. Mithras had his 15 minutes of fame (which actually lasted for about 300 years) in Ancient Rome, from around the end of the 1st century A.D. to the end of the 4th century.The "mystery religion" is believed to have been centered in Ancient Rome.

Well! Jesus Christ's followers were having none of this, dolls! So they made sure by the time circa 5th century A.D. rolled around, the Cult of Mithras was given the heave-ho. The impressive bas relief which we saw during this tour (above) is probably from the 4th century--quite an impressive piece of work for such an early period, I feel! The pagan cult of Mithras was popular amongst hunky working class men and strapping, young military members. It was a tres masculin cult and involved a complex series of initiations. No women allowed! Like at The Mineshaft. Because the trappings for the ceremonial slaughtered-bull (depicted above) blood bath are more impressive in the San Clemente shrine I visited with Paolo and Antonio, I will save my vivid fantasy description of it for that post!

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 Some ancient tablets which--I think!--cryptically document the mysterious doings of the Mithraic cult.

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 Another relief of Mithras slaughtering the sacrificial bull. At one point, Rebecca Voight and I wandered away from the group into an area which was apparently converted into a pasta factory after the working-class Mithraic men were evicted from this space at the end of the 4th century. Those artisanal pasta makers sound like proto gentrifying hipsters to me!

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 After we asceneded from the mithraea, we were told to climb a few flights of steps to continue the tour. The building was quite plain and run-down so I was a bit perplexed as to where we were being sent. We eventually arrived in this room, above, and I thought, "We're in a tutu factory?! Why?"

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 Things became more and more surreal...

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 ...as you can see...and the sound of Italian opera music started drifting towards us..

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 Finally it dawned on us that we were in the ateliers where the costumes for Rome's opera house were created! The costumes were rather cartoonish and exaggerated--because they need to "read" on a large stage viewed from afar. Now, I'm sure that the costumes used for La Scala in Milan and the Met Opera House in New York are of a more refined quality...but I loved the garishness and flamboyance of the Roman costumes.

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 Campy and wonderful sets and costumes for an Egyptian-themed opera. I wonder which one?

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During this visit, I had bit of a dejavu as it reminded me of my wonderful experience during Fashion Rio in 2010 of touring the samba schools in Rio de Janeiro where the floats and costumes for Carnaval are created.

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 Finally we discovered the source of the opera music: this beat-up, paint-splattered boom box!

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 We were all mad for the pea-pod boy! (That's Rebecca Voight in the white jacket in the back.)

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After seeing the costumes, we climbed up more stairs to the studio where the backdrops are created. Even this ersatz Mouth of Truth knows I'm a big, fat liar!

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 Paola Balzano demurely dips her hand into the mouth...she passed the test with flying colors.

And here, the famous scene: As the legend goes, Gregory Peck ad-libbed this moment of his hand being "bitten off"--causing Audrey Hepburn to be genuinely alarmed:

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Out the window, you can see the Temple of Venus on the lower right-hand side.

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In the distance, the ruins of the Circus Maximus.

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The Temple of Venus at sunset. Such beauty.

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Lovely, talented and with a healhty appetite! After the Mithraic-opera-costume tour, Paola Balzano and I drove to Trastevere for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants of all time: Roma Sparita. Nunzia Garoffolo introduced me to this place back in the summer of 2009. About two years ago, Anthony Bourdain did a segment here, but he didn't succeed in ruining its local appeal (and, to his credit, he expressed concern about that and did not give the name of the restaurant.)

The most famous dish is the cacio e pepe: pasta with cheese and pepper sauce served in a crispy, baked cheese bowl.

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I couldn't wait to dive into my cacio e pepe...

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After dinner, we strolled around Trastevere. It was a Monday night and the streets were virtually empty. I only took this one photo as I really just wanted to enjoy the sites without feeling like I "was working."

At one point, we discovered a strange medieval castle that looked like it was inhabited by very chic witches. Spooky!

Thanks for reading.

Baci,

Glenn Belverio

 

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Monday, 15 April 2013

My visit to the Fatimid Cemetery in Aswan, Egypt. Photos & text by Glenn Belverio

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Dear Shaded Viewers,

While I was in Aswan, in Upper Egypt, in February, I visited the old Fatimid Cemetery, which is walking distance from where I stayed, the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan Hotel. Some of the mud-brick domed tombs in the cemetery date back as far as the 9th Century. The caretaker of the cemetery showed me around the vast area.

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The tomb of an important imam is decorated with hsbd-irty, or artificial lapis lazuli, which is considered humanity's first synthetic pigment. It was developed in ancient Egypt during the Fourth Dynasty, c.2575-2467 B.C., when it used to decorate the tombs of the Pharaohs.  

When the caretaker showed me this blue-dusted tomb, I was stuck with the shock of déjà vu. I then realized I had visited this site in a dream I had a few years ago.

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 The horn-like details on some of the tombs are unique to southern Egypt.

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 A tomb of a local saint. They weren't here today, but one can sometimes seem Aswani circumambulating such tombs, praying for the saint's intercession.

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Thanks for reading.

Salam,

Glenn Belverio

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Sunday, 24 March 2013

My trip to Coptic Cairo. Photos by Glenn Belverio

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Above: Inside the Hanging Church

Dear Shaded Viewers,

Last month I took a stroll through the oldest area of Cairo, Coptic Cairo, a maze of ancient churches and cathedrals that date back to the 7th century. The Copts are the native Christians of Egypt (Christianity was the majority religion in Egypt from the 4th through 6th centuries AD until the Muslim conquest of Egypt. The current worldwide Coptic Christian population is between 10 and 20 million. I met a few Coptic Christians here and in other parts of Cairo (including a very cute taxi driver at the airport) and they like to show you the cultish crucifix tattoo they have on their wrists.

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 Greek Orthodox Monastery and Church of Saint George. A Palestinian conscript in the Roman Army, St. George was executed in 303 AD for resisting Emperor Diocletian's decree forbidding the practive of Christianity.

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 St. George and the Dragon

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I wandered through some more ancient churches in the area....

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Coptic cemetery

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 Poster rasising awareness about AIDS and drug addiction. The happy pill is apparently a cheap form of speed that is abused with popular abandon in Cairo. Not sure if it was a good idea to make into a smiling cartoon character...

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The Hanging Church. The entrance dates back to the 7th or 9th century (the date can't be agreed on) but the above facade is from the 19th century. It's called the Hanging Church because it is suspended over the Water Gate of Roman Babylon.

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Two views inside the Hanging Church.

Salam,

Glenn Belverio

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