ORFEO in ORVIETO
July 2014, Palazzo Simoncelli, Orvieto
Claudio Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo dramatizes the Greek legend of Orpheus—the poet-musician who journeys to the underworld to retrieve his beloved Eurydice. First performed in 1607 in a palazzo in Mantua, Orfeo is often considered the first opera of modern European tradition. For a new production of Orfeo co-sponsored by the Studio for Art, Faith & History, artistic director Karin Coonrod (Gordon College Alumnus of the Year, 2010) capitalizes on the evocative setting both of Orvieto itself—with its hidden underworld of caves—and of the Renaissance courtyard-garden of Palazzo Simoncelli, where the Studio has its seat.
La Discesa di Cristo all’Inferno / The Drama of Christ’s Harrowing of Hell
Church of San Giovenale garden, Orvieto, June 2014
A medieval “sacra rappresentazione” revived by John Skillen and Andrea Brugnera
The idea that Jesus “descended to hell” before his Resurrection to free those people of the past who had lived in faithful hope of the coming Messiah is a belief admittedly not shared by all wings of Christendom. It is reflected in the phrase from the Apostles’ Creed, based on a number of scriptural passages and popularized in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. The scene of Christ standing at the entrance to the cave-like hell’s mouth calling forth Adam and Eve, and King David and many other recognizable Old Testament patriarchs gained a strong foothold in medieval and Renaissance Christian consciousness. The scene is frequently included in pictorial cycles of Christ’s life and dramatized in the popular liturgical dramas of scriptural episodes performed throughout Europe, especially during the season from Easter to Corpus Christi.
Drawing on a number of early Christian and medieval sources including the version once performed in medieval Orvieto, Studio director John Skillen prepared a new version of this episode of Christ’s descent into the underworld. Actor and director Andrea Brugnera, scholar as well as performer of medieval and Renaissance Italian drama, translated Skillen’s English text into Italian, and brought together five professional Italian actors to perform this play at the mouth of the cave below Orvieto’s historic church of San Giovenale – entrance to Orvieto’s own underworld.
Light from Light: Photographs by Douglas Gilbert
April 2014, Convento dei Servi, Orvieto
The Studio for Art, Faith & History hosted a show of what may be the defining exhibition of photographer Douglas Gilbert’s long and distinguished career. The black and white photographs comprising Light from Light seem to testify not to something transitory and ephemeral but to the Real Presence of God. Gilbert’s career spans a long period with LOOK magazine, a body of photographs of the very young Bob Dylan, a stint in the art department of Wheaton College. His photographs are combined with commentary in four books—The Steps of Bonhoeffer; C.S. Lewis Images of his World; Flannery O’Connor Images of Grace; and Forever Young: Photographs of Bob Dylan. Light from Light is the fourth collection exhibited by the Studio in Orvieto, including Gardens of New England, and Italian Light. Visit Gilbert's website.
JULIET by András Visky
June 2012, Orvieto
The Romanian ethnic-Hungarian playwright András Visky is one of the most acclaimed contemporary writers in Eastern Europe. Juliet is a monologue spoken by the title character in near-delirium as a psalm-like cry from the heart at the seeming-end of her endurance in a labor camp with her seven young children. The play in fact dramatizes the true story of the author’s family in the 1950s and early ‘60s.
MAGNIFICAT: Installation of Bruce Herman's Triptychs
June 2009, Monastero San Paolo
The concluding event of the 2009 Festival of Art and Faith (Orvieto, June 7-13) was the festive unveiling of two large-scale triptychs painted by Bruce Herman (Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in Fine Arts at Gordon College). The installation of these paintings in the newly-refurbished chapel of monastery San Paolo was accompanied by music and dance and poetry specially commissioned for the event from theater director Karin Coonrod, composer Paul Vasile, and poet Scott Cairns.
BRANDUARDI & FRANCESCO: L'infinitamente piccolo
Orvieto Duomo, May 2008
The centerpiece of the 2008 Festival of Art and Faith--co-sponsored by the Studio--was a concert in the cathedral of Orvieto by the acclaimed Italian cross-over musician, Angelo Branduardi. Branduardi began his career in the 1970's as an Italian pop/folk singer, but turned his classical training in the direction of medieval and Renaissance music. His most recent project has been arranging texts from the primary sources about Saint Francis as a song cycle, now expanded into a mixed-media dance and theatrical performance. This work further develops his ongoing multi-disc project--Futuro antico--in which Branduardi arranges and performs medieval and Renaissance music in a spirit that renders it timely for our own age.
TEMPO DI DIO, QUOTIDIANO DELL'UOMO: Iconie Russie
Palazza dei Sette, May 2008
Tracing the story of salvation, the icons of this show offer a meditation on how various events in the life of Jesus and of the Mother of God make visible the project of God for the redemption of humankind.
DANTE AND THE VIRGIN: strumenti a fiatto
The Wind Orchestra of Gordon College performs music futuro/antico by Robert Smith, Carol Barnett, and Michael Mailman
Orvieto Duomo, May 2008
For its concerts in Orvieto, the Gordon College Wind Ensemble, under the direction of David Rox, presented three contemporary works for wind orchestra all inspired by ancient texts written long before symphonic bands even existed.
GRACE AND VIOLENCE IN THE STORIES OF THE BIBLE: GRAZIE E VIOLENZA NELLE STORIE DELLA BIBBIA
Paintings by Edward Knippers
A show of twenty large-scale paintings by the American artist Edward Knippers was co-hosted by the town of Orvieto from May to June 2007 in its main exhibition space at the Palazzo dei Sette. The paintings interpreted a variety episodes from both Old and New Testaments, all involving relations between a man and a woman, of grace, or of sin and violence that occasioned God's work of grace: Adam and Eve, Joseph and Potiphar's Wife, Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, Jesus with the Woman taken in Adultery, Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and many others.
Knippers is "a painter whose vision, at once deeply traditional and radically contemporary, has been central to the revival of biblical narrative in the visual arts. His paintings are dramatic tableaux, Baroque in their expressive intensity and theatrical settings; they do what many art historians have said could never be done again: make the classic biblical subjects come alive in paint. Knippers' vision restores the human body to its central place as the locus of the divine/human encounter" (IMAGE: A Journal of Religion and the Arts). As a Los Angeles Times reviewer of Knippers' work noted: "Knippers taunts us with soul-crushing questions of life and death… It is through the work's brutality that its intensity of religious fervor avoids piousness and sentimentality."
MARIA: GRAZIA E SPERANZA IN CRISTO MARY: GRACE AND HOPE IN CHRIST
An interdisciplinary and ecumenical conference on the theme, Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ (drawing on the title of the book prepared by the joint Roman Catholic and Anglican Commission), held in the town's principal conference hall in the Palazzo del Popolo. This two-day conference brought together a dozen high-ranking theologians and art historians from Italy, the U.S., and Switzerland representing Evangelical, Anglican, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic perspectives to share papers and conversation in both English and Italian languages, addressing the place of Mary in contemporary ecumenical dialogue as well as her role in the devotional life of various Christian traditions.
As art historian Mons. Timothy Verdon observes in his book, Mary in Western Art (Mondadori, 2004): "No one can doubt Mary's importance in the spiritual history of Europe: every European city has at least one grand church dedicated to this woman, and from the fifth century to the present, Christian thinkers have devoted considerable space to her in their reflections. In the visual arts, perhaps not even Christ has had so eminent a role as she, and in certain periods images of the Mother indeed outstrip those of her Son both in quantity and in creative originality. The historical identity of Europe's peoples—their self-image across time—in fact seems linked to the ways in which they have venerated, imagined and depicted Mary."
LAUDE IN URBIS: LA STRADA PER EMMAUS
June 2006, Corpus Domini
The Studio for Art, Faith & History provides a base in Italy for the Compagnia de' Colombari, an independent not-for-profit Italian-American theater company under the artistic direction of Karin Coonrod. The Company's first project is an adaptation in contemporary Italian and English of a linked set of six medieval mystery plays entitled Laude in Urbis: La Strada per Emmaus. Performed in 2004, -05 and -06 as an itinerant play in the streets and piazzas of Orvieto during the week of Corpus Domini, Laude in Urbis was highlighted in the June 2006 issue of American Theater journal featuring notable new directions in European theater. The June 2006 production was supported by a lecture by Monsignor Timothy Verdon on the interplay between the Bible, the liturgy, the visual arts and the theater in medieval and Renaissance Italy. Read Coonrod's essay about the project here.
Il CORPO SPEZZATO - THE BODY BROKEN:
Paintings by Bruce Herman
The show of twenty large-scale paintings by the American artist Bruce Herman, entitled Il Corpo Spezzato (The Body Broken) was hosted by the town of Orvieto from April to June 2005 in its main exhibition space at the Palazzo dei Sete. Herman's work has the capacity to invoke complex meditation on religious themes with the highest mastery of medium in ways that fall outside conventional expression and appropriation of "bible stories." Precisely because his work cannot be pigeon-holed or reduced to outworn pieties, the town accepted this show for its own gallery series. Il Corpo Spezzato was the most heavily attended and outspokenly appreciated art show in the town officials' memory. Read Herman's essay presented at the exhibit here.
EUCHARIST & ESCHATOLOGY: ART AND THEOLOGY IN THE ORVIETO DUOMO
During the week of Corpus Domini in May 2005, the Studio for Art, Faith & History hosted an interdisciplinary and ecumenical conference on the theme: Eucharist and Eschatology: Art and Theology in the Orvieto Duomo. This four-day conference, focusing on the two important transept chapels of the cathedral with their fresco cycles on the sacrament and the Last Judgment, brought together two dozen high-ranking art historians, theologians and historians from Italy, the U.S., Canada, Australia to share papers and conversation in both English and Italian languages, and was held in the town's principal conference hall in the Palazzo del Popolo. Many of the papers delivered at the conference were published in a book entitled Spazi e Immagini dell'Eucaristia: il Caso di Orvieto.