Scenes from the Bosco Sacro

An hour’s drive outside of Rome, in Northern Lazio, there is a wondrous and bizarre Mannerist garden complex, the Bosco Sacro (Sacred Grove), otherwise known as the Bosco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters). Lofty trees blot out the sky and sun, while towering phantasmagoric stone sculptures, familiar creatures from ancient mythology and history like Pegasus, Cerberus, and Hannibal’s elephant as well as various creatures (a turtle, a dragon, and others) surprise and astonish the visitor wandering randomly along a winding path. The power of this unique 16th century invention takes on a weirdly humorous turn as a kind of amusement park for adults, even after centuries have passed. While we interact with the sculptures, experiencing the disorientation of a tilted house and walking through the mouth of Orcus, we end up at a miniature temple on a hilltop piazza, the site of a sacred ceremony. Here we leave the grotesque behind while we ponder the sadness of Vicino, who built the gardens after the loss of his beloved wife, Giulia Farnese. How did he intend for these figures to be monuments for his deceased wife? For the world she would be living in, or perhaps to confront his own fantasies and fears? The imaginings of a mythical afterlife? The madness of all thoughts that come with mourning?

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ACO Performances

New York Philharmonic Earshot New Music Readings (2014)

June 3, 2014 8:00 am
David Geffen Hall at Carnegie Hall

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