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Respighi: Roman Festivals

Here’s a hint: it’s all fun and games until somebody gets devoured…

Although the great tradition of Italian opera tends to dominate the country’s musical life, the city of Rome has always served as an important center for an alternate tradition of Italian instrumental music, such as the three “Roman” tone poems of Ottorino Respighi. While the first two works are more pastoral, depicting fountains and landscapes with pine trees, the final work is both more boisterous and more brutal. This section depicts the “gaming” center of the ancient world: the Circus Maximus, home of the famed gladiatorial sports, where man fought man, beast fought beast, and more than a few social “undesirables” were turned into lion food. The pomp and pageantry of works like this probably attracted the admiration of one of Respighi’s most high-placed admirers, Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

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