‘The Season’ 2023: A Grand Return to Villa La Pietra

An exhibit at ‘Color Inspiration’

World-renowned artists, scholars and writers will be gathering on the scenic grounds of Villa La Pietra from May 11 to June 30, located in the outskirts of Florence, to participate in NYU’s annual cultural programme, ‘The Season.’ Members of the public are invited to enjoy a range of free performances, designed for the both English and Italian speaking audience, including exhibitions, concerts and theatrical productions, put on by collaborating artists. Conversation between the public and the artists will continue following the performance at a reception in the garden under the stars. Over the years, Villa La Pietra has seen the emergence of new talents and subsequently served as a gateway to New York and the rest of the world.

To participate in the following events, please send a RSVP to: lapietra.reply@nyu.edu

Colour Inspiration by Kaffe Fassett

May 11, 6 – 7.30 pm

Location: Sala da Ballo

Celebrating its 17th edition, the summer festival will kick off with a talk by Kaffe Fassett and his partner, Brandon Mably, who will be presenting their latest creative projects, which include patchwork, fabric, needlepoint, mosaics, painting and knitting designs. The talk will delve into their sources of inspiration.

Born in San Francisco in 1937, Kaffe Fassett moved to the UK in 1964 to develop his career as a textile artist. His early work involved producing knitwear designs for Bill Gibb  (a Scottish fashion designer of the ‘60s and ‘70s’) and Missoni (Italian luxury fashion house based at Varese); later developments included explorations in needlepoint, mosaics and theatre design. In 1988, he became the first living textile artist to put on a show at the V&A Museum in London; past exhibitions of his have been held in Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Canada, the USA and Iceland. Further achievements include the production of more than 50 publications, from ‘how to’ books to colour in design; and he has toured internationally giving lectures, workshops and museum exhibitions. Well-known figures who have collected his work include Barbra Streisand, the late Lauren Bacall, Ali McGraw, Shirley Maclaine and H.R.H. Princess Michael of Kent.

Growing up in a small seaside town on the coast of South Wales, Brandon Mably has always shown a keen interest in colour and design. He had no formal education in design however, and indeed, came to it quite late, undergoing a radical career change from cooking to knitting in the late 1980s. He became an apprentice at Fassett’s workshop, who instantly recognised Mably’s creative potential and sharp eye for design. Together, they travelled the world, visiting such places as Africa, Iceland, Guatemala and India, experiences that have subsequently shaped and influenced Mably’s creative vision. His designs have been taken up by fashion brands including Rowan and Vogue, with more than 50 designs published to date. For over 30 years, Mably has assisted Fassett in the running of the workshop; he has since taken over the teaching completely, and has taught throughout  United States, Canada, Japan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, France, Germany, and the UK.

Cultural Connections with Composer Scott Wheeler: Italian Songs, ‘Sing Turk Sonata’ and the World Premiere of ‘Arrival in China 1932,’ with text by Harold Acton

May 13, 5 – 7.30 pm

Location: Limonaia

The concert will be presented by soprano Lorna Windsor, violinist Sharan Leventhal, and Scott Wheeler, the pianist and composer of the evening’s repertoire. The performances will be followed by a discussion with the composer and Larry Wolff, Co-Director of NYU Florence.

Harold Acton, who bequeathed Villa La Pietra to NYU, wrote an account of his arrival in China in his book, Memoirs of an Aesthete, and Wheeler incorporates this story into his composition, ‘Arrival in China 1932’. His sonata draws from musical material in Larry Wolff’s book, The Singing Turk, and will be premiered that night, along with his American interpretations of Italian poetry, entitled ‘Italian songs.’

Born in Washington DC, Scott Wheeler grew up in the American midwest and east and later studied at Amherst College, New England Conservatory and Brandeis. His operas have been performed by the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, the Guggenheim Foundation and White Snake Projects, and performers have included violinist Gil Shaham, conductor Kent Nagano, as well as singers Renee Fleming, Anthony Roth Costanzo, and Susanna Phillips. Scott has conducted in New York, Berlin and Boston and has also appeared as a pianist in a wide repertoire of classical, jazz and cabaret.

Lorna Windsor trained in London, Paris and Vienna. She has performed an extensive repertoire of operas, including works by Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi and Strauss, in major opera houses across Europe. Windsor has been recognised for her moving interpretations of contemporary music, that have included work by Kurtag, Bussotti and De Pablo. She has also recently released a CD dedicated to American Art Song (a movement which began in the Colonial and Federal periods in America, drawing inspiration from Europe), including work by Scott Wheeler.

The violinist Sharan Leventhal has toured four continents as a soloist, chamber musician and teacher. She has performed as a soloist with numerous orchestras; she is a founding member of Marimolin, the Kepler Quartet and the Grammarcy trio and labels to her name include New World, Northeastern, Newport Classic, Naxos, Parma, Navona, GM and Catalyst. Leventhal is a professor at Boston Conservatory and Berklee College of Music, as well as founder and director of Play On, Inc., a non-profit which supports chamber music programmes for children.  (Sophie Holloway)