A new festival has launched in Florence that aims to be the Glyndebourne of Italy. The New Generation Festival wants to give rising global music talent the chance to perform in an astonishing Italian setting, while at the same time introducing a new generation to classical music.
The performances will be set in the spectacular gardens of the Palazzo Corsini Al Prato, a renaissance home belonging to one of the oldest families in Florence. The festival was co-founded by a group of rising musical stars including conductor Maximilian Fane, who leads ensembles at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and has his own young opera company Raucous Rossini.
During the three day festival, audiences will be able to see opera performances as well as orchestral pieces. Highlights include Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 with soloist Charlie Siem, who has played with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic. There will also be two performances of the opera L’elisir d’amore, starring rising Armenian soprano Anush Hovhannisyan, who has performed at the Royal Opera House, and South African tenor Khanyiso Gwenxane, who recently gave his debut at the Royal Opera in Stockholm.
The audience will be able to order food hampers to pick up at the venue and eat while they listen to the music. The concert interval will be a whopping 75 minutes, which gives everyone a chance to roam around the gardens and have a glass of wine or two.
Concealed behind the façade of one of the palaces along what was known as the Prato di Ognissanti is one of Florence’s finest gardens. In 1591, having purchased land along the Prato d’Ognissanti, Alessandro Acciaiuoli asked Bernardo Buontalenti to design a “pleasure lodge” with extensive grounds. Buontalenti designed the complex hydraulic system to bring water to the fountains, with the pathways lined with sumptuous rows of cedars, the loggia and large “inginocchiata” (or kneeling) windows that can still be seen today. In that era, the garden also contained the famous “statues of the four seasons” that stand today at either end of the Santa Trinità bridge: Summer and Autumn by Giovanni Caccini, Spring by Pietro Francavilla and Winter by Cristofano Stati. The Acciaiuoli garden also contained another major piece, the Bacchus by Giambologna, which can be found today at the Bargello Museum.
Following the purchase in 1620 by Filippo and Maddalena Corsini in the wake of the bankruptcy of the Acciaiuoli family, they assigned the task of finishing the lodge to Gherardo Silvani who also reworked the layout of the garden. Silvani’s contribution can be seen in a number of details in the spaces on the ground floor, such as the ornamentation in the architectural mouldings.
But it is the Italian-style garden – bounded by the large orangeries, with the sophisticated, geometrical beds, box hedges, lemon trees in vases and statue-lined main path – that clearly reveals the Baroque-style orientation of the architect and his love of scenography. To enhance the sense of length and depth of the main path, the architect made use of the trick of placing the statues and their pedestals at a progressively lower height, fixing the central vantage point from the loggia at the back of the palace towards Via della Scala, as is seen in the cherub and two lions above the gate and the side pillars oriented towards the inside.
In 1834 the palace became the residence of Don Neri Corsini and his wife, who commissioned both architectural and ornamental work. During the same period, the garden also underwent a Romantic-style make-over. Wooded groves were created, as well as a knoll and little lake – changes that can still be seen in the two wooded areas that create a sort of scenic green backdrop to the garden. More recently, the garden with its spring flowering of pink and red cistus, lavender, roses, peonies and ornamental cherry trees, was reworked by Oliva di Collobiano.