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Italian Opera goes Pink

Lynn Ross, Ms

n this edition of the European Chronicle Italian opera turns pink.

Perugia forms the backdrop for serious contemplation of the situation of older women in Europe. Recommendations are made, friendships are formed and hopes for the future articulated.

My European diary extracts so far have been from the mid 1990s. They provide a framework for all the work I've done since to raise the questions that need to be raised to change the terms of reference for women in our very patriarchal society.

Looking back inevitably raises the question as to how far we have come today. Not far enough. On BBC's University Challenge recently a team of four young male students from a major UK university couldn't answer any questions in a round on 'Feminist Theory'.¯

They'd never heard of Betty Friedan or Germaine Greer, let alone the concept of Sexual Politics as explored by Kate Millet.

This was supposedly equalised by the fact that the women's team from Newnham College Cambridge couldn't answer any questions on the current football league in Africa. Football league?? What happened to AIDS, famine & unpunished rape crimes?

In the scheme of things the year of interviews, seminars and conversations with older women in the 'Changing Track at Third Age'¯ programme may seem insignificant.

A drop in the bucket.

And yet, if we hadn't done the work it would have taken much longer to realise that most older women we spoke to had little or no confidence in their ability to influence or change the world. We also met those who rocked the boat and intended to see that it stayed rocked until there was evidence of positive political action.

There are pockets of change in the government policies in the countries we visited and in the European Union legislation as well.

However, books like 'The Feminist Mystique' and 'Sexual Politics' are still all too pertinent in todays world. We ignore them at our peril. If we don't inform our sons, what hope do we have for any change in the future?

The Older Women's Network who were my hosts during my first visit to Italy were one of the partners in 'Changing Track at Third Age'.¯ The second project meeting was held in Perugia.

For me there was a lovely overlap of the somewhat familiar, the introduction to new impressions of the town, new perspectives on the unfolding work of the project and the opportunity to make new friends.

I also had the opportunity to meet new groups of older women and hear what they had to say about their hopes & expectations for their lives. There were meetings with politicians and representatives of organisations passing skills from the older generation to the younger, like the lacemakers of Lake Trasimeno.

Serious discussion was interspersed with informal meals at local restaurants where recipes were exchanged and language was never a barrier thanks to the hard work of the young interpreters.

Walking around the streets of Perugia involved in everday work “there was no time to be tourists“ I loved the sudden perspectives of the Umbrian countryside folding down the hill towards the highway to Florence, walking up through Etruscan ruins to meet with colleagues.

The highlight of those days in Perugia was the performance of A.I.D.A's 'Lirica in Rosa'¯ in a local theatre, very reminiscent of Arran's village halls.

We were treated to a musical comedy 'The Marriage' an "Open Secret"¯ transposing the music from Verdi to Donizetti for the 'maturing' female voice.

The performance was masterminded by Brit de Jong, a Dutch musicologist who now lived in Italy with her partner Linda Ingafu who directed the production.

The result was an evening of hilarious entertainment followed by a 'social' in the village hall equivalent. The women who performed were inordinately proud of their production and talked about how their lives had changed by taking part.

The physical act of singing had improved stamina and a feeling of well-being and they all looked forward to rehearsal evenings. At that point in time, the recommendations of the meetings in Perugia were that there should be MORE research papers on the lives of older women and maximum use of the growing possibilities of information technology and email.

How I wish I could relive the 'Lirica in Rosa' experience on Spotify!


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Arran Patterns

Lynn Gray Ross
Lynn has been a textile artist on the Isle of Arran for the past 33 years funding and managing craft-based community projects on the island.


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