Un pò di colore, 1915
On March 17 1915, at the La Pergola theatre in Florence, Hortense Mitchell Acton and her nine-year-old son William participated in the extravagant production “Un po’ di colore” (A bit of color), written by Vincenzo Sorelli. The benefit performance, organized by the Red Cross, attracted a distinguished audience of noble Florentine and foreign notables, including: Cora Antinori, Marchese Torrigiani Malaspina, Marchesa Cappelli, Mario Pansa, as well as members of the Roster, Pandolfini, Ricasoli, Braggiotti, Dearbergh, Barlett and Humbert families. Umberto Brunelleschi (1879-1949), the Florentine-born painter, illustrator and costume designer, who had become famous for his costumes designed for Puccini’s Turandot and work in Paris from 1900 until his death in 1949, was responsible for all the scenes and the mannequins. The success of the performance was due, in Harold’s words, “to a blend of cosmopolitan parochialism and unselfconscious elegance peculiarly Florentine,” enhanced by Brunelleschi’s elaborate costumes.
“Un pò di colore” demonstrates a fascination for the fairy tales and legends originating from eighteenth-century Venice blended with new exotic motifs from China, India and Persia. Finally, the title recalls the vivid and innovative color schemes of the ballet costumes of Léon Bakst. While the result of this mixture of eighteenth-century grace and gallantry and an extravagant ‘Orientalism’ did produce some rather bizarre combinations, the lavish parties held by the Actons at Villa La Pietra often worked a magical spell in which life and performance, reality and dream, intermingled.