A World of Alternative Entertainment Along the City’s Walls
With their Conventicola degli Ultramoderni, “Mirkaccio” and “Madame De Freitas” have lit a fire under Rome’s bar scene, carrying a style that can best be described as vaudeville meets variety show meets café chantant. Hosting about a dozen, vastly different artists each night, along with the occasional burlesque performance, this venue is like nowhere else in Rome.
While everything about the space is designed to entertain, from the blue sparkly seat cushions to the cabaret style furniture, a serious devotion to the arts defines its purpose. That is, there is nothing hokey about it. Mirko denies the label “vintage,” which he deems to be merely a modern trend; he is interested rather, in timeless artistic talent.
Although the emphasis on beverage has been intentionally overshadowed by the locale’s main draw of live performance, the cocktails are outstanding. Simply prepared, they range from fruit-based elixirs to stronger concoctions and are meant to be sipped while enjoying the show.
Mirko, having taken on the stage name of “Mirkaccio,” begins every evening singing and playing piano. He wears black eyeliner and has a long, well-groomed mustache. Sitting at the piano ready to break into his opening song Arrivederci Roma, the room fills with fake smoke. He often turns to look at the audience, addressing them individually and directly. In fact, throughout the entire night the various artists never cease to break the fourth wall, personally welcoming the guests from the moment they walk in and interacting with them throughout the show.
Madame De Freitas (also a co-owner) takes the stage to croon diva-inspired songs in her cabaret act. Performer and singer Lilith Primavera, meanwhile, frequently acts as guest host at the Conventicola and models handmade outfits from Madame De Freitas’s nearby costume store. She carries the style of a Roman singer from the 30s and 40s but with an edge, covering songs like Where is my Mind by The Pixies, which she sings while strumming a bass, stopping to rhythmically recite a quote by Anna Magnani half way through.
What makes up so much of the beauty of this place is its inversion of our concept of normality. Mirko explains his spot as one in which societal conventions become somewhat void; political beliefs, sexuality and gender are neutralized in favor of unhinged creativity and authenticity. Oddly enough, the typical Roman, masculine bar-goer, Mirko points out, is more likely to be out of place in this setting.
These are not the only artists in Rome who feel that the city’s bar scene is in need of a cultural renaissance. Such ideas are shared among many, and a mini movement has even taken hold. After all, we have plenty of places for a good amatriciana and a glass of wine, yet we could use a few more like the Conventicola to enliven our souls musically and artistically.
Via Di Porta Labicana, 32 (San Lorenzo)
Open Wed-Thurs, 9pm-4am; Fri-Sat,10pm-5am
T 349.672.6683 – 340.7996017