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Articles by: Letizia Airos

  • Life & People

    Living (with an) Italian in NYC

    What does italianità (or “Italian-ness”) mean to a non-native? How do you explain it? There are certainly abstract stereotypes associated with italianità. We say, for example, that Italians are kind, friendly, beautiful and passionate. We say they know a thing or two about love and having a good time.

    Then there are those images that immediately call Italy to mind: Ferrari and Prada, Venice and Florence, the Trevi Fountain and Mount Vesuvius, pizza and pasta. There are also, we know, negative stereotypes. Italians are often considered loud, quarrelsome and hotheaded. And some people still stress the “M-word”...

    But I wanted to try to tackle the concept head-on, not dwell on the usual stereotypes. Why not talk to a non-native who lives with an Italian, I thought. What does “living Jaqueline Greaves Monda in Capri Italian” mean for a non-Italian? Better yet: What’s it like to live with an Italian, in an Italian context, even outside of Italy?

    I decided to seek help from a couple that is beloved by this city, not the transient New York gossip variety, but one with a firm foothold in the city’s cultural milieu, one with ties to literature, film, art. So I decided to pay a visit to Jacqueline Graves, a Jamaican, and her husband Antonio Monda, an Italian writer, film studies professor at NYU and acting director of the Festa del Cinema in Rome.

    In New York Jacqueline and Antonio play an active role, often side by side, in various cultural institutions, including, to name a few, the Morgan Library, NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, the Tribeca Film Festival, Lincoln Center and MoMA.

    Yet they are also widely known for hosting Italian and American writers, journalists, actors, critics and artists at their home on the Upper East Side. Their house is a “laboratory of ideas,” as Antonio himself calls it, where people gather round the dining room table. Who better than Jacqueline Graves Monda to guide us on this tour of italianità, of family, food, a sense of religion and the virtues of hospitality. Not to mention the vice/virtue of talk, talk, talk – never ending and all consuming.

    A lot in common
    Let’s start with how they met. In New York, through friends. It was 1985. Antonio was scouting a location for a documentary. Jacqueline was in the city with family. She didn’t know much about Italy then, but, like a lot of people, she did know about its art, music and opera.They immediately warmed to one another. He didn’t speak much English then. “I learned Italian first, starting from scratch,” she says, smiling, “thanks to a full immersion with his family in Italy. He was away at the time!” Beautiful, sunny, Jacqueline’s personal – though with-it – fashion sense enhances her Jamaican features. Her native land shines through in an unpremeditated, gentle way. It’s easy to understand how she enchanted the young Italian.

    But what do they have in common? “That’s too easy,” she offers, not batting an eye. “Respect for tradition, for family, for real values, for hospitality.” And then there’s religion, even if the road was a bit circuitous. “My family is Protestant and Protestantism is a lot more rigid than Catholicism,” says Jacqueline. “One of my aunts married an Anglican priest who later became bishop of the capital of Jamaica.

    I went to a religious school. I became a Catholic with Antonio, because I think it’s very important to raise children in the same faith.” And yet another factor in their marriage is their shared interest in culture, music, literature and art: “I come from a very cultured family. I grew up around books. My grandfather read ancient Greek. Classical music was in the air...”

    Hospitality as a way of life
    But the couple’s real – perhaps fatal – area of agreement is in their ability to “host parties,” a mainstay of their life in New York. “Italians are similar to Jamaicans. Thanks to my grandparents and mother, I was used to keeping our doors open to people from around the world. I remember my grandmother’s beautiful garden parties, the tables topped with seasonal fruit. When Antonio brought me to Calabria for the first time, I found the very same thing. Even if I didn’t speak Italian at the time.”

    As the New York Times has reported, luminaries like Philip Roth, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and Zadie Smith flock to the Monda household. Paying them a visit is a special experience. But making such big names “feel at home” can’t be easy. Or can it? “I’m myself,” Jacqueline confesses, “hosting all kinds of people comes naturally to me.” Indeed, this splendid lady of the house attends to both her kitchen and her guests with great ease.

    On occasion, you might even catch a glimpse of Antonio’s mother by the stove. And so, as our talk drifts toward kitchen matters, I discover the secret to Italian- Jamaican hospitality: food. Jacqueline’s food has become famous for its seamless blend of Italian-Jamaican cultures and is the subject of a forthcoming book.

    Blending cultures through food
    “Yes, a cookbook done my way. I make a note of what I like around. I always find the right ingredients to strike a good balance, and slowly but surely I’ve created my own type of cooking. But I don’t call it ‘fusion’ – I hate that!” But where does this passion for cooking come from? “You’ll laugh. I must admit that as a girl I didn’t know how to cook. I lived with my mother, who was a good cook, so I didn’t have to. Then everyone in my Italian family started asking me, ‘What? You really don’t know how to cook?’ Antonio’s family placed a lot of importance on the subject. So I slowly began to cook.

    My mother-in-law Marilù and my sister-in-law Elvira were a fabulous help.” As an Italian, I might have guessed. But cooking for Italians must be grueling for someone not Italian. “In fact for many years I was afraid to cook pasta for Italians!” Jaqueline recalls, “That’s not the case today. Everyone asks me to cook pasta now. I like to invent. The flavors I create are based on memories. Much of my cooking is inspired by my memories of the time I spent with my grandmother. After that it’s easy. I try to make dishes with a few, simple products. Now it’s easier to find quality ingredients. When I began cooking back in ’94, you couldn’t even find decent basil in New York.”

    NYC makes it easier
    And her family? What is it like to raise children in a bicultural family? The couple has three kids, and their house has that unmistakable family feel. Jacqueline couldn’t be more straightforward on this matter: “New York is the best place to raise children with two different cultural backgrounds. Our children go to Italy every summer and have always heard Italian spoken. In New York, they’re close to my mother and other relatives of mine. They have experienced my culture, even if we haven’t been to Jamaica often. There are many Jamaican events here: concerts, folk dances, shows. We always go. New York is a special city. It let’s you remain who you are. It’s the essence of hospitality.”

    Italianness is — talking freely
    I try, fiendishly, to provoke her a little. “What can’t you stand about Italians?” “You’re going to get me in trouble...” she laughs. “The Italians talk all the time! About everything, a lot. Especially about politics. That’s not how it worked in my world.

    My grandfather would say, ‘Don’t talk about religion or politics with anyone.’ Think of the difference! I remember how astonished I was those first few years. And my mother was perplexed. She didn’t understand the language and was hearing all this talk, talk, talk...But, now that you ask, I realize that I love this way of talking freely. My mother says I’ve changed. She doesn’t recognize me anymore. But I love the way you Italians have of freely expressing yourselves.”

    And when does Jacqueline feel most Italian? “Maybe when talking with my daughter Caterina. She really is Italian. She always wants to speak Italian and speaks so quickly that sometimes on the phone I can’t even understand her!” One last question. Getting back to Antonio, what’s your secret? How do you live so happily together? “By working every day with a constant need for one another. You have to take as well as give. And be generous...”

  • Op-Eds

    What's Hiding Behind the Bend?

    The road is a child running up ahead of me and hiding behind a bend – perhaps he’s waiting to surprise me when I get there. 

    — Pascal D’Angelo, Mezzoggiorno
    Pascal D’Angelo was a shepherd and poet from Abruzzo. An autodidact, he immigrated to the US in 1910 and was fascinated by the dynamism of his adopted country, despite the occasional hardship he encountered there. His simple yet eloquent verse was published in various American journals, and the fresh air of discovery that permeated his work seems a fitting way to greet autumn in New York. 

    Although our cover pays tribute to Italian discoveries of another kind—to major Italian contributions to science and technology—an immigrant’s voyage is a similarly courageous excursion into the unknown, one that also requires invention, so we feel justified in introducing this issue of i-ItalyNY with our shepherd poet.  

    ● ● ● ●

    This special issue features an insert by the Italian Heritage
    & Culture Committee presenting all of the Italian and Italian-American events happening in this city of immigrants during the fall. And because Italy and Italians are so poorly represented by current stereotypes, we have dedicated this issue to differences and diversity by entitling it “A Different Italy, Diverse Italians.” 

    ● ● ● ●

    The “Different Italy” described in Maria Teresa Cometto’s cover story is a country that goes beyond fashion, art and good cooking, a country that gave birth to some of the most important scientific and technological innovations of the last fifty years. 

    The stories of “diverse Italians” that you will find in the following pages speak to a concept of Italianness that transcends ethnic labels and “hyphenated” identities, as reflected upon by Anthony Tamburri. Gennaro Matino talks about the best-known hyphenated Italian, the Italian-Argentine Pope who, in recent weeks, has borne his message of peace and social equality to the Americas. We also introduce you to Afro-Italian director Fred Kuwornu,
    a noted champion of dual citizenship in Italy, and Jaqueline Greeves Monda, a sophisticated Jamaican whose marriage to one of New York’s noted Italian intellectuals has led to her “Italianization.” And two multi-hyphenated college professors—a Slavic Sicilian American and a German Jewish Italian American—travel to uncover the Italian side of their respective ancestries, with differing fortunes.  

    We then profile three very different but equally successful Italian Americans. John Viola, the youngest president in the history of the National Italian American Foundation, talks about the organization’s 40th anniversary and how he intends to transform NIAF into a global ambassador of Italianness in the world. Lucia Pasqualini continues her column on Italian-American mentors and role models, this time discussing how anchorwoman Maria Bartiromo helped her understand her own family’s history. And Peter Vallone, the good old guy of Italian-American politics in New York, talks about his Sicilian origins and how he served as NYC Council Speaker for roughly twenty years.  

    Finally we attend to some of Italy’s “adopted” citizens—or “Italici,” as Piero Bassetti would define them. They include American architect Dan Meis, who is currently at work on the new soccer stadium in Rome; Italian studies professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, who talks with Stefano Albertini about her latest book Empire Cinema; and French writer Dominique Fernandez—member of the Académie française, award-winning Pasolini scholar and author of several important essays about Italy— who takes us on a unique tour of Baroque Sicily. 

    ● ● ● ●

    Sicily and its particular relationship to difference and diversity is in fact the subject of much of this issue. Previously the region from which Italians emigrated, Sicily now finds itself on the receiving end of immigrants coming into Italy. Here, you’ll also discover a Sicily that is home to art—not just beaches and beachcombers—and get a taste of its cuisine at New York’s best Sicilian restaurants. 

    ● ● ● ●

    Through this issue of i-ItalyNY we hope to show you that Italy’s true capital goes by the name “diversity.” Not only is its history a continuous overlapping of cultures, but a steady stream of emigrants has carried that cultural patrimony around the world, opening it up to further transformations. And today’s Italianness is the result of this long, complex process.
    So, even if you’re staying in NY this fall, let yourself wander with us—with our magazine and our television show, website and social media—in search of Italianness. Wander like the shepherd poet. What’s hidden behind that bend? You’ll be surprised to find out when you get there.

  • Op-Eds

    Beyond Borders

    “Destiny, by definition, is a

    predetermined path. In the Spanish

    language it simply means arrival. For

    one born in Naples, destiny is over one’s

    shoulder, is to come from there. Being

    born and raised there depletes destiny:

    wherever you go, you’ve long borne it,

    half dead weight and half shield.”

    — Erri De Luca

    I always begin with the words of a poet. And these few words of Erri de Luca capture the sense of what goes by the name of napoletanità, which continues to be passed on and kept alive, even for those who have left Naples. Even, say, for those who have lived for years in

    New York.

    On the occasion of Naples Mayor Luigi de Magistris’ visit to New York, i-Italy has dedicated a lot of room in this issue to the city that, despite its many contradictions, has captivated the world’s imagination for centuries. People who know it well, like me, might say that Naples and New York have a lot in common, but I’ll leave that fascinating discussion to the

    following pages. In particular, be sure to check out the important “Naples in the World” project that Gennaro Matino has chosen to launch in this issue.

    ● ● ● ●

    If Naples is “beyond borders,” the same goes for the rest of Italy described in this issue. In

    Dino Borri’s interview with Carlo Petrini, for one, the Slow Food founder discusses the new lifestyle his movement is championing around the world. And Judith Harris and Piero Galli shed light on how Expo Milan 2015, despite its several controversies, is raising issues of fundamental importance for the fate of our planet. On a slightly different note, the recently

    deceased “Jewelry King” Gianmaria Buccellati demonstrates how one family can singlehandedly bring the art of Italian goldsmithing to the world’s attention. And—last but

    not least—what does Renzo Piano have to say about his architectural

    gems scattered around the world, including his new masterpiece, the Whitney Museum? Enjoy Stefano Albertini’s interview with the


    Likewise, Fred Plotkin and Florence Mayor Dario Nardella’s conversation travels beyond the

    usual confines, ranging from music to opera to the city. And Lucia Pasqualini dedicates her column on mentoring to Lucio Noto. Known in America for his business successes,

    Noto is a model of leadership for young people, says Pasqualini.

    Speaking of young people, we attended the annual gala at Scuola fd’Italia, where there’s something special cooking for the future of Italy in New York. And while I’m

    looking forward and back, another gala worth mentioning was held by the NIAF, whose increasingly freshfaced leadership established an award this year in honor of Mario

    Cuomo. His son, Governor Andrew Cuomo, gave a touching and unforgettable speech that night.

    ● ● ● ●

    Take a look at the table of contents, there’s a lot more. As for me, I will end my brief summary of what’s inside by pointing out our report on the first conference regarding the Mediterranean diet as well as our backstage look at the Sofi Awards held at the headquarters of Specialty Food with Francine Segan.

    As always, the Summer Fancy Food Show will take place in June in New York, but this year’s main sponsor is Italy.

    Dulcis in fundo, have a happy 2nd of June—Republic Day in Italy! Our Consul General Natalia Quintavalle tells us what to expect in our “Events” section, which includes— as usual—a calendar with a complete list of Italian happenings in the city.

    ● ● ● ●

    Many of the articles inside have a QR code you can scan to watch videos on your smartphone, but don’t forget that i-Italy is also on television (every Saturday @ 11.30pm and Sundays @1pm on NYC Life - Ch 25), online (i-italy. org)—and on Twitter and Facebook!

    ([email protected])

  • Op-Eds

    What i-Italy Could do With Those Subsidies…

    Articolo in lingua italiana >>>

    I’ll start with two facts. Though apparently unrelated, they are tied to the topic I want to discuss.

    The first is the “unemployment” announcement of the journalists at America Oggi, the historical Italian language newspaper in the United States. The second is the Bruno Vespa’s interview of us, which took place last Sunday and will be aired on Porta a Porta.


    What I want to talk about is the possibility that the economic crisis, in which the whole world is involved, will transform itself into a new opportunity for information. I’m talking about this because i-Italy was born in 2008, right when the crisis was exploding.

    Initially we were only present online but then, with great passion and many difficulties, we have consolidated, becoming an important multichannel presence: online, in print, on television, and on social networks.

    It’s an ambitious format, for its innovative characteristics, its independence from big editorial groups, and for the choice of not only using the Italian language, but mainly English in order to reach a vast audience: Italian Americans, especially young ones, and Americans who love our country, of whom there are many.

    These have been and continue to be difficult years, but also full of great satisfactions: from having the New York Times call us to know more about Italian events in New York we had written about (in English, it goes without saying), to getting an important Italian TV critic to point to us as a model for RAI!

    So we are perceived under many aspects as a “best practice”. And we owe it to two things: to he voluntary contribution of part of the journalists, writers and intellectuals, both Italian and American, and to an editorial staff that’s very young but with a knack for quality and the desire to distinguish themselves from the many amateur bloggers who go around with their little digital camera. Not to mention the precious support given to us by two important American academic institutions: the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute (CUNY) and la Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò (NYU).

    And that’s how we stubbornly go on, without any contributions from the state, constantly searching for funds in the midst of a devastating economic crisis.

    America Oggi: A newspaper that didn’t manage to adapt

    But let’s get to America Oggi. The newspaper was born in 1988 as another historical italian emigration newspaper was shutting down, Il Progresso ItaloAmericano. Directed by a cooperative made up of ex Il Progresso workers, it represented a true jump for Italian information in America. Thanks to the foresight of using computers and the new technology of the time; and later on thanks to the generous subsidies received from the office of the prime minister, of the order of millions of dollars.

    That’s how for years America Oggi was able to act as an important reference point for the community. But unfortunately, this newspaper wasn’t able to keep up with the times and with the transformation of its own readers, and especially of their children who no longer speak Italian – even though they love Italy. The number of copies sold is slowly dropping, the original stories are increasingly rare compared to the ones built on pre-existing press releases, and the destiny of the newspaper tied itself to the natural exhaustion of the old generation of Italian Emigration.

    Then the crisis came and the contributions from the office of the prime minister have been reduced over the last few years. Although today they continue to cover what I believe to be a conspicuous amount. A sum that, if well distributed, could provide enough tranquility to get through daily work, unrushed by the struggle to gather funds. And it could above all guarantee the compensation of collaborators.

    There’s a need for a different reality, a true calling that America Oggi seems to have lost. A different mindset is required, the ability to capture the innovative essence of modern technology. Just like the newspaper born after Il Progresso had at its inception, twenty years ago. But instead, they’ve decided to fire all their journalists…

    Bruno Vespa, Il Volo, and us…

    But what does Bruno Vespa have to do with this discussion? I’ll explain. He interviewed me during an American tour organized for a special episode of Porta a Porta dedicated to the members of Il Volo. A great example of teamwork coming from Rai Uno. It has been interesting to watch them operate here in New York. The success of the popular journalist and that of the young singers certainly justifies the project’s share of investments. But as I watched them work – for example in the restaurant Ribalta, which was transformed into a TV studio for the occasion – I couldn’t help but reflect on my experience.

    As I looked at their cameras, the lights they were using, their staff, I thought: “How did i-Italy get so far? How did we manage to produce quality work with such fewer resources?” Passion is indispensable but it certainly isn’t enough. The secret lies in using the available resources creatively and exercising good judgment.

    Fundamental is the contact with our readers both online and on paper, with our viewers, with the real life of the territory. With the youth. And I remembered how we conducted our first interview three years ago, on paper and on video with the guys from Il Volo, which was a huge success. It’s a good example to show what I’m trying to say.

    Il Volo came to our office for an interview during one of their first American tours. It was conducted in English, which was important for them. We didn’t yet have an appropriate studio for it. I’ll even say that in that moment we only had one “lavalier” microphone (the small clip-on ones). It wasn’t even wireless…and we only had one camera! (we’re better equipped now, don’t worry).

    But how could we get all three of them to talk all while creating something different, not too boring? We decided to have them sit close together on three chairs, with a white screen behind them. Only one microphone, and only one camera, but the three of them close, amused, and on screen. Fast pace, dynamic atmosphere. There we had it. The eloquence and likeability of Il Volo did the rest. This is only one of the many insights, the little sparks of genius of my collaborators.

    Realizing an original half-hour of television each week is pretty challenging. Even now that we have more full HD cameras, some spare microphones, sometimes we rent out equipment to obtain true cinematographic quality. We chose to enrich the program with different segments and various reports from different locations. And we always give it all we’ve got. But it can’t cost a fortune. And it’s doable!

    We carry the camera on our shoulders, we take the subway, we ask our friends involved in New York’s Italian intellectual scene to participate. And then everyone on our team knows they’ll have to take on the most diverse roles, to deal with - and resolve – all sorts of unforeseen events. We also have a tricolor fiat 500 designed by Massimo Vignelli to move around, but we don’t get to use it too much. Parking is hard to find in New York.

    It’s like going back to the origins of Television. With limited resources but fortunately with technology on our side today. Each upgrade in equipment has been a small victory for us. The same goes for our print magazine. The costs are there, but they are alleviated by the integration of content produced for the web and for video. We edit it ourselves, based on a template set up by a great graphic designer from Rome. And in the end an expert makes corrections and adds her artistic touch. Because quality and elegance are a priority, especially for Italians.

    Translating, creating subtitles for our show, explaining and “translating” our culture, these are other challenges that our primarily Italian staff faces. Challenges that naturally come with their costs. For this we must thank our Italian-American collaborators, who are fundamental for this cultural – not only linguistic – mediation.

    And finally, social networks, particularly Facebook, which best fits the way we communicate, accompanies our lives and follows us everywhere with photos and videos. We take care of each one of our Facebook “friends”, and in a very short time they became almost 125,000 and they post thousands of comments every day, they intervene, and they interact.

    So then the question naturally pops up: What could we do with those contributions that for some don’t suffice? I’ve asked myself that and now I’m asking you. I think we would…fly (like Il Volo). And I’m certain that after a few years, we would even stop needing that money. Because Italy, with all its culture, is the best product to sell, in America and throughout the world, it’s the best story to tell.

    You just need to know how to do it. And want to do it.

    We hope to make it and to grow in the coming years. I say “hope”, the first thing I’m aware of is the uncertainty with which nowadays we must have the humility to live with.

  • Opinioni

    Cosa riuscirebbe a fare i-Italy con quei contributi...

         Parto da due fatti. Apparentemente lontani tra di loro, ma legati all’argomento che voglio affrontare. Il primo è l’annuncio di "unemployment" per i giornalisti di America Oggi, storico quotidiano in lingua italiana negli USA. Il secondo è l’intervista che Bruno Vespa ci ha fatto domenica scorsa e che andrà in onda su Porta a Porta.

    Ciò di cui voglio parlare è la possibilità che la crisi economica, che sta sconvolgendo tutto il mondo, si trasformi in una nuova opportunità per l’informazione. E ne parlo perhè i-Italy è nata nel 2008, proprio mentre scoppiava questa crisi.

         Inizialmente eravamo solo su Internet ma poi, con grande passione e tante difficoltà, ci siamo consolidati diventando una presenza multicanale importante: in rete, in carta, in televisione e sui social network.

    E’ un format ambizioso, per le sue caratteristiche innovative, per la sua indipendenza da grossi gruppi editoriali, e per la scelta di usare non solo l’italiano, ma soprattutto l’inglese per raggiungere un pubblico vastissimo: gli italo-americani, soprattutto i giovani, e gli americani che amano il nostro paese, che sono tantissimi.

        Sono stati e sono anni duri, ma anche di grandi soddisfazioni. Dal New York Times che ci telefona per saperne di più su eventi italiani a New York di cui abbiamo scritto (appunto, in inglese), a un importante critico televisivo italiano che ci ha perfino additati come un modello per… la Rai!

         Insomma siamo considerati sotto molti aspetti una “best practice”. E lo dobbiamo a due cose: il contributo volontario di una parte dei giornalisti, scrittori e intellettuali, italiani e americani, e una redazione molto giovane, ma con il pallino della qualità e la voglia di distinguersi dai tanti bloggers amatoriali che vanno in giro con una telecamerina digitale. Per non parlare del prezioso sostegno offertoci da due importanti istituti universitari americani: il John D. Calandra Italian American Institute (CUNY) e la Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò (NYU).
          E così andiamo avanti testardi, privi di contributi statali, alla costante ricerca di fondi in mezzo a una crisi devastante.

    America Oggi: un giornale che non si è saputo trasformare

         Ma veniamo ad America Oggi. Il quotidiano nacque nel 1988 in contemporanea alla chiusura di un altro storico giornale dell’emigrazione italiana, Il Progresso ItaloAmericano. Diretto da una cooperativa di ex dipendenti de Il Progresso appunto, rappresentò allora un vero salto per l’informazione italiana in America. Grazie all’intuizione di utilizzare i computer e le prime tecnologie nuove per l’epoca; e grazie poi, soprattutto, alle generose sovvenzioni ricevute dalla Presidenza del Consiglio, nell’ordine di milioni di euro.

         Così America Oggi ha potuto rappresentare per anni un importante punto di riferimento per la comunità. Ma purtroppo questo quotidiano non è riuscito a stare al passo con i tempi e con le trasformazioni dei suoi stessi lettori, e soprattutto dei loro figli, che ormai non parlano più l’italiano—anche se adorano l’Italia. Il numero di copie vendute piano piano declina, i servizi originali sono diventati sempre più rari rispetto a quelli costruiti sulla base dei comunicati, e il destino del giornale si è legato all’esaurimento anagrafico della vecchia emigrazione italiana.

         Poi è arrivata la crisi, e i contributi della Presidenza del Consiglio negli ultimi anni sono stati ridotti. Anche se continuano a rappresentare, a mio avviso, un cospiquo aiuto ancora oggi. Un aiuto che, se ben amministrato, potrebbe dare la serenità necessaria per un lavoro quodidiano, non affannato dalla ricerca di fondi. E potrebbe garantire soprattuto i compensi dei collaboratori.

         Ma ci vorrebbe una realtà diversa, una vera vocazione che America Oggi sembra aver perso, occorrerebbe uno spirito diverso, una capacità di cavalcare l’onda innovativa delle nuove tecnologie. Come quello che il quotidiano nato dopo il Progresso, aveva alla sua nascita, vent’anni fa. E invece la proprietà ha deciso di licenziare tutti i giornalisti…

    Bruno Vespa, Il Volo, e noi...

         Ma cosa c'entra Bruno Vespa in questo ragionamento? Vi spiego. Mi ha intervistata nel corso di un tour americano organizzato per una puntata speciale di Porta a Porta dedicata ai ragazzi de Il Volo. Grande lavoro di squadra, quello di Rai Uno. E’ stato interessante vederli agire qui a New York. Il successo del noto giornalista e quello dei giovani cantanti giustificherà certo, in termini di share, quello che hanno investito. Ma mentre li vedevo lavorare — ad esempio nel ristorante Ribalta, trasformato per l’occasione in studio televisivo — non ho potuto fare a meno di riflettere sulla mia esperienza.

         Guardavo le loro telecamere, le luci che utilizzavano, le persone nello staff. E pensavo: “Come ha fatto i-Italy ad arrivare fin qui? Come abbiamo fatto a realizzare contenuti di qualità con tante risorse in meno?” La passione è indispensabile, ma certo non basta. Il segreto sta nella creatività e nell’utilizzo oculato delle risorse a disposizione. Fondamentale il contatto con chi ci legge in rete e in carta, ci vede in TV, con la vita reale del territorio. Con i giovani. E mi sono ricordata come abbiamo realizzato tre anni fa la nostra prima intervista, in carta e in video con i ragazzi de Il Volo, che ebbe un grande successo. E’ un buon esempio per capire cosa voglio dire.

         Il Volo viene da noi in redazione per un’intervista nel corso di uno dei suoi primi tour americani. Era in inglese e per loro era importante. Non avevamo ancora uno studio adeguato per realizzarla. Dirò di più avevamo in quel momento solo un microfono “lavalier” (di queli a pinzetta, che si applicano sotto il bavero della giacca). Non era neanche wireless… e poi avevamo una sola telecamera! (ora siamo più attrezzati, non vi preoccupate:-)

         Ma come fare a farli parlare tutti e tre, creando qualcosa di diverso, di non noioso insomma? L’idea fu di metterli seduti su tre sedie vicine, con uno schermo bianco dietro, e farli alternare ad ogni battuta. Parlava uno per volta, quello seduto al centro. Un solo microfono, una sola telecamera, ma tutti e tre vicini e divertiti dentro lo schermo. Ritmo veloce, atmosfera movimentata. Il gioco era fatto. Poi la comunicativa e la simpatia de Il Volo ha ha dato il resto. Ma è solo uno dei tanti accorgimenti, piccole uscite di genio dei miei collaboratori.

         Realizzare ogni settimana mezz’ora di televisione non banale è una bella sfida. Anche ora che abbiamo più telecamere full HD, qualche microfono, a volte affittiamo le attrezzature per girare in qualità cinematografica. Abbiamo scelto di rendere ricco il programma con segmenti diversi e più servizi, in diverse location. E di dare sempre il massimo. Ma non può costare un occhio della testa. E si può fare!

         Si gira con la telecamera sulle spalle, si prende la metropolitana, si chiede la partecipazione di amici che fanno parte dell’ambiente intellettuale italiano di New York. E poi ognuno in redazione è consapevole di dover svolgere i ruoli più divesi, affrontare—e risolvere—imprevisti di tutti i tipi. Abbiamo anche una 500 tricolore disegnata da Massimo Vignelli per andare in giro, ma non la utilizziamo sempre. A New York garage e parcheggi sono spesso proibitivi.

         E’ un pò forse il ritorno alle origini. Una televisione di poche risorse, ma che per fortuna oggi ha la tecnologia dalla sua parte. Ogni miglioramento nell’attrezzatura è stata per noi una piccola vittoria. E lo stesso per il nostro magazine in carta. I costi ci sono, ma si abbattono integrando i contenuti prodotti per la rete e per il video. Lo impaginiamo noi, in base ad una griglia predisposta da un ottimo grafico romano. E alla fine una professionista corregge gli errori e da’ il suo tocco artistico. Perchè qualità ed eleganza vengono prima di tutto, specie per degli italiani.

    Le traduzioni, i sottotitoli per la televisone, porgere la nostra cultura e renderla comprensibile, un'altra sfida per una redazione in buona parte italiana. Sfida che naturalmente ha i suoi costi. Dobbiamo qui ringraziare la  presenza di collaboratori italo-americani nella nostra redazione,   fondamentale per questa mediazione culturale e non solo linguistica.

         E infine i social network, in particolare Facebook, che è il più adatto al nostro modo di comunicare. Affianca la nostra vita e ci segue ovunque con foto e video. Li curiamo uno per uno i nostri “amici” di Facebook, e in poco tempo sono quasi 125,000 e postano migliaia di commenti al giorno, intervengono, interagiscono.

         Allora la domanda sorge spontanea. Cosa potremmo fare noi con quei contributi che ad altri non bastano? Me lo sono chiesta e lo chiedo a voi. Io penso che… voleremmo. E sono sicura, dopo qualche anno qui soldi non servirebbero più. Perchè l’Italia con la sua cultura è il miglior prodotto da vendere, in America e nel mondo, e la miglore storia da raccontare.

         Bisogna saperlo fare. E volerlo fare.

  • Op-Eds

    Milan to New York. New York to Milan

    “Glorious. More satisfactory to me than St. Peters. A wonderful grandure.

    Ascended,—Far below people in the turrets of open tracery look like flies caught in cobweb.—The groups of angels on points of pinnacles & everywhere...Might well [illegible] host of heaven upon top of Milan Cathedral.”
       Herman Melville
    As always, I’m leading off with a writer and poet. This time the writer, though not Italian, is writing about what has been a symbol of Italy for centuries. And what a description of the Milan Cathedral the author of the mythic Moby Dick has given us!

    The year was 1857. But even today, those who have been there know: this grand, magisterial impression still dwells in the Duomo. And yet our cover story is an invitation to get to know not only Milan and its cathedral during the six months of the city’s Expo, but a little something more. High up among the spires, there is a dearly beloved statue that has strong ties to the United States and New York more specifically. The statue is dedicated to Mother Francesca Cabrini, the Milanese born American citizen. To find out more about her, be sure to check out the cover story.
    What you hold in your hands may seem like a vast mishmash of articles, but there are tangible links that bind its Italian and American contents. Alongside Mother Cabrini, you’ll find stories peopled with other important Italian Americans, from Mario and Matilda Cuomo in the
    political arena to Tony & Marisa May and Lou Di Paolo in the world of fine dining. And Fred Gardaphe digs into the history of Italian Americans in his interview with Maria Laurino about her companion book to the hit documentary “Italian Americans” that recently aired on PBS. And Paul Moses recounts how the (equal but different) Irish and Italian communities managed to “make peace.” The theme of diversity makes an appearance in the art world too, as Gaetano Pesce talks about what sets women apart in anticipation of his jewelry exhibit “For Her.”

    Finally, it’s springtime. The last few months’ images of an ice-shagged New York are fading from view, and the city seems to be coming back to life. In i-ItalyNY you’ll find a long list of events, stories, and tips on how to spend your free time and where to go in Italy. In our back matter we take you to one of the most stupendous and least know corners of Italy: Cilento.
    I-ItalyNY’s unique assortment of stories brought to you on television (you’ve seen our weekly show, haven’t you?), the web, social media and in our print magazine is a real gamble given the challenges facing the publishing industry these days. But it’s a gamble that’s paying off thanks to you. Please continue to follow us, give us heart and write to us! We always want to hear your comments.
    Alla prossima!

  • Opinioni

    Pino Daniele. L'anima napoletana a New York

    “Pino & Friends”. Rincorreva le note con le parole. La sua voce sempre incredibilmente intensa. Anche se, a tratti, lievemente stanca. Ma non lo erano le sue mani sulla chitarra, non lo era la sua musica. La sua passione.

    Intorno a lui amici americani, tra cui il grande chitarrista Richie Havens, e artisti che avevo visto in Italia tanti anni fa. Tra questi Tullio De Piscopo, Rino Zurzolo. 

    Tutto questo è successo a New York, tra stupore di tutti. Era il 2013. Questa è stata l’ultima volta che l’ho sentito cantare e suonare dal vivo in un locale di Midtown.

    Pino Daniele il musicista che mi aveva fatto amare ancora di più Napoli, che aveva accompagnato la mia adolescenza, che mi aveva fatto sentire anche un pò americana con il suo blues prima di venire a New York, lo avevo ritrovato e conosciuto qualche anno prima, nel 2009, quando venne a suonare all’Apollo theatre di Harlem.

    Fu un successo indimenticabile. Una presa sul pubblico straordinaria. Non c’era un concerto, c’era la musica. Tanto era il ritmo nel teatro che, nonostante un severo servizio d’ordine, la gente uscì dai posti assegnati per ballare, fino a sotto il palco.

    E lo facevano tutti, pubbico e addetti al lavoro. Ricordo di essermi ritrovata a ritmare la sua musica insieme ad una donna nera che, solo pochi minuti prima, era stata molto scostante con il cameramen che mi accompagnava. Mi sorrise e si lasciò trasportare, “A me me piace ‘o blues”.

    E conobbi Pino proprio in quei giorni, lo intervistai, per poi rincontrarlo insieme ai suo figli e conoscerlo meglio nelle altre due trasferte nel 2012 e nel 2013   in cui segui più da vicino la sua tournee newyorkese.

    La seconda volta il concerto fu sempre nel tempio di Harlem, teatro strapieno e ancora un grande successo. Due giorni prima avevo organizzato, insieme a Stefano Albertini, il direttore della Casa Italiana delle NYU, una conversazione su Napoli di Pino con l’attore John Turturro. Non dimenticherò mai l’incontro di queste due icone qui a New York.

    Ricordo che il suo producer americano, Massimo Gallotta, mi chiese cosa si poteva fare di diverso con Pino Daniele. Mi venne in mente la Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò della New York University, il luogo più accogliente che narra la cultura italiana a New York, e poi il regista/attore John Turturro.

    Era da poco uscito il suo film “Passione”, viaggio nella Canzone Napoletana. Napule è è il brano di chiusura del film. Viene eseguito nella sua versione originale, anche se l'autore napoletano non appare,

    Pino accettò con entusiamsmo l’idea e anche John Turturro disse sì. 

    Incredibile, non si erano mai incontrati! Fu emozionante vedere con miei occhi le sfumature di quell filo rosso che può accomunare solo due grandi artisti. E poi certo, c’era Napoli, quella ‘passione’ che aveva tanto attratto Turturro, quella che metteva nella sua musica Daniele.

    La terza volta che Pino venne a New York fu molto diversa. Il concerto non fu più all’Apollo, che con la sua amosfera, in un certo senso sacra, tiene distanti gli artisti dal pubblico, ma in un luogo che quasi quasi lo faceva toccare. O almeno sembrava di poterlo toccare. Con lui suonavano amici di New York, ma anche vecchi compagni della sua vita-viaggio-musicale venuti da Napoli.

    Ricordo il figlio, che questa volta più delle altre, lo seguiva con lo sguardo e con grande dolcezza. Intuii una fragilità di Pino, ma il concerto fu trascinante e nessuno se ne accorse più di tanto. 

    Seguirlo dietro le quinte, camminare insieme a lui e poi con i suoi musicisti, vedere le prove, mangiare insieme… ricordo quei momenti, venati anche da un po’ di invidia da parte mia.

    La magia che si crea tra amici, infatti, si amplifica in maniera incommensurabile quando c’è musica e, se a suonare questa musica c’è un artista della portata di Pino Daniele, tutto diventa magico. Tutto sembra facile, scorrere. E’ un’improvvisazione irripetibile, che necessita però di una grande maestria, armonia.

    Ricordo la dolcezza nei miei confronti di Pino Daniele, quella che rivelò soprattutto l’ultima volta che venne a New York, quando un pò già mi conosceva. Quel suo cercarmi per sapere di più della città e della sua gente, e le sue domande implicavano sempre una risposta al femminile. Non ero più solo una giornalista, ma un’amica americana che lo aiutava a cercare anche Napoli a New York.

    Perchè la sua forza veniva da Napoli. E’ banale dirlo, ma va ribadito. Me lo disse chiaramente nell’ultima intervista: “Essere napoletano all’inizio era difficile… ma ora Napoli mi tiene in vita da un punto di vista creativo. Se sei un portatore sano, la napoletanità è un modo di essere. Questa città ha un patrimonio bello, nobile, ed io attingo da Eduardo, dalla musica napoletana del primo novencento…”.

    L’aria di New York la indossava come un vestito di seta che scende felice sulla pelle, era a suo agio, camminava per le sue strade cercandone le sonorità, ascoltando le voci ed i suoi rumori. Si fermava nella pizzeria Ribalta, per cercare una pizza di cui non si può fare a meno. Anche a New York.

    Aveva tanti amici americani e capitava di incontrare sguardi di volti noti della musica, quasi in incognito, ai suoi concerti.

    Ma l’atmosfera della Grande Mela diventava tutt’uno con quella di Napoli non appena imbracciava una chitarra, per abozzare la prima nota del suo blues.

    Ed ecco arrivare Napoli anche qui. Ci ha fatto entrare nel suo ventre, nei suoi vicoli, sul suo lungomare. Con i suoi odori, rumori, le sue urla, anche la sua munnezza, la sua superstizione, la sua storia. Una bellezza che portava dentro e che solo la sua musica ha saputo raccontare. Una bellezza che incanta, che ci sia il golfo a fare da sottofondo o i il profilo conosciuto di New York. Una bellezza aperta all’incontro di altro ed altri, di altre culture, di altra musica.

    Pino è forse il napoletano più schivo all’apparenza che abbia mai incontrato. Ma a cosa serviva parlare? Lasciava fare tutto alla sua musica. E che parole!

    “Non sono un intrattenitore. Sono uno che suona”, mi ha anche detto. In questo forse un insegnamento per molti che, soprattutto oggi, intrattengono invece di suonare.

    Pino, il nostro abbraccio quando è andato via, per salire sul pulman del suo tour, è ripreso con la telecamera a termine della mia intervista. Non era una finzione, era spontaneo e ringrazio il mio staff video di averlo colto. Un ricordo indelebile. 

    Ci siamo salutati immaginando un ritorno a New York. Non è stato così, ma questa città lo ama insieme a me. E per sempre.

  • Pino Daniele in New York. The ambassador of the Neapolitan soul

    Pino & Friends”. He chased the notes with his words. Hi


    voice was always incredibly intense

    ​ ​
    ​even though,

    ​occasionally, slightly tired. But not his hands on the guitar, not his music, which was his passion.

    I saw him surrounded by American ​
    ​friends, including the​
    ​ great guitarist Richie Havens, and artists that I had seen in Italy many years ago, like Tullio de Piscopo and Rino Zurzolo.​
    ​ All this happened in New York, to the amazement of all.​
    ​ This was the last time I heard him playing and singing live, in Midtown.​

    Pino Daniele, the musician that made me love Naples even more, that accompanied my adolescence​

    ​, whose blues made me feel a little American far before I moved to New York​
    ​. I had met him a few years earlier, in 2009, when he came to play at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.​

    It was an unforgettable success​. His appeal to the public was extraordinary. There was no concert, only his music. The rhythm filled the theatre so much that, oblivious to security, the public abandoned their seats and danced all around and under the stage.

    And they all did it, the audience as well as those who were there to work. I remember finding myself keep the beat together with an Afro American woman who only moments earlier had been blunt with the cameraman that was with me. She smiled and let the music carry her away." I like the blues".

    It was in those days that I got to know Pino.

    I interviewed him​
    ​, and then met him again with his family in 2012 and 2013, when I followed his New York tour more closely.​

    The second time the concert was held ​

     in the Harlem temple, the theater overflowing with people and again it was a great success. Two days earlier I had organized, together with Stefano Albertini, the Director of 'Casa Italiana​
    ​ ' of NYU, a conversation about Naples with Pino and the actor John Turturro. I'll never forget when these two icons met here in New York.​

    His American producer Massimo Gallotta had asked me if we could do something different with Pino Daniele. I thought of Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo' of the NYU, the most welcoming place narrating the Italian Culture in NY, and then of the actor/director John Turturro.

    His movie "Passion", a journey in the Neapolitan Music, had just been released​

    ​. The original version of "Napule è" is the closing piece of the movie, even though the Neapolitan author does not appear.​
    ​ Pino accepted enthusiastically and so did Turturro.​

    They had never met before. It was electrifying to witness with my own eyes the subtleties of that red thread that connected the two great artists. And then, of course, there was Naples, that 'passion' that had so much attracted Turturro and that Daniele translated into music. ​

    The third time Pino came to New York was a different experience again. The concert wasn't held at the Apollo theater, a place where the sacred atmosphere almost puts a distance between the artists and the public. Or at least that's how one feels. Playing with him this time his New York friends but also the old companions of his musical life journey, directly from Naples. I remember his son, who this time more than before, followed him with eyes filled with tenderness. I sensed some sort of fragility in Pino, but the concert was enthralling and no one else noticed.

    Following him backstage, walking with him and his band, watching the rehearsal, eating together... I remember those moments, tinged with little envy. The magic that friendship can create is certainly exponentially amplified when there is music. And if the one making the music is an artist of the stature of Pino Daniele, then everything becomes magical and seems to flow easily. It's  a unique improvisation, but one that requires great mastery and harmony.

    I recall Pino's affability towards me, especially during his last New York trip when he already knew me a little. He asked for me to find out more about the city and its people, his questions always implying a feminine answer. I wasn't just a journalist anymore, but an american friend who helped him in his search for Naples in New York.​

    His strength came from Naples. It may sound prosaic but it's important to reiterate it. He clearly said it in his last interview: "Being from Naples was hard at the begnning, but now Naples keeps me alive from a creative point of view. If you are a healthy carrier (of Neapolitan spirit),​

    ​ then "napolitanita' " is a way of being. This city has a beautiful and noble heritage,  ​
    ​and I draw from Eduardo, from the Neapolitan music of the early 1900..."​

    He would wear the New York atmosphere like a silk garment that happily rests on the skin. He was comfortable, walking around the city listening to its sonorities, to its voices and noises. He would stop by Pizzeria Ribalta, craving for a pizza you cannot do without, even in New York.​

    He had many American friends and it wasn't uncommon to come across famous faces of the music world, almost in disguise, watching his concerts.

    The atmosphere of the Big Apple would become as one with Naples the moment he picked up his guitar and  played the first notes of his blues.​

    Then Naples was in New York. He allowed us into its belly, in its alleys, in its promenade. With its odors, noise, screams, and its 'munnezza' (the trash), its superstition and its history. An interior beauty that only his music was able to narrate. A beauty that captivates, whether the background is the gulf of Naples or New York's skyline. A beauty open to other people, cultures and music.​

    Pino is maybe the shyest Neapolitan I've ever met. But what do you need words for when the music says it all. And so eloquently!

    " I'm not an entertainer. I'm someone who plays music", he also told me.​
    ​ In these words maybe a message to many who today entertain rather than play music.

    Pino, our hug when you left, after our interview, before you got onto your tour bus, has been recorded on camera. It wasn't fake, it was spontaneous and I thank my video staff for having ​
    ​caught the moment.​
    ​ An indelible memory.

    We said goodbye envisaging a return to New York. It's not going to happen, but this city loves him, together with me. And will love him forever.​

  • Style: Articles

    A Citizen of Two Worlds - Interview with Massimiliano Gioni

    You have devoted your life to contemporary art. Why were you first fascinated by this particular period in art?

    The thing I always found most attractive in contemporary art was that it wasn’t taught at
    school, so I had to explore it on my own and it was a field of knowledge and feeling that I felt I belonged to. I had to discover it on my own; I was my own teacher, away from organizations and hierarchies that were too closed and predefined. 

    Contemporary art is not deceptive nor is it stupid. It’s the place where you can allow yourself the joy of being free and different and maybe, why not, an idiot, in the sense that you’re not working within the frame of rationality. If we could all think this way I believe more people, and more young people, would be attracted to contemporary art.

    From Milan to New York. How did it all start?

    I arrived in New York in 1999 and between then and 2003 I was travelling back and forth to Italy. For a few years I didn’t really know where my home was. New York and Milan are indeed two different cities. Milan, “Europe’s Caffeine” as the futurist writer Marinetti defined it, is still one of the most lively and dynamic cities in Italy, and definitely the capital of contemporary art in terms of the number of artists and galleries. Compared to Milan, New York is of course a much faster and competitive city.

    What I like is that, all considered, New York is also a small city. I know New York is not just Manhattan, but for someone like me, the part of New York relevant to my job is in Manhattan. There are countless contemporary art museums and galleries here, so it almost resembles one large town of exhibitions. In the span of a few hours, moving fast from downtown to the Metropolitan Museum, you can see so many.

    You used to say that ‘curator’ is an odd word, that it sounds as if you cure people. What is an art curator?

    Popular opinion believes that a curator’s job is mainly about flying all over the world. I’d like to point out that you have to spend as much time on books as you do on planes! Also, searching for and choosing artworks is of crucial importance, as well as the daily, almost physical contact with art and artists.

    These are fundamental aspects of the “science” of being an art curator. Besides, the curator is the person who builds the story and creates the atmosphere. The great curator Harald Szeemann used to say that being a curator is like writing in the space, and I think this sums up our job: we create a sheet of music in which the artwork can exist and make a physical and intellectual impact on the public visiting the exhibition.

    You have been with the New Museum for many years now. What does this museum mean to you?

    You know, this building didn’t exist when I joined the New Museum. We inaugurated it a year later. It’s quite a unique museum. It’s 40 years old, almost as old as I am. It did play an important role in my life—I used to visit it when I first came to New York in 1999. It may be the most informal and hyperactive museum in New York, as well as the smallest, which gives us liveliness andflexibility. We are the only museum totally dedicated to contemporary art.

    The New Museum and downtown are almost synonymous. Has it been difficult to operate in ‘ground zero’ all these years?

    The New Museum has always been downtown but this building was still only a dream when the attack on the Twin Towers happened on 9/11. At the time, many institutions and people thought of abandoning this part of the city. But we didn’t. Now, seven years after the opening of this building, it has become a place that, thanks in part to its shape, is both a nerve center and a catalyst of this area. It’s like an antenna; it receives the signals of this city and broadcasts them to international space in a global dialogue. Downtown has been reborn, and we’re glad to have played a part in its rinascita.

  • Arte e Cultura

    Carlo Pagnotta. Vivere il Jazz in Umbria

    L’Umbria e’ terra di affascinanti suggestioni che attraversano secoli, anzi i millenni fin dagli antichi etruschi, un popolo che viveva nell’Italia centrale ancor prima dei romani. Chi la visita entra in un atmosfera che sa di antico e misterioso che si perpetua miracolosamente anche nel lifestyle di oggi.

    Questo capita anche con “Umbria Jazz”, il più importante festival musicale jazzistico italiano, nato nel 1973. Con le sue edizioni—estiva a Perugia e invernale ad Orvieto—il festival raccoglie il meglio della musica jazz nelle più suggestive locations di questo angolo magico d’Italia. Luoghi unici a fare da contorno a esibizioni uniche.

    Per saperne di più abbiamo incontrato il fondatore e direttore artistico di “Umbria Jazz”, Carlo Pagnotta, che viene spesso negli Stati Uniti per organizzare questo festival unico al mondo.

    Quarant’anni fa era un giovane commerciante di abbigliamento a Perugia, appassionato di jazz e frequentatore dei maggiori festival europei—ma già sognava Umbria Jazz. Voleva fortemente un festival a casa sua ed è riuscito a realizzarlo grazie anche all’aiuto di due lungimiranti assessori della regione Umbria. “Ho sempre desiderato il meglio per la mia regione. Anche quando avevo un negozio di abbigliamento maschile questo era uno uno dei migliori nel centro d’Italia. Così proprio come mi ha insegnato mio padre. Aveva un ristorante ed era uno dei migliori negli anni 50, uno dei primi con le stelle Michelin”.

    Il meglio, dunque, anche per la musica, la musica Jazz che tanto amava. E grazie al suo sogno l’Umbria è diventata, ormai si può dire, la patria europea del Jazz.

    “Negli anni 70 in Italia esisteva un solo festival importante, quello di San Remo dedicatoalla canzone. C’erano divesi Jazz club, ma si non erano organizzati insieme. Quella che la regione Umbria allora accettò di intraprendere fu una vera scommessa.” Era il 23 agosto 1973 quando si tenne il primo concerto del Festival. Fu l’inzio di un’avventura che venne sospesa solo negli anni della grande contestazione, tra il 1978 e il 1982. Erano i cosidetti Anni di Piombo. Grandi artisti come Chet Baker e Stan Getz, furono fischiati, criticati perchè bianchi e borghesi. “Ma noi non volevamo fare un festival di contestatori , ma di appassionati” continua Pagnotta ricordando quel periodo.

    Comunque dall’82 il Festival riprese la sua corsa: “La regione Umbria ha continuato a crederci e ha investito registrando il logo. Ha fatto più di quanto ogni altra regione abbia mai fatto. I risultati si sono visti. Oggi l’Umbria è conosciuta non solo per San Francesco, ma anche per Umbria Jazz.”

    Qualche ricordo, qualche emozione dal suo fondatore.

    “All’inzio erano ancora viventi mostri sacri della musica Jazz. Calcarono le scene per esempio Art Blakey e Dizzy Gillespie. Momenti straordinari. Poi siamo passati a quella che fece nascere la cosidetta ‘contaminazione”  con l’idea di mettere Sting a disposizione dell’orchestra di Gill Evans. Fu un concerto unico. L’inzio di una svolta. E’ inutile negarlo, la musica Jazz non è di massa, ma di nicchia. La manifestazione con Sting portò 40.000 persone in piazza. E fece così conoscere ancora di più Umbria Jazz al mondo.”

    Nel 1985, per volontà della Regione, nacque la Fondazione Umbria jazz, che ha il compito di garantire le risorse finanziarie di parte pubblica. L'attuale presidente della Fondazione è Renzo Arbore, un uomo di spettacolo conosciutissimo anche negli USA e che contribuisce in maniera indiscutibile alla diffusione del festival nel mondo.

    Descrivere il clima in cui si svolge Umbria Jazz è quasi impossibile. Sono sensazioni, piene di grandi contrasti tra presente e passato in mezzo a tanta musica. “Ne hanno parlato tanti inviati giornalisti da tutto il mondo. La differenza tra un altro festival e Umbria Jazz è che ci troviamo in luoghi intrisi di storia. Questa magia non può succedere altrove e bisogna venirci per capire davvero cosa intendo” ci dice Pagnotta orgoglioso. E non a caso le strutture di accoglienza per il turismo sono cresciute in maniera direttamente proporzionale alla fama del festival.

    Ma come nasce, come si costruisce un’edizione di Umbria Jazz?
    “Prima di tutto, facciamo parte dell’International Jazz festival. Ci incontriamo con i promoter quattro volte l’anno. Ci vuole tanto lavoro ed esperienza, ma se non ci fossero i finanziamenti pubblici (sempre in diminuzione) e gli sponsor privati non si potrebbe fare.” Ma nonostante la crisi economica Umbria Jazz presegue: la regione Umbria ha investito 600.000 mila euro quest’anno per le edizioni di Perugia e Orvieto. “Nessun’altra regione ha fatto tanto. In Italia si investe ancora solo per l’Opera e la musica classica, non per il Jazz. Eppure gli italiani hanno avuto un ruolo importantissimo nella nascita della musica Jazz. Ma in Italia i politici penano che con la cultura non si mangia”.

    E tuttavia Umbria Jazz è riuscita a far sapere al mondo che esite anche un Jazz italiano… “Il festival di Newport ha festeggiato i 60 anni la scorsa estate. E per la prima volta era presente un italiano: StefanoBollani, portato priprio da Umbria jazz.

    Venti anni fa potevamo citare pochi nomi italiani in questo campo - magari Enrico Rava o Giovanni Tommaso. Oggi sono tantissimi i giovani jezzisti italiani di valore e sono molto richiesti. Possiamo dire che ormai il Jazz italiano è il secondo al mondo, dopo quello americano.”

    Ed il rapporto con gli Stati Uniti di Umbria Jazz è naturalmente molto intenso. Negli anni sono state tante la presenze di Umbria Jazz che ha portato jazzisti italiani nelle città americane. “Abbiamo cominciato nel 1983 nel Nord Carolina, fino a giungere a Boston e New York più di recente. All’inizio gli italiani suonavano il lunedi, nel day off e in locali secondari. Oggi invece suonano dal matedi alla domenica nei locali più importanti”.

    E un filo rosso unisce Umbria Jazz anche con le università americane. Con il Berkley College of Music di Boston per esempio. “Quest’anno festeggiamo 30 anni di collaborazione. Per due settimane ogni anno venogno a Perugia 250 studenti sia dagli USA che da tutto il resto del mondo.”

    Ultima inevatibile domanda. Ha un sogno nel cassetto Pagnotta?

    “Si parla ancora di quando il Jazz entrò al Carnegie Hall per la prima volta. Sarebbe bellissimo se potesse entrarci qualche jazzista italiano”.