Articles by: Nicole Campisano

  • Photo Credit Shushu Chen
    Art & Culture

    "In the Musical Wonderland" of Alessandra Salerno

    In red from head to toe, Alessandra Salerno sparkled on stage at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò. Alessandra sat humbled in front of a crowded audience that was eager to hear the songstress. The singer, who comes all the way from Sicily, performed her solo show appropriately entitled “In the Musical Wonderland” surrounded by fairly lights in an enchanting and dreamy atmosphere.

    A Sicilian Story

    Letizia Airos interviewed the singer throughout the show captivating the audience with Alessandra’s musical story.  Alessandra made her American singing debut at the annual NIAF Anniversary Gala in Washington D.C earlier in the month. Salerno shined at the Gala performing with Sicily in her heart and soul as that was the region being honored by the gala this year.

    Born in Palermo, Sicily, Alessandra began singing at a young age.  She explains how her uncle, Zio Michele, inspired her to sing and to pursue a talent that she did not know she had yet and at “every party, he asked…[her] to sing.” At the time she found it annoying because while “the other kids played,” she had to sing.

    Clearly, Alessandra is a creative soul, but her self-expression goes beyond singing and songwriting.  She not only studied music, but fashion as well.  Her “passion for fashion,” as she calls it, was also included in her performance.  The artist wore her own designs, and made a point of changing her outfit seamlessly to set a new tone during the show. She added an attachable red skirt to her red dress, and popped on some red high heels. Her all red ensemble perfectly represented her zeal for life, as well as compliment her fiery red hair.

    Inspired Performances

    Alessandra’s powerful voice is mesmerizing, but that is not her only unique talent; she also plays the autoharp that she affectionately refers to as her “baby”.  The autoharp is Alessandra’s signature instrument, though she can also play the piano. The singer discusses the inspirations for her distinct sound and choice of instrument. She explains that when she heard country music for the first time…[she] fell in love with” the autoharp, the iconic instrument of the country singer June Carter.  The autoharp, and her love for American music and culture deeply inspired Alessandra’s musical style.

    The charismatic singer has a sweet and bubbly stage presence, though when she sings, Alessandra is able to effortlessly perform with the raw emotion that each song captures. Alessandra opened with the powerful Italian ballad “Caruso,” originally by Lucio Dalla, with her autoharp as it was the first song that she ever heard when she was four years old.   She continued her musical story with her own acapella version of "Amazing Grace", followed by “Why” by Annie Lennox which are two songs that she loved throughout her life.  

    She also chose to include “Creep” by Radio Head, the song that she used to audition for The Voice of Italy, and to praise the American country music that inspired her, she sang a medley as a tribute to Johnny Cash and June Carter, as well as great Italian songwriters.

    Additionally, Alessandra performed two original songs that are found on her album: Piovono Ombrelli, and Faith Within your Hands. Playing one song on the piano, Alessandra sang “People help the People” by Birdy, showcasing yet another talent, and as a personal tribute to the Sicilian great Rosa Balistrieri, she sang “Cu ti lu dissi.”

    Spreading Italian Culture through Music

    Although Alessandra loves everything about America and its culture, she also loves her Italian culture.  It is her dream to “take the beautiful melodies of Italian music and add international influences.”  To help this dream come true, Alessandra is working on her album which includes both original music as well as covers of Italian songs with an English twist. Alessandra’s passion for life is abundantly evident and the entire audience could see that music is a part of her soul.  In her own words: “I can’t live without the music because the music is another world, another dimension, it’s like a fire inside me.”




    Neverending (Senza Fine):

    The Voice IT | Serie 3: "Creep": 

    Cu ti lu dissi - Rosa Balistreri:

  • "Boy with a Basket of Fruit" (1593-4)
    Art & Culture

    Caravaggio in L.A. - More Fashionable Than Ever Thanks to Fendi

    The Italian Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), or simply Caravaggio, is one of the most well-known painters of the Baroque period.  His unique style and use of chiaroscuro continues to be admired and studied today, however it is difficult to identify a genuine Caravaggio piece.  The Caravaggio Research Institute, which will open in three years’ time in Rome, hopes to solve this problem.  The institute’s mission will be to accurately identify authentic Caravaggio works, as well as study and research Caravaggio and his paintings. 

    Caravaggio in L.A.

    To support the construction of this project, the Galleria Borghese and Fendi decided to team up and host Caravaggio exhibitions across the world starting in LA. At the Los Angeles Getty Center, Boy with a Basket of Fruit (1593-4), Saint Jerome (1606), and David with the Head of Goliath (1606) are now on display. These three paintings, that each represent a crucial part of the troubled artist's life, were loaned by the Galleria Borghese which showcases six celebrated Caravaggio works in Rome. As a large supporter of Italian culture and arts, the world-renowned Roman fashion label Fendi was also more than happy to collaborate on this three-yearlong project.

    The Opening

    To kick off the once in a lifetime exhibition, Fendi hosted a private cocktail party, elegant dinner, and an advanced viewing of the gallery in the Getty Center on November 19th.  Big names attended the event, such as the CEO of Fendi Pietro Beccari, the creative director of Fendi Silvia Venturini Fendi, the director of the Galleria Borghese Anna Coliva, the famous shoe designer Louis Leeman and his equally notable wife Erica Pelosini, as well as the actor Balthazar Getty and his wife who is a fashion designer, Rosetta Getty, and many more. 

    This is the first time that Boy with a Basket of FruitSaint Jerome, and David with the Head of Goliath will be put on display together in the United States.  This opportunity is not to be missed as there are very few Caravaggio paintings that have been classified as genuine works. 

    The admission is free, and this exhibit will be on display in the Getty Center until February 18, 2018. For more info click here >>

  • Art & Culture

    Da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" Shatters the World Record at Christie's Auction House

    In a nail-biting 20-minute telephone bidding auction at New York City’s famed Christie’s Auction House, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi sold for $450.3 million.

    A Record Breaking Auction

    More than triple the estimated selling price, an unnamed caller bought the da Vinci painting creating history for the highest selling painting ever sold.  Art dealer and art historian Dr. Bendor Grosvenor exclaims that “it was the greatest piece of auctioneering in modern times.”

    The previous record was linked to Les Femmes d’Alger, a 1955 work by Pablo Picasso.  In 2015, it sold for $179.4 million at Christie’s. In recent years, art auctions have been groundbreaking, selling paintings for hundreds of millions of dollars, but the price of Salvator Mundi is exceptionally outrageous, and not setting a standard for future auctions, though more Leonardo paintings are not expected to be auctioned off as they will remain in museums.

    Savior of the World

    Salvator Mundi, or savior of the world, is a painting of Jesus Christ in renaissance attire holding an orb in his left hand, while giving benediction with his right.  It is thought to have been commissioned by Louis XII of France in c. 1500, and after being owned by another royal, Charles I of England, the painting seemed to have disappeared in the 18th century, only to reappear in the 20th.

    The 600-year-old Salvator Mundi is one of fewer than 20 paintings that have been authenticated to be an original da Vinci work.  There were over 20 replications of Salvator Mundi found, but the original was misidentified as one of those copies.  It was initially sold for only $59 in 1958 at another Christie’s auction.  However, it was rediscovered as an authentic da Vinci in 2011 after it had been restored by Diane and Mario Modestini in 2005.  The painting was remarkably damaged, but after years of meticulous restoration, the greatness of the painting was revealed to many art historians and scholars.

    Questionable Authenticity

    Although, the work sold for an unbelievable price, the authenticity is still widely debated. Technology is used to help discover more about a painting’s origin, but it still cannot give a precise answer.

    Scholars speculate about the painting’s legitimacy, while others vehemently argue that it is not in fact a true da Vinci work.  Jacques Franck, an art historian, states that “the composition doesn’t come from Leonardo” because “he preferred twisted movement.”  The genuineness of the painting is difficult to decipher because it was unskillfully overpainted in a restoration previous to the one in 2005, and it was also in poor condition.

    Some question Christie’s intentions and marketing ploy for the painting calling it misleading, while others call it genius. The renowned auction house made the unconventional, yet clever decision to sell the painting in their post-war and contemporary art auction, a collection where a Renaissance da Vinci painting clearly does not belong.  With this method, the damages and the questionable authenticity were more likely to be overlooked.

  • Life & People

    The New York City Marathon: Italian Spirit, Courage, and Perseverance

    Running the New York City Marathon is a dream for many, and it continues to represent the strength of those who run it.  On November 2, 2017, in preparation for this year’s marathon in New York City, The Consulate General of Italy in collaboration with the Umbria Region, wanted to wish luck to the 3,002 Italians who ran the marathon on November 5th. Special guests at the conference included On. Sandro Gozi (Sottosegretario alla Presidenza del Consiglio), On. Maurizio Lupi, (Capogruppo AP Camera dei Deputati), Franca Fiacconi (Winner of the 1998 New York City Marathon), Leonardo Cenci (President of Avanti Tutta Onlus), Chiara Bennati (Oncologa presso l’Ospedale di Perugia), Marco Zambianchi (Technogym US), and Catiuscia Marini (President of the Umbria Region).

    A large number of Italians this year, highlighted also by the hashtag #lacaricadei3002 (literally translated “The charge of 3,002”).

    A Marathon of Courage

    Leonardo Cenci, who is currently battling cancer, spoke at the event telling a powerful story of determination and optimism. Cenci, who also happened to be celebrating his 45th birthday, explained how he is living with stage IV terminal lung cancer that metastasized to his bones and to his brain.  However, Leonardo turns his tragic story into one of willpower. 

    Leonardo was an avid runner who had completed multiple marathons before his diagnosis, and even with his current prognosis, he still ran in the annual New York City Marathon held on Sunday.  In fact, he is the only person in the world who has run two marathons with an active cancer.  Leonardo refuses to allow his illness to hold him back, and he was not only determined, but excited to have the opportunity to push himself, and to accomplish his personal goals using the inner strength that he knows he has.

    Accompanying Leonardo was oncologist Chiara Bennati who works in conjunction with his association, “Avanti Tutta Onlus” (an organization that helps those who are suffering from cancer).  Dr. Bennati spoke about Leonardo’s association as well as his courage and self-motivation to accomplish his goals.  Also there supporting his aspirations was the President of the Umbria Region Catiuscia Marini.  President Marini spoke highly of “Avanti Tutta Onlus” and Leonardo’s work with his organization.  She admired his message that proves that cancer does not have to stop anyone from living their life, and she is proud that he is from the Umbria region.

    Accomplishing a Dream

    Another inspiring guest, Franca Fiacconi, who won the 1998 New York City Marathon, spoke at the event.  Going to New York and running in one of the most famous marathons in the world already seemed like a daydream to Franca Fiacconi. She was able to accomplish that goal, and she participated in 1996 and 1997 coming in second and third place respectively. 

    In 1998, Franca’s ambitions were realized, and she came in first place winning the marathon, a truly unbelievable triumph. Even though Franca’s athleticism and skill are elite, she humbly recalls her win and how her dreams came true in New York City.

    Running for Freedom

    Clearly the New York City Marathon is more than a race.  It represents strength, persistence, and positivity.  It also represents the spirit of New York even in the face of unfortunate events.  Touching on the recent terrorist attack, Sandro Gozi, who participated in the race this year, explained how the NYC Marathon also represents freedom.   Instead of reacting in retaliation, there is a push for tranquility and a refusal to be afraid.  New Yorkers do not let fear hinder their daily lives, and more than 50,000 people still ran in the marathon to celebrate liberty in the face of unnecessary hatred and violence.

    Every year the NYC Marathon showcases amazing feats and accomplishments, and this year was no different.  Shalane Flanagan, 36 years old, won the women’s marathon, crossing the finish line with a time of 2:26:53.  Shalane is the first American woman to win in 40 years.  Prior to Flanagan’s victory, no American woman had won since Miki Gorman who came first in 1977.  Geoffrey Kamworor who is 24 years old and from Kenya, came in first for the men.  His time was an impressive 2:10:56 winning by a mere 3 seconds. 

    Both Italian men and women did extremely well in this year’s marathon making the “Overall Men” and “Overall Women” lists.  Here are the places, and the names of those who made the lists from Italy: 6th Sara Dossena, 14th Emma Quaglia, 19th Francesco Puppi, 22nd Doriano Bussolotto, 23rd Alberto Mosca, 28th Gloria Giudici, 38th Gambino Salvatore, 46th Luigi Vivian, 53rd Massi Milani, 62nd Marco Quaglia, 70th Domenico La Banca, and 78th Denise Cavallini.