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Articles by: Roberta Cutillo

  • Facts & Stories

    Lady Gaga’s Mother Named UN Ambassador for Mental Health

    The United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO) announced its four new Goodwill Ambassadors for the promotion of global health and one of them was Cynthia Germanotta, the mother of Singer and Actress Lady Gaga.


    Mrs. Germanotta is the President of the Born This Way Foundation (presumably named after Lady Gaga’s 2011 hit song and album), which she and her daughter founded in 2012 to support the wellness of young people and empower them to create a kinder and braver world. For this reason, she was named Goodwill Ambassador for Mental Health.


    On this occasion, former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was appointed Ambassador of Health Workforce, while the Brazilian couple made up of Alisson Becker of the Brazilian national and Liverpool soccer teams and Dr. Natalia Loewe Becker will serve as Ambassadors for Health Promotion.


    “Each of our new ambassadors are champions in their own right, from helping their communities rebuild and develop sustainably, to fighting for better mental health and well-being, to being role models for healthier living,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who announced the Ambassadors in his speech to open the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva.


    In response to the nomination, Germanotta tweeted “I’m honored to serve as @WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Mental Health and to work alongside @DrTedros + his extraordinary team to ensure mental #healthforall is a global priority. We face many challenges but there are even more reasons for hope.”


    Lady Gaga also took to Twitter to congratulate her mother and to stress the importance of spreading awareness about mental health. The singer has long been outspoken about her own past struggles with mental health and continuously takes part in initiatives aimed at helping those facing similar challenges, such as the brand new program Mental Health First-Aid Kit, whose goal is to help high schoolers deal with such issues.


    The program, run by the National Council for Behavioral Health and supported by the Born This Way Foundation, teaches teens and those working with them to respond to signs of mental illness, reducing stigma and enabling them to help and support each other.

  • Art & Culture

    Italian Contestant Mahmood Wins 2nd Place at Eurovision

    Class of 1992, born and raised in the periphery of Milan, the son of an Italian mother and Egyptian father, Alessandro Mahmoud - a.k.a Mahmood - already made headlines in Italy after winning the latest edition of the Sanremo Music Festival in February 2019, a result that did not please everyone.


    His single “Soldi,” with which he chose to compete at both Sanremo and this year’s Eurovision Song Contest held in Tel Aviv, was a huge hit, earning platinum status, reaching number one position in all Italian charts, and even making it to the Spotify Global Top 50. However, certain people - most notably Italian Vice Prime Minister Matteo Salvini - were unsatisfied by his victory at Sanremo.


    “Mahmood …mah…the most beautiful Italian song? I would have chosen #Ultimo,” tweeted Salvini during the finale. Unsurprisingly, the Minister took issue with the singer’s “pedigree”: he didn’t deem him Italian enough to win an Italian song contest, no matter the fact that Mahmood is indeed a citizen, born and raised in Italy, and even sings in Italian.


    Not wishing to be left out of the discussion, (politicians get ‘FOMO’ too) Italy’s other Vice Prime Minister, Luigi Di Maio from the Five Star Movement, chimed in by commenting that Mahmood’s victory only represented the opinion of the country’s “radical chic” elites which made up the jury and not that of the people, a tricky statement to support considering the widespread popularity of his music.


    Despite these and several other negative reactions, Mahmood was chosen to represent Italy in this year’s Eurovision, an annual competition between mostly (but not exclusively) European countries. Since Italy was one of the seven countries present for the first ever Eurovision in 1956, it is one of the "Big Five" countries that automatically qualify for the final.


    The Milanese singer was one of the favored candidates for this year’s edition, but in the end the award went to Netherlands contestant Duncan Laurence and his romantic ballade “Arcade.”


    “I don’t feel any disappointment nor remorse,” comments Mahmood, “this has been the biggest success in my career so far.” Beyond scoring second place, the 27-year-old also took home the Composer Award, something which is particularly remarkable considering that he is one of the few contestants who chose to sing in a language other than English. “They told me that it’s the first time an Italian song wins this award,” he explains.


    “Soldi” is a catchy Trap / Hip Hop / Pop track, with influences from traditional Arabic music. The video’s aesthetic matches the singer’s personal urban minimalist style, hip but understated. It’s an autobiographical song about growing up in the periphery of Milan and focuses particularly on his difficult relationship with his father, whose main preoccupation was money (soldi). It features one line in Arabic “Waladi waladi habibi ta’aleena” (my son, my son, darling, come over here) and is the fourth song in the history of Eurovision to include the language.


    This 64th edition of the contest has been a particularly politicized one. An international pro-Palestinian campaign urged artists and the public to boycott the event before it even began. No contestants did however drop out of the show. Madonna’s guest performance then featured two dancers flashing both the Palestinian and Israeli flags, breaking Eurovision rules. Even more controversial was Icelandic Techno Punk group Hatari, who held up Palestinian flags at the end of their performance and might now have to “face consequences”.


    So far, despite the provocations of various Italian politicians, Mahmood has (wisely) abstained from engaging in political discussions, letting his music and his story speak for themselves.


  • Via the High Line
    Art & Culture

    A Flash of Contemporary Italian Fashion on The High Line

    ‘Borders: A Flash of New Italian Fashion’ is part of a project by Italy’s National Chamber of Fashion titled CNMI Camera Club, aimed at promoting the contemporary face of Italian fashion. It was conceived by the Consulate General of Italy in New York, along with the Italian Trade Commission and the Italian Embassy in DC.


    As you access the exhibition through the 16th street entrance of the High Line, a former elevated freight line turned public park; a symbol of requalification and creativity, you walk under an industrial “archway” of sorts, constructed out of metallic tubes. The title of the show flashes across a couple of LED display screens.


    The exhibition is constructed like a path: two pairs of mannequins, one on each side, greet you as you enter the space. Their outfits belong to the collections of two of the four emerging brands presented there: Dorian Stefano Tarantini’s M1992 and Giorgio di Salvo’s United Standard.


    It immediately becomes clear that you will be experiencing something different from what you might typically associate with Italian Fashion. These first two sets of mannequins sport casual mises, each heavily influenced by the urban landscape, albeit in unique ways.


    Going forward, you come to the central part of the exhibition, a place where you can congregate and even sit down on one of the two long benches facing a large screen surrounded by other smaller monitors, three on each side. The main screen shows a video created by Francesco Petroni, shot in relatively unknown locations in Puglia.


    It features extremely young actors/models, mostly teenagers, and communicates that sense of lightness and freedom, which can only be found in the summertime. The other clips were made by the designers themselves to present their collections: all of them very artsy and sometimes provocative, mostly with a general vintage feel, though each brand showcases its personal style and aesthetic.


    You then get to the other two sets of mannequins, one pair wearing the designs of Mauro Simionato’s Vitelli Maglieria Italiana, and the other clad in Magliano by Luca Magliano. These can be considered more traditional in their tailoring perhaps, but stand out because of the bold colors, patterns and materials employed.


    Particularly attractive is the piece from Magliano’s women's collection, which features a wide purple plaid menswear-inspired jacket (complete with pocket handkerchief) and a matching T-shirt over a pair of wide tailored black pants, also seemingly inspired by 1940s men’s dress pants but made out of leather.


    The exhibition was curated by Creative Director Giangi Giordano, himself very young and based in Milan, like all of the designers. Giordano, who on the May 16th opening night was wearing a beautiful vintage Prada ensemble and intimidatingly high MiuMiu heels, explained that the idea was to present a different side of Italian Fashion, younger, more dynamic, more diverse, and more aware of and involved in the global scene.


    “We wanted it to be just a glimpse, a flash,” he explains, “to show that the Milan fashion scene is dynamic, always changing, not something static.” And, in fact, the show will be on view on the High Line only through May 17, during which it will be open to all visitors.


    These four designers were selected for this initiative because they best represent the younger Milanese Fashion scene, in which they are all quite well established. It’s an environment characterized by its connection to various aspects of urban life, including the club scene, (some of the designers are, in fact, DJs themselves) and the art scene.


    As it is composed mostly of very young people, it’s also a very connected world: one that is very aware of current global issues and engages with them. Particularly, all four designers share a strong focus on sustainability, a central issue in the contemporary fashion world and beyond.


    The opening night was hugely successful, the space was packed with a surprisingly diverse crowd: younger and older generations, New Yorkers and Italians, creatives and Institutions. The Italian Ambassador, Armando Varricchio was there, as well as the Consul General of Italy Francesco Genuardi and the director of the Italian Cultural Institute, Giorgio van Straten. The Director of the Italian Trade Agency, Maurizio Forte, and the President of the National Chamber of Fashion, Carlo Capasa, were also present.


    In their speeches, they all emphasized the importance of teamwork and collaboration and of cultivating the already strong ties between Italy and the city of New York. And you can’t help but agree as you stand there on the High Line, a glass of Franciacorta in hand, savoring delicious treats by Il Gattopardo Restaurant Executive Chef Vito Gnazzo and admiring these beautiful and innovative Italian designs against the backdrop of the sun setting over the Hudson River.


  • Facts & Stories

    Mayor Sala on Milan: Culture, Sustainability, And Above All Inclusivity

    Just as Milan is often described as a standout case amongst Italian cities, its Mayor Giuseppe (or “Beppe” to his friends and numerous Instagram followers) Sala can be considered an unusual politician, who appears to be generally beloved at a time in which politicians are generally not so well regarded.  


    His intervention at NYU’s Casa Italiana was introduced by a short video of the institution’s founder and benefactor, the late Baroness Mariuccia Zerilli-Marimò, herself a proud Milanese. In the clip, she talks about the reconstruction of Milan and particularly of La Scala, the famous Opera House, after World War II.


    She underlines how, despite their poverty and lack of resources, citizens immediately got organized and began rebuilding the City and its symbols, actively contributing to its rebirth. Milan has more recently begun undergoing another rebirth, of which Mayor Sala is a major actor.


    The City has in fact seen significant growth in various sectors in recent years, despite the difficult economic situation in Italy and across Europe. Up until a few years ago, Milan was seen exclusively as an industrial city. It has since then begun an intensive and very effective rebranding process. Sala explains that they are working for a mixed model, promoting three key aspects:


    They wish to present Milan as a university city, not a stretch considering that of its 4 million inhabitants, 200,000 are university students. And the goal is to increase this number, particularly by attracting more international students. One major challenge that the Mayor recognizes in this is the lack of affordable housing, something on which both the municipality and certain universities are working on, by envisioning campuses, for example.


    Another important aspect is of course creativity: Milan is already known for fashion and (mostly furniture) design. The idea is to reinforce this perception and to expand it to represent a more contemporary and cross-disciplinary understanding of these creative fields.


    And finally, tourism. In the past years, investments in culture, museums, and events such as the 2015 Milan Expo, (of which Sala was the CEO and Chairman) regarded as the turning point for the City, the symbol of its cultural rebirth, put Milan on the map as a central tourist destination, which now sees around 9 Million tourists each year.


    Sustainability is also a key issue that all mayors have to deal with and one in which Milan has taken significant measures, by expanding the almost incredibly efficient metro system, (Sala promises that they are working on the fifth line which will take citizens from the airport to the city center in just 15 minutes) beginning to replace all busses with electrical ones, installing car, scooter, and bike sharing services, and implementing congestion charges and limiting traffic in the city center.


    “As Mayor, it’s not easy to tell people they can’t use their car,” comments Sala, “but you have to show them that it’s the way of the future, that these measures have been agreed on with 40 major municipalities across the world.”


    His is quite a daring approach, many cities, including New York, are considering measures to reduce waste and pollution, such as implementing congestion charges, or eliminating plastic bags, but often these plans are halted if they are deemed too unpopular and could threaten future elections.


    Also daring given the current political situation in Italy, is Mayor Sala’s position on immigration. Along with other mayors, including Orlando (Palermo) and De Magistris (Naples) as well as others all over Europe and even here in the US, Sala goes against the anti-immigration approach sustained by the central government.


    “Milan wants to promote solidarity,” he comments, adding that “in Italy, immigrants constitute 9% of the population, in Milan they are 20% and it works.” So the problem doesn’t lie in the number of migrants, but in the organization, in the way the system works.


    According to Sala, the “solution” to immigration is creating work for everyone. The Italian government, however, is not embracing this approach. When immigrants arrive and are registered, they are put on a waiting list for two years to find work. In some cases, municipalities can try to take what should be the government’s role into their own hands. Sala cites an instance in which the CEO of Starbucks came to Milan to open a store there and he agreed on the condition that 5% of its employees be chosen amongst migrants waiting for their application to process.


    Still on the theme of migration, the Mayor of Milan shares a story from his current US trip. “I went to visit the new museum on Liberty Island and asked how many ‘Sala’ were registered arriving through there,” he says. “There were about 2000. Then I asked: and how many ‘Salvini’? Over 250.”


    Though it’s only a joke, this anecdote perfectly captures the absurdity and hypocrisy behind the nationalist and xenophobic approaches adopted by political leaders in Italy and across the world.

  • M. C. Escher, Hand with reflecting sphere
    Facts & Stories

    Italy's Self-Image Problem

    “La penisola che non c’è” (the peninsula that isn’t there) is the title of Nando Pagnoncelli’s new book, an essay which reflects upon the growing reliance on polls within politics and warns of the potential threats of “sondocrazia,” that is of using polls to govern.


    As the President of IPSOS Italia (a leading global market research and analysis agency,) Pagnoncelli is certainly qualified to discuss the topic. Some have even pointed out how it seems strange that a warning against polling comes from the head of a polling agency himself, but the author argues for a more conscious use of such tools, in order to avoid political instrumentalization.   


    “Polls,” he writes, “should remain a tool for knowledge,” and not become “an oracle that points the way.”


    As politicians increasingly focus on public opinion and how to win it over, the role of public polls, which determine and try to predict it, is changing. We see political leaders pursuing public consent as an end in of itself and, as they start to gain it, they can influence it.


    One major issue that emerges from the analysis of public opinion is that often groups or even entire countries share a distorted perception of reality. This is particularly true in Italy.


    It’s no news that Italians believe their situation to be worse than it actually is. Some time ago, for example, it was revealed that Italian citizens thought immigrants constituted 30% of the population while in reality they only represent 7%.


    This misperception extends to various sectors. Amongst the 14 different countries analyzed by IPSOS, Italy was found to be the one with the most distorted self-image: overall, we believe that we are poorer, sicker, and more unemployed than we really are, that our economy is much more fragile and weak, and our crime rates higher.


    One of the consequences of this is that, instead of correcting these misconceptions, the public discourse surrounding these issues actually enlarges them, creating a vicious cycle. We see this in the way the migrant and economic “crisis” are presented (sometimes sensationalized) by the media and, more alarmingly, by politicians.


    Knowing what citizens already think and reinforcing it, allows politicians to gain their trust and eventually their consent because people like to be told that they are right. And if someone tries to contest certain claims, arguing that they are not accurate, political figures can easily respond by throwing the results of public opinion polls at them, as if they were in and of themselves proof of indisputable facts.


    Though these considerations are quite bleak, Pagnoncelli ends his book on a positive note, claiming that younger generations, who are now starting to engage in politics, can resolve this situation by being aware of the problems we are facing. Public awareness is in fact the key to this issue and to the main aim of the book.


  • Photo Courtesy of Marco Sabadin/Vision – Matteo De Fina
    Art & Culture

    Venetian Tradition and Sustainability: The Laguna Goes Red

    On May 11, during the opening week of the Venice Biennale, Venetians and visitors saw the North Laguna turn red for the trial run of the Red Regatta: a site-specific public artwork by American artist Melissa McGill.


    Organized alongside Magazzino Italian Art Foundation and Venice’s Vela al Terzo Association, with the support of Mazzoleni and the participation of over 250 collaborators throughout the city, the project curated by Chiara Spangaro and managed by Marcella Ferrari consists of a Venetian “regata”, a race of traditional “vela al terzo” sailboats.


    Only, for this occasion, the artist had each sail hand-painted a different shade of red. The result is a spectacular choreography; the different reds reflect and mix on the surface of the water, illuminating the Laguna and the city.


    Red Regatta will take place on June 30 on the North Laguna, between the islands of San Servolo and Poveglia, then again on September 1st on the San Marco basin, as the opening to the annual Historical Regatta, and a final time on September 15 back in the initial location. These performances will be visible from different parts of the city, which can be found by consulting the interactive map on www.redregatta.org.


    Melissa McGill is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in New York. Having lived in Venice from 1991 to 1993, she often returns to the Italian city and had previously created pieces that simultaneously celebrate its beauty and tradition and reflect upon the challenges it faces, such as her 2017 work “The Campi,” a series of sound sculptures invoking daily life in a Venetian “campo” (square) while also highlighting its precariousness as Venice is increasingly taken over by tourism and citizens forced to move out.

    With Red Regatta, McGill wishes, on the one hand, to celebrate the Venetian tradition of the regattas as well as pay homage to the city's history; in fact, the color red can be found all throughout Venice, in its terracotta roofs, its flag, in the paintings of Titian, Tintoretto and other Venetian masters.


    At the same time, the work is also intended to bring attention to the issue of climate change and particularly the melting of glaciers and rising of sea levels, which threaten the city and this very heritage.


    The project is the first artwork to be registered as a “Clean Regatta,” the sustainability certification for water-based events created by Sailors for the Sea in order to mobilize navigators in protecting the sea through good practice and activism. Throughout the duration of the Biennale, the artist will participate in public talks and labs about art and activism alongside partners such as Ocean-Space and No Longer Empty.


    Also important is the collaborative aspect of the work, which saw the participation of over 250 members of the local community and was conceived to involve and entertain the citizens and honor their love for Venice.


    Red Regatta “will contribute to the maintenance, conservation, and restoration of the typical Venetian vessels (“vela al terzo” boats, e.d.) belonging to the Municipality,” commented City Commissioner Giovanni Giusto, then adding that this collaboration strengthens the bond between Venice and the United States, “This way the colors of Tintoretto, which are exhibited in the National Gallery of Art in DC, return to the Laguna.”


  • High Line Photo by Timothy Schenck Courtesy of the High Line
    Art & Culture

    New Sustainable Italian Fashion on the High Line

    An event aimed at promoting new and sustainable Italian fashion, ‘Borders: A Flash of New Italian Fashion’ will take place on May 17 on the High Line, itself a symbol of both culture and sustainability located above New York’s trendy Meatpacking and Chelsea neighborhoods.


    Part of a CNMI’s Camera Club, a project aimed at promoting the contemporary face of Italian fashion, it was conceived by the Consulate General of Italy in New York, along with the Italian Trade Commission and the Italian Embassy in DC.


    The event, curated by Giangi Giordano, is conceived as a multidisciplinary exhibition, presenting the collections of four young Italian fashion designers alongside musical performances, videos, images and light shows. One of the goals of the show is, in fact, to stress the interconnectedness of contemporary fashion with other forms of creativity. Most of the designers are themselves DJs and producers as well.


    The featured brands are Dorian Stefano Tarantini’s M1992, Luca Magliano’s Magliano, Giorgio di Salvo’s United Standard, and Mauro Simionato’s Vitelli Maglieria Italiana: all young labels deeply influenced by street style and urban culture, while also characterized by typically Italian styling and production know-how.


    To highlight the sustainability aspect, which is central in contemporary fashion, garments will be shown on biodegradable mannequins produced by leading Italian mannequin manufacturing company Bonaveri.


    Another important feature is inclusivity, for this reason the event will take place on the High Line, a beautiful suspended public park already known for promoting public art projects and initiatives. It will be free and accessible to all New Yorkers and visitors throughout the entire day.


    The closest entrance is the one located on 16th Street and 10th Avenue. For information on how to access the High Line visit: https://www.thehighline.org/visit/


  • Art & Culture

    Remains of a Sunken Migrant Ship Become a Biennale Piece

    The 58th Venice Art Biennale, one of the world’s major international art events, opens this week and everyone is already talking about Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel’s contribution, a project titled “Barca Nostra,” which means “our boat,” also a play on “mare nostrum” (“our sea”), a Roman name for the Mediteranean, as well as the name given to the operation launched by the Italian government in 2013 to tackle increased immigration and migratory ship wreckages off Lampedusa.


    For this work, the artist, who has already been known to carry out political and provocatory projects, recovered the wreck of a fishing boat that sank between the coast of Libya and the Sicilian island of Lampedusa on April 18, 2015, causing the death of 700 to 800 migrants, and had it installed on the shore of the Arsenale, one of the Biennale’s exhibition spaces.


    In 2016, the ship was recovered from the seabed and brought back to a NATO naval base in Augusta, Sicily. Obtaining it was not an easy process, as there were other proposals for its use and no official owner. “The government had recovered it but officially the defence ministry had only custody of it, not ownership. And officially shipwrecks in Italy are supposed to be destroyed,” explained Maria Chiara di Trapani, a Biennale curator.


    This project was strongly wanted by Ralph Rugoff, the curator of this year’s Biennale titled “May You Live in Interesting Times.” As is always the case considering the quantity and variety of the works exhibited, the theme is multifaceted and can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, but its name certainly reveals the intention to conjure discussions about the times we live in and the phenomena they are characterized by. Migration is undoubtedly amongst them and this work confronts the theme in a powerful way.


    The April 2015 shipwreck is one of the deadliest to have ever taken place in the Mediterranean, but it is by no means an isolated case. The sight of this ship, broken and rusted, is terribly ominous because it immediately conjures up the countless other vessels that have met and continue to meet similar fates. It is described as “a relic of a human tragedy but also a monument to contemporary migration, engaging real and symbolic borders and the (im)possibility of freedom of movement of information and people.”


    The work “invites silence and reflection,” comments the President of the Biennale Foundation Paolo Baratta, who reveals that the intention in including it in this year’s Biennale was to “move people’s consciences.”


    “We are living in a tragic moment without memory. We all look at the news, and it seems so far away,” explains Ms. di Trapani, who hopes that actually seeing the ship first-hand, feeling its presence will help change that.


    After the Biennale, which will end on November 24th, the wreck will be brought back to Augusta and placed in a new monument called “Giardino della Memoria” (“Garden of Memory”), a collective memorial dedicated to the migrants who have lost their lives at sea.


  • Art & Culture

    Celebrating Baroque Composer Barbara Strozzi: Interview with Elena Biscuola

    For some time now, through various collaborations, NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò has been exploring the theme of gender in Renaissance and Baroque Italy and particularly the representation (or lack thereof) of the women who contributed to shaping the cultural landscape of the time.


    “I Sacri Musicali Affetti”, a concert organized alongside Salon Sanctuary Concerts, brings attention to the works of the prolific yet virtually unknown singer and composer Barbara Strozzi 400 years from her birth.


    The concert, which will be held on May 10th in Manhattan’s St. Francis Xavier Church on West 16th street, will be performed by six female artists coming from different parts of the world, including Italian mezzo-soprano Elena Biscuola. The other performers will be soprano Jessica Gould, Paula Chateauneuf and Catherine Liddell (theorbo), Christa Patton (baroque harp), Katie Rietman (baroque cello), and Caitlyn Koester (chamber organ​.)


    We spoke with Ms. Biscuola to find out more about her and discuss her passion for Baroque music and the importance of celebrating the often forgotten or overlooked work of the remarkable women of that period such as Barbara Strozzi.


    Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? Where did your passion for music come from?


    I come from Monselice, a small town with an interesting history and beautiful landscape. I love the place where I live and the possibility to be in contact with nature while also being very close to Padova, a seat of Italian Art History, home to the Scrovegni Chapel, to one Italy’s oldest universities, and to the resting place of both Saint Anthony and of the great Barbara Strozzi herself.


    My passion for music began when I was 6 years-old thanks to my family, who always made me listen to classical music, from Beethoven to Mozart, and especially Vivaldi. Thanks to Vivaldi I developed a passion for the Baroque right from the start, even though I initially dedicated myself to the study of piano and then successively at 14 I had the chance to sing in the chorus of the musical institute I was attending and to get closer to Renaissance and Baroque music. In that moment I decided I would only be happy if I became a singer. So at 18 I enrolled in the conservatory where I studied lyric singing, then chamber music, and finally baroque singing. And I have been working with Baroque ever since.


    You perform at many concerts and events all over the world, is there one that was particularly significant to you? Do you have a favorite piece?


    I had the chance over the years to tour Europe and America, including North (United States), Central (Mexico), and South (Argentina and Chile) and each place has left a positive mark. Of course, in European classical music festivals, such as the ones in Bruges, Utrecht, Gent, Ambronay and Royaumont you breathe classical music every day and have the chance to make interesting encounters and cultural exchanges that would otherwise be more difficult to come across, but in the United States, where I have had the chance to go on long tours, I encountered such love and curiosity for both Italy and classical music that I was deeply touched.  


    Throughout my career I sang much unpublished music that was discovered in Bolognese and Venitian archives and I have to say that I love discovering and giving voice to “hidden” music, but I also gladly sing Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Porpora, Haendel, Pergolesi, ect.


    Pergolesi’s “Stabat mater” is probably the piece I have sung the most in all my life and every time I learn something different and fascinating, even though my main inspiration remains Bach for his genius and originality.


    And what about the upcoming concert, “I Sacri Musicali Affetti”? Were you already familiar with the work of Barbara Strozzi?


    I’m very happy to be able to sing this collection by Barbara Strozzi, of which I knew about but had never had the chance to study. I like her idea of exalting certain saints and of giving voice to their emotions. For example, the story of Saint Peter incredulous in front of Jesus walking on water, or even the final montetto dedicated to Saint Anthony, which reveals itself as an ode to joy dedicated to the “Santo” with multiple melisma on the words “cantate” and “Sancti Antoni.”


    I’m very thankful to Jessica Gould for this opportunity and for the commitment and love that she has towards Italian music. I’m also thankful because before this project, she had also given me the chance to sing another piece by Strozzi, “Lacrime mie”, an absolute masterpiece of 17th century Italian music, with orientalizing tones and harmonic audacity.  


    Despite having been one of the most prolific composers of her time, Barbara Strozzi’s work has remained fairly unknown up to now, why do you think that is?


    Regarding the lack of interest on the part of musicologist for “I Sacri Musicali Affetti” I think there might have been some reserve in considering this “sacred” music because it is vaguely erotic in its construction and very bold harmonically, which was unusual for the time.


    The word “affetti” (affections) had however already been used, even by Monteverdi, and was tied not only to religious feeling but also to the affection and passion for art, music, spirituality. Affection is a passion of the soul, a desire for good and hatred of evil.


    Why is it important to “bring back” and celebrate her work today?


    I think it’s important to celebrate Barbare Strozzi for her courage and originality. Along with Francesca Caccini, they were the only women at the time who were able to compose, even in alternative ways, in a world that was exclusively male.


  • Art & Culture

    Celebrating the Art of Saving Art

    Founded in 1969 by General Arnaldo Ferrara, the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio or TPC was the first specialist force dedicated to combating art and antiquities crimes in the world. To this day, it remains the largest and most respected, having recuperated almost 2 million artworks in total.


    An exhibition titled “The Art of Saving Art, Fragments of Italian History” is on view in Rome’s Quirinal Palace, the seat of the President of the Republic, to celebrate the Comando TPC’s 50th anniversary. President Sergio Mattarella was present at the inauguration on May 5th and recognized the immense work carried out daily by the now 300 TPC officers located all across the country.


    The Minister of Cultural Goods and Activities, Alberto Bonisoli, and the General Commander of the Carabinieri, Giovanni Nistri, also attended the opening.


    The show curated by Prof. Francesco Buranelli features a variety of artworks (109 in total), ranging from looted antique vases (such as the famous Euphronious Krater, a looted vase restituted to Italy by the Met in 2008) to stolen paintings by artists such as Van Gogh and Cezanne, and many more. What ties them all together is that they were successfully recuperated by the Carabinieri.


    “The 300 men of the department, organized into 15 divisions, operate all across Italy and they are excellent investigators: they even have specific competencies, for example, there are archeologists, musicologists, experts on ancient languages,” comments General Fabrizio Parrulli, head of the TPC.


    The pieces are arranged into five sections in order to illustrate all the different activities carried out by Italy’s “Art Squad.” Three rooms are dedicated to the art crimes committed in Italy, one focusing on the lootings of ancient artifacts from the tombs in Cerveteri, another centered around Renaissance art, and the third showing the work of the Blue Helmets of Culture who retrieve cultural objects from areas hit by earthquakes or conflicts.


    The Carabinieri of the TPC work all over the world, as art crimes are at times part of larger cases often involving criminal organizations and therefore transcend national borders. Their expertise also provides valuable specialized support to peace-keeping missions in war-torn areas such as Iraq from 2003 to 2006 and now in various areas across the Middle East, where important cultural heritage sites are being torn down during armed conflicts and by extremist militant groups wishing to send a message.   


    The work they carry out is extremely important because by protecting our cultural heritage they help to preserve our identity.


    Another particularly interesting aspect of the exhibit is that each object is presented alongside the story of its disappearance and retrieval, which oftentimes seems to be taken right out of a mystery novel or heist movie.


    The final section of the show looks to the future and also to the works that are still missing, such as the Nativity by Caravaggio, which was stolen from a Church in Palermo in 1969 and remains lost to this day, though a sophisticated digital reproduction hangs in its place, awaiting the return of the original.


    “We hope that the bill to raise the penalty for art theft goes through so that we may have more tools at our disposal,” explained Gen. Parulli.


    The exhibition will be on view in the Palazzina Gregoriana of the Quirinal Palace in Rome through July 14, 2019. To visit you must reserve your tickets beforehand on the website of the Quirinale.