Articles by: N. L.

  • Art & Culture

    Italian Theater: Paying Homage to Mario Fratti

    Jst a few days after the end of In Scena, Italian Theater Festival NY, i-Italy had a chance to chat with Nicola Iervasi, Artistic Director of Mare Nostrum Elements (MNE), an organization dedicated to the expression of human emotion through dance, theater, and movement that carries out its work through a performance group, training outlet, and production company. Mare Nostrum was co-organizer of the first Italian Theater festival in the five boroughs of New York, along with Kairos Italy Theater of Laura Caparrotti, and KIT Italia. But that is not all. MNE, was in charge of the festival's tribute to Italian playwright Mario Fratti, which consisted of the representation of three short once act plays: Dina and Alba, Missionaries (starring Nicola himself), and Actors.

    Born and raised in Calabria, Nicola always enjoyed alternating his dancing career with other artistic expressions.

    Tell me about Mare Nostrum Elements, how did it all start?

    Mare Nostrum Elements was founded in 2001 by myself, Italian performer Nicola Iervasi, and American actor/director Kevin Albert. Since the beginning, Nicola and Kevin were committed to providing a nurturing and non-competitive environment for performers to explore different cultures and disciplines, producing both experimental and classic stagecraft. Ours is an organization dedicated to the expression of human emotion through dance, theater, and movement that carries out its work through a performance group, training outlet, and production company. MNE explores the points of intersection among artistic disciplines and shares the results through performances, workshops, and outreach programs throughout the States and Italy.

    Mare Nostrum (Our Sea), was the Latin name for the Mediterranean Sea during the Roman Empire, and signifies a common element that connects people of many different nationalities and cultures.

    Latin was the official language of the Old World, just like English is today, that is why we picked a phrase in Latin. And last but not least, we added the word Elements to highlight the importance of the individuality of the members of the group and of the different styles they represent.

    Do you identify yourself as an Italian or an international company?

    Well, the simple fact that we bring together different schools of thought, expression styles and techniques, artists from all corners of the world and that we encourage the use of different languages definitely makes us an international company. I never really gave it too much thought up to now, and it definitely has a certain effect on me to say it out loud. What I can say is that the heart (in addition to myself) is absolutely Italian. Our preference and love for experimental theater, a theater of high emotional value that does not break away from the past define our identity.

    How did you decide to participate in the festival with a tribute to Fratti?

    When Laura Caparrotti suggested we co-presented the festival with her company (KIT) we started thinking of a possible motif or common thread. Once we decided we wanted to pay homage to Italian theater in America, we instinctively thought of  Mario Fratti. Nobody better than him incorporates this characteristic... the fact in itself that during his long and prolific career he has written, and he still writes, in both Italian and English and that he writes about topics that are dear to American culture revisited with a strong dose of Italian humor is proof of that.

    How did you pick the three one acts to perform?

    We opted for three short plays because we wanted to show the wide range of topics that Mario Fratti addresses in his writing. We didn't want to simply pay homage to him, we wanted to give a nice taste of his art. We wanted to give the audience a night of theater that was simply unique, that touched several different issues, that highlighted Mario's artistic streak and that is, at the same time, both entertaining and fast paced. Dina and Alba, Missionaries and Actors  are very different from each other, but what they all have in common is a special twist and an unexpected ending. Overall the show lasts a bit longer than an hour, the public is incredibly engaged, curious and left wanting for more.

    How is working on a playwright's work when he is easily reachable? Do you involve him/her in the production process?

    I believe this is the first time we work on the material of a playwright that is so easily accessible. Mario Mario Fratti has been more than helpful and incredibly patient from the very first step, but we did not involve him in the production process. We wanted to surprise him with the final product.  He was familiar with our work and has seen shows written by others that we have produced in the past. We knew he was going to be satisfied. It was emotional for all of us to see him take in with pride and joy the first performance. He praised the actors for their interpretations and he loved Kevin Albert's direction choices and scenes. In the end he came to see three out of six performances, so my guess is that he enjoyed the show!

    And indeed Mario Fratti did. When asked about his opinion he replied. “I'm not a man of many words, but I can say the audience loved it, they were engaged from the beginning to the end, they were surprised and I am sure they did not expect that from me. Ottimo lavoro!”

    The future of Mare Nostrum Elements includes a dance production for the fall, Last Chance Lost, a new theater project to be directed by Kevin Albert, the recording of a soundtrack by the title Mediterranean Voices, and, of course, the second edition of In Scena!

  • Life & People

    Cheers to the Wonderful Italian Wines for Summertime

    “This event marks the changing of the seasons. It is now summer and at the Italian trade Commission, today, we are celebrating Wonderful Italian Wines for Summertime.” This is how Lucio Caputo, President of the Italian Food & Wine Institute welcomed guests to a special wine and food tasting event exhibiting the best summer wines, especially Spumanti,Rosé, Prosecco and Moscato, and food specialties from Italy.  

    “This is a special occasion that we celebrate almost every year now,” Mr. Caputo continued
    to explain,  “The idea is to put together Italian food, especially the Mediterranean type of food that is very good for the summer, with some Italian wines that are tailored for the summertime... so I am talking about light white wines, Proseccos, and Moscatos. All wines that are very popular and successful at the moment. Moscato is booming, it is having great success because it is very low in alcohol content and people like to drink it. They can drink a lot of it without any serious consequences.  All these light wines are perfect for beach parties and outdoor receptions. We are also presenting some light reds and some  blush wines, that are drunk chilled are good with pizza and even fish. Who says that you can only have white with fish?”

    Wonderful Italian Wines for Summertime, jointly organized by the Italian Wine & Food Institute and the Italian Trade Commission, welcomed 26 labels: Abraxas Vigne di Pantelleria, Anselmi, Bartenura, Bertani, Bottega Vinaia, Cantine Silvestri, Castel Sole, Cavit, Citra Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Concilio, Fantinel, Feudi di San Gregorio, Fontanafredda, Le Ginestre, Lunetta, Mazzei-Belguardo, Nando, Planeta, Rocca delle Macie, Sella & Mosca, Serafini & Vidotto, Tenuta Carretta, Testa, Toser, Tutidi and Vanzini. Along with their fresh and sparkling wines there was food prepared just for the occasion by Serafina, Le Cirque and SD26 restaurants.

    “Italian wines, as well as Italian food, are a great success because their formula is successful: you get high quality at affordable prices,” Mr. Caputo continued. “The road to success is wide open. Definitely both California and French wines are good but they cost a fortune. And let me add that some Italian wines are so light that you can drink them every day and you don't even get a headache... you don't feel drunk or tired. This is true in regards to food as well, there definitely are foods from other countries that are very good but they are incredibly heavy, and if you eat that food every day you end up in the hospital because of too much grease or too much butter. Italian summer food is very light and also very healthy. This is why we are number one!”

    A few words on Italian sparklers: according to etymological sources, the term spumante was not used in a wine context until 1908, more than 40 years following the first Italian sparkling wine using the méthode champenoise produced by Carlo Gancia which was then sold as Moscato Champagne.

    Sparkling wines are made throughout Italy but the Italian sparklers most widely seen on the world market are the Franciacorta from Lombardy, Asti from Piedmont, Lambrusco from Emilia and Prosecco from Veneto. Though Franciacorta wines are made according to the traditional method, most Italian sparkling wines, in particular Asti and Prosecco, are made with the Charmat method.

    Asti is a slightly sweet sparkler made from the Moscato grape in the province of Asti. The wine is noted for its low alcohol levels around 8% and fresh, grapey flavors. Moscato d'Asti is a frizzante style slightly sparkling version of Asti; it is sweeter and contains even less alcohol, typically around 5.5%. Prosecco is made in both fully sparkling (spumante) and lightly sparkling (frizzante) styles. (Wikipedia)

  • Meet The Boxer: An Ancient Masterpiece at the Metropolitan Museum

    In 2013 America discovers Italy... going deeper, getting to know the thousands of things it doesn't know yet, thanks to the year of Italian culture. A journey, under the auspices of The President of the Italian Republic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Italy in Washington DC, with the goal to “communicate and promote our country, engage and enthuse Americans, strengthen the bonds that unite us and create new ones. A journey that will reveal today’s Italy, its brilliance and its excellence anchored in the present and driven by an unparalleled past, it will present an Italy of innovation moving forward, engaged in projects and looking ahead.”

    Every day there are new and exciting initiatives, and all classic art lovers are really going to enjoy this one. The celebrated over-life-size bronze statue Boxer at Rest (also known as the Boxer of Quirinal )—an exceptionally realistic ancient Greek sculpture created between the late fourth and the second century B.C., on loan from the Museo Nazionale Romano - Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, is shown outside Europe for the first time in The Boxer: An Ancient Masterpiece, a special presentation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, beginning Saturday, June 1. This extraordinary work will be on view for six weeks only.

The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, and the Museo Nazionale Romano - Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. Support is provided by Eni, the main sponsor of the exhibition.

    The loaning museum, the Museo Nazionale Romano, was established at the end of the 19th century. It houses countless archaeological finds unearthed in Rome. The need for larger and more fitting locations to host the museum’s collection led to the creation of a group of new museums around the city: Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Palazzo Altemps, and Crypta Balbi. Built at the end of the 19th century, the Palazzo Massimo was purchased by the Italian State in 1981 to house the Museo Nazionale Romano’s collection of ancient art, coinage, and jewelry. The evolution of Roman artistic culture from the Late Republican Age through Late Antiquity (second century B.C.–fifth century A.D.) is shown through the beauty and magnificence of the collections on display on four floors. The museum houses celebrated masterpieces of statuary, of which the bronze statue Boxer at Rest is a superb example, as well as polychrome mosaics and precious engraved gems; exceptional frescoes from the Villa of Livia and the Villa della Farnesina; and an impressive numismatic collection.

    The Boxer at Rest was excavated in Rome in 1885 on the south slope of the Quirinal Hill near the ancient Baths of Constantine, where it is thought to have been displayed. The sculpture was buried intentionally in late antiquity, possibly to preserve it against the barbarian invasions that ravaged Rome in the fifth century A.D. The broad-shouldered, lanky pugilist is shown seated, resting after a match. His gloves—which are highly detailed—identify him as a boxer. Those gloves  - Caestus - were made with leather strips and sometimes filled with iron plates or fitted with blades or spikes.

    The athlete’s many head wounds are consistent with ancient boxing techniques, in which the head was the main target. The copper inlays, indicating blood, heighten the effect. The boxer’s right eye is swollen, his nose is broken, and he breathes through his mouth, probably because his nostrils are blocked by blood. His scarred lips are sunken, suggesting missing teeth. The ears, swollen from blows, indicate possible hearing loss. Drops of blood from the wounds on his head have trickled down his right arm and leg. Wear on the foot and hands suggests that they were touched frequently in antiquity, possibly in veneration.

    Because the iconography is related to statues of Herakles sculpted by Lysippos in the fourth century B.C., the Boxer at Rest may have been meant to celebrate a mythical—or real—boxer, who was glorified for his endurance and courage. Scholars have long debated the date of the statue, placing it anywhere from the middle of the fourth century B.C. to the middle of the first century B.C. The sculpture is an exceptional work in bronze from the Hellenistic period (323–31 B.C.) and is of outstanding artistry. 

“We are proud to host The Boxer at Rest, a special loan made possible by the Republic of Italy,” commented Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum. “More than 2,000 years have passed since this virtuoso work of art was created, yet the powerful realism of its subject continues to captivate viewers today. The privilege to display this marvelous statue in the United States for the first time—and in the context of the Met’s exceptional collection—is a particular honor. We encourage our visitors not to miss this exciting opportunity.”

“Viewing one of the most stunning statues from antiquity is truly a singular opportunity,” said Italy’s Ambassador to the U.S., Claudio Bisogniero. “The Boxer is a masterpiece and its exhibition at the prestigious Met speaks volumes about the success of the Year of Italian Culture in the United States and how the more than 200 programmed events are contributing to expanding and deepening the relations between Italy and the U.S.”

“At Eni, culture means ‘relationships.’ Through culture, in Italy and all over the world, we create links with the territories in which we operate,” stated Paolo Scaroni, Chief Executive Officer, Eni S.p.A. “We are inextricably linked with the U.S.A., both as a country and as a company. This is true historically, due to the role played by America in Europe, and in Italy, in the 20th century. It is also true in terms of our current relationships, with some of the most important organizations in the United States, across the fields of the arts, industry, and research. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is certainly one of the institutions that best reflects the American passion for culture, with its immeasurable artistic endowment spanning every era and every corner of the globe. Through The Boxer: An Ancient Masterpiece, we hope you will feel as if we have brought a piece of Italy within these prestigious walls.”

The Boxer at Rest is located in the Mary and Michael Jaharis Gallery, Greek and Roman Galleries

    more info >>>

  • Ceramics: One of the Many Facets of Italian Creativity

    “Used on the floors of our homes, in our kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms or around swimming pools, Italian ceramic tiles are a familiar presence in our day-to-day lives. But how much do we really know about them? If we had to purchase tiles for a new home or a renovation project, would we have all the necessary information to choose the tiles that are most suited to our needs?” These are just a few questions that Franco Manfredini, Chairman of Confindustria Ceramica (the Italian Association of Ceramics producers) had for the guests of  the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF).

    With the booth Ceramics of Italy, 8 Italian producers once again drew crowds in its 5th year participating in the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (from May 18-21) at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City.

    Sponsored by Confindustria Ceramica and the Italian Trade Promotion Agency (ICE) with support from the Italian Trade Commission (ICE’s New York office). Booth #1432 served as a multi-brand exhibit featuring eight popular Italian tile manufacturers: Atlas Concorde, Cooperativa Ceramica d’Imola, Fap Ceramiche, Florim, Refin, Sant’Agostino, Settecento, and Tagina.

     It also included a special exhibit on the Ceramics of Italy Tile Competition, celebrating 20 years of exemplary projects by North American architects and designers using Italian ceramics.

    The institutional booth was a wellspring of design inspiration, showcasing the latest introductions in Italian tile. With each collection, manufacturers continue to push the envelope in terms of design and production, transforming ceramic and porcelain into wood, marble, concrete—even paper!—using advanced technologies and eco-friendly manufacturing processes.

    “We are proud as always to present, once again, what our Italian ceramic manufacturers can do,” Pier Paolo Celeste, the new Trade Commissioner for North America at the Italian Trade Commission New York office said, “Italian creativity is a leading character not only of the most recognized sectors, such as fashion and food, but it goes beyond that... Italians apply their creativity to all sorts of objects, to everything they do. So right here, right now we are offering our best to a market that is expanding greatly. Mortgage loans are more affordable and people are more willing to buy, their desire to invest in the future is growing and we are always ready to present them with the best Italian products... in this case with ceramics.”

    “Creativity is always linked to innovation and to technology so we bring to the American market -  distributors, importers and consumers - our best,” the Commissioner continued, “Maybe our prices are a bit higher, but our products are more durable, they last over time.”

    Amongst the many ceramic tiles producing countries worldwide, the Italian tile industry enjoys an unchallenged world leadership position. A number of factors have contributed to this success. Since the 1950s, Italy has pioneered all industrial-level product innovation in the ceramic tile sector. It developed single-fired tiles, then porcelain and most recently super thin and large format tiles, its unflagging research efforts leading to successive generations of ever more advanced products. This progress has gone hand in hand with advances in the field of ceramic tile technology, another sector that originated and developed in Italy.

    Italy has a deeply-rooted culture of beauty. It is home to a lion's share of the world's cultural heritage, its language is the language of music, and Italian fashion and food are renowned all over the world. This cultural sensibility is also expressed as a flair for product development and an innate ability to recognize and reproduce beauty, spawning new aesthetic trends in the world of ceramics. This natural creativity has driven the expertise that has long been the trademark of Italian ceramic production, from old artisanal workshops to modern factories. It is this passion for aesthetics and craftsmanship that has been the force behind the industry's success.

    “Thanks to this partnership with Confindustria Ceramica we have the best the market offers,” Celeste concluded, “we don't have to go out there and search for them.”

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    European Flavors, Fruits and Vegetables for a Healthy Diet

    In recent years it might have appeared a passing fashion, but now it has become a consolidated and growing trend in the US: fruit and vegetables are increasingly becoming the protagonists of all kinds of dishes.

    This is confirmed by the results of a survey carried out by the National Restaurant Association involving 1,800 chefs, which demonstrates that consumers in the USA have become more aware that a diet rich in fruit and vegetable products is healthier and more balanced.

    In this context, we must mention European Flavors, an ongoing project in which the public and private sectors – in this case the European Union, Italy and the members of the CSO fruit & vegetable service center – join forces to promote consumption in four major markets. Namely Russia, Japan, Canada and, naturally, the USA.

    “It is a project that aims to promote the extraordinary flavors and characteristics of fruit and vegetables produced based on the best European traditions, thanks also to a fertile and generous soil.

    As suggested also by the Mediterranean diet, they are amongst the basic components of a rich and healthy diet. Eating 400g of fruit and vegetables a day helps keep us in shape and protects us from many diseases. The level of protection is proportional to the quantity consumed; the more fruit and vegetables we eat, the better protected we are. Even small increases in the amounts consumed can bring significant health benefits. Many types of fruit and vegetables are fat-free, rich in fiber and above all, contain over 100 natural components that together guarantee exceptional results in terms of health, longevity, beauty and performance.” (European Health Network)

    The European fresh fruit and vegetable products promoted by the European Flavors project – including kiwis, apples, nectarines, pears, plums, chicory and Sicilian blood oranges, and also processed products such as tomato sauce or orange juice – are an attractive option for US consumers. This is confirmed by the positive export figures of Italian fruit and vegetables to the USA, which over the last 3 years have risen to 18 thousand tons, a turnover of 20 million Euros.

    This trend is a further demonstration of the fact that – compared to 10 years ago – restaurant customers now demand significantly more (and more sophisticated) fruit and vegetable products. This forces chefs to react by creating dishes that cater to the desire to eat healthier food containing ingredients produced while respecting both traditional methods and the environment. Before ordering a dish, consumers want to know the 'curriculum' of its main ingredients: geographical origin, productive processes and nutritional properties. All of which are guaranteed in the case of European produce, thanks to the efficient compulsory checking and traceability system applied to the entire productive process.

    “The high quality of our fruit and vegetables and the awareness of the severity of European sector regulations are both important factors in sustaining our continent's exports, and particularly those from Italy,” Simona Rubbi, the CSO Project Director, said in the past, “Indeed, Italian produce leads in almost all fruit & vegetable segments, a standard-bearer for "Made in Italy" quality. We certainly benefit from the sense of security that our production protocols give consumers, but let's not forget the other indispensable ingredient of our success: as well as being healthy, Italian products are also delicious.”

    European Flavors just took part of the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco where visitors were able to see and taste for themselves the flavors and the quality of fruit and vegetable products grown in Europe, through detailed information on productive processes and through mouth-watering tasting opportunities. The booth featured a vast range of tomato-based products, tinned vegetables, such as peas and French beans, and fruit juices, all carefully selected and processed to conserve their fresh and vivid flavor. With 1,300 exhibitors from over 35 countries and 17,000 visitors, the Winter Fancy Food Show is an annual event that offers a global gastronomic shop-window, the perfect place to promote a Mediterranean diet and the consumption of fruit & vegetables from the EU. European Flavors is indeed very active in promoting itself and participating in several key events to be known on international markets.

    The official partners of the European Flavors project are: Alegra, Apofruit, Conserve Italia, Consorzio Kiwi Gold, Lagnasco Group, Naturitalia, Mazzoni, kiwi Sole Latina ,O. P. Granfrutta Zani, Veneto Organizzazione Produttori Ortofrutticoli, Oranfrizer Sicilian Orange Experience, Orogel Fresco, Pempacorer, Salvi and Made in Blue.

  • Events: Reports

    Saratoga Tastes Italian with ITC! Interview with Aniello Musella

    Tell us about the presence of the Italian Trade Commission at the Saratoga Wine & Food and Fall Ferrari Festival


    The Italian Trade Commission was introduced to the Saratoga Wine & Food and Fall Ferrari Festival four years ago, by chance. We had heard about this special event and we came to check it out. There already were, back then, several Italian elements. As a consequence, we decided to participate officially as representatives of the Italian Government with a series of activities to make this event even more authentically Italian.


    How did you make it more Italian?


    We accomplished that by bringing with us American food and wine experts chosen specifically to enrich the calendar with so called educational programs, informative seminars on specific niche and traditional products, known or unknown, such as cheeses and cold cuts, the ones that can be imported (like the less known speck and the much loved prosciutto) and of course, on wines. This educational aspect of the program has been developed further and further during the years and structured with great care.


    In addition to the aforementioned aspect of the show, we have concentrated our efforts on the Italian Pavilion. This has been the meeting point for a great number of people who are attracted by the chance to taste a great selection of Italian wines and food specialties that already are available on the American market.  It is a practical way to deepen the general knowledge of a product that gets distributors, importers and consumers going. This is what the Italian Trade Commission does: not only do we educate, we also promote authentic Italian products. We are really active in the fight against the dangerous phenomenon of Italian sounding. (“Italian sounding means to counterfeit Italian food products sold with almost-Italian names. These names, rather than reflecting a general food category, whitewash a lower-quality food and exploit the high reputation of the real Italian food”).


    What products are most affected by the Italian sounding phenomenon?


    The line of products that is most affected by the plague of Italian sounding is that of cheeses. Domestic cheeses are sold in packaging featuring Italian colors and images, or they have Italian sounding names so consumers are tricked into believing they are authentic. Education, once again is key. We have organized an Italian cheese tour in collaboration with Agriform. Agriform is one of Italy's leading companies specializing in the marketing and sales of traditional Italian dairy products, especially cheese. It works principally with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) cheeses selected directly from its members. The concept of the Italian Cheese Road Tour presented by Agriform in collaboration with I-Gourmet, a leading online gourmet food retailer, was formulated with the aim of reaching consumers in a lifestyle event setting and educating them about PDO cheeses of Italy with emphasis on Asiago (fresh and aged), Valtellina Casera, Grana Padano, and Piave. Education is the strongest weapon against the plague of Italian sounding which, unfortunately, is an expression of market freedom.


    The cheeses can be tasted in the Italian Pavilion, as many other products.


    Meeting at the Pavilion gives importers, distributors and producers the opportunity to strengthen existing relationships. The Italian Trade Commission facilitates the possibility to meet and exchange information or improve business relationships. Let's not forget that the US are made up of many states, being in as many as possible is a goal for any producer. This specific event is based in the State of New York but there are visitors from nearby states such as Connecticut and Massachusetts and even from Canada, mostly from the Montreal area. So if your product is sold in a state after this show it could be sold in more!


    Any last thoughts?


    Saratoga is an attractive destination: it is known for its thermal waters and spas, for horse races, the polo club and amazing artistic programs organized by our partner, SPAC. (The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is a complex consisting of a large amphitheater and a smaller indoor theater on the grounds of Saratoga Spa State Park. It presents summer performances of classical music, jazz, pop and rock, dance, opera, as well as this festival).


    I also want to express my happiness in regards to the presence of the Consul General of Italy in New York, Natalia Quintavalle. This is the first time that we are honored with the presence of such an important representative of the Italian Government in the USA. This proves we have the official support of the Italian institutions and that we are doing great. Saratoga definitely tastes Italian!


    After 4 years, I am proud to say that the festival speaks Italian. 

  • Art & Culture

    Playing War with Paolo Sassanelli

    Bari, summer of 1946. The war has ended but there are no signs of peace between Paolo (Dino Abbrescia) and Luigi (Totò Onnis). Having suffered a superficial wound in Abyssinia, Paolo hopes to receive his pension from the trade unions. Luigi reminds him of his Fascist past. Their discussion becomes heated when Paolo loses at cards yet again. His little boy Antonio (Andrea Montani) watches his father’s humiliation in silence. With the money his mother gave him to buy lunch, he buys a toy gun and together with his little brothers he returns home to give the gun to the father, so he can revenge himself. 

    This is the storyline of Uerra (War), a short film directed by Paolo Sassanelli, acclaimed theater, cinema and television actor mostly known for his roles in Un Medico in Famiglia and Compagni di Scuola.

    Sassanelli, who was born in Bari in 1958, has also worked in cinema under the direction of the likes of Matteo Garrone, Giuseppe Piccioni, Silvio Soldini, Cristina Comencini and Gianni Zanasi. He was co-writer of the film "Rosso come il cielo" by Cristiano Bortone. He directed four plays and is preparing to direct his first feature length film.

    “I based my story,” Sassanelli, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Antonella Gaeta, explained, “on the numerous stories of humanity told by my grandparents. This description of the aftermath of World War II in Southern Italy is something all  Italians have in common in the memories of our families. This reminds us of who we are and where we come from. My teacher always used to say: 'If you are able to portray the poetry of life and move people with one simple gesture, what you do is worthwhile!' That is what I tried to do.”

    And he succeeded in doing so: this delightful 16 minute long comedy that revolves around a father and his three sons, who take dad's war stories a little too much to heart, transports you to a different era and makes you smile at the tough topic of war.

    The film was presented at Iron Mule, a short comedy screening series presented at 92Y Tribeca.

    Iron Mule is a monthly short comedy film festival born in Chicago City Limits, new York City's legendary Improv Theater. It has been running since April 2002, screening the best in short comedy films from around the world. Films that premiered at the festival have gone on to Comedy Central, HBO, Cinemax, PBS and the Sundance Channel. They have also been exhibited at the US Comedy Arts Festival and at the Sundance Film festival. 

    “We hope to get more Italian films in the upcoming editions,” show producer and host Jay Stern said, “we welcome comedies coming from all over. We love to laugh.”

    The series is a competition and although Uerra did not win the first prize, First Mate by Connor Byrne did, it is indeed victorious: its subtle humor, stunning locations, vivid photography and natural acting captured the hearts of the judges and the audience.

    Translating humor is not easy but Uerra did it impeccably.

  • Events: Reports

    Sipping the Wonderful Summer Wines of Italy

    What can help New Yorkers deal with the summer heat wave in addition to strong AC, lots of water and loose fitting clothing? 

     “The Wonderful Summer Wines of Italy,” is the answer from the Italian Trade Commission of New York and The Italian Wine & Food Institute (a non-profit organization created in 1938 to enhance the image of Italian wine and food in the US). The two institutions have jointly organized a day-long tasting of delicious whites, rosés and sparkling wines (Prosecco, Moscato and Brachetto) for the press and insiders of the wine business.

    At the tasting 19 importers presented a total of 30 wines along with food prepared by three major Italian restaurants in New York City: Sirio Maccioni’s Le Cirque, Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato’s Serafina and Tony May’s SD26. The presence of the restaurants was crucial, not just because it is better to eat something while you are drinking, but mostly because authentic Italian restaurants are crucial players in the introduction of wines on foreign markets and among consumers. 

    Guests could also savor chocolates by Ferrero, several cheeses from Pondini Imports, coffee from Manuel Caffè, prosciutto brought by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma and Smeraldina water, crisp and healthy water coming from Sardinia. 

    “This is a special moment,” Consul General Natalia Quintavalle said, “the moment when important Italian Institutions open their doors to welcome leaders in the trade business to showcase the excellence of Italian products. Today it is all about wine. I have seen several and tasted a few wines of different origins and they all are excellent. What is even better is that there is great affluence of operators that are attending the event.”

    “We thought of organizing a day in honor of summer wines,” Lucio Caputo, President of the Italian Wine & Food Institute said, “with the purpose to promote those Italian wines that at the moment are the stars of summer. Many of them are sparkling and we all know that bubbles lighten up any pool party or are essential ingredients for aperitivos on roof gardens, while whites are lighter and crispier, they can easily be enjoyed outdoors to cool off a summer day.”

    “So many times, when you think of Italian wines you just focus on reds,” Camila Xavier of Palm Bay International, an importer participating at the event, said “This is a really nice opportunity to get to know the variety of whites and rosés Italy has to offer. Italy is a country that has such an amazing variety of indigenous grapes and this is the place to be to experience the whole thing.”

    “We love to attend events like this,” Laura Casinelli, Director of Communications of Serafina said, “it helps build a stronger community, not just to get your product promoted.” Serafina served a delicious artichoke hearts salad topped with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano that paired perfectly with all the wines available at the tasting, especially light and crisp Prosecco.

    It has been years now that Prosecco has become a must on the wine lists of restaurants and bars around the city, yet 2012 has been proclaimed the “Year of Moscato.”

    Moscato wine is a unique type of sparkling wine developed from muscat grapes. These grapes are known for their sweet floral aroma and are used to develop raisins and enormous sweet dessert wines as well. Moscato is extremely light, frothy, fun, sweet and low in alcohol. It is ideal to be sipped alone on those warm evenings when you linger at the dining table, or alongside brunch, whether sweet or savory. It pairs perfectly with cheeses, roasted meats and desserts (think wedding cake).

    "It's a happy wine," observed Italian trade Commissioner Aniello Musella, “It is a wine that’s easy to enjoy. It is summery and festive, and it tastes like it is a lot more expensive than it really is.” 

    Brachetto should definitely be next. Yes, it is red (sometimes pink), but it is a light-bodied, highly aromatic wine with distinctive notes of strawberries that is served chilled that will lighten up any summer day.

    Overall the event was a great success and the general wish of the participants is that something similar will be organized more often, hopefully in the Fall in presentation of the best wines for the holidays.

  • Art & Culture

    Remembering Ennio Flaiano: The Woman in the Wardrobe

    Novelist, scriptwriter, journalist, dramatist and film critic: Ennio Flaiano was an intellectual whose literary and journalistic endeavors shaped the course of Italian postwar cinema. Flaiano signed no less than 58 screenplays and collaborated on scores of other film projects with directors like Blasetti, Fellini, Antonioni, Wilder, Berlanga and Malle just to name a few. He is best known for his pivotal contributions to Fellini’s masterpieces I Vitelloni, 8 ½, and La Dolce Vita.

    Flaiano died in November of 1972 and the celebrations of the anniversary of his death have already started. The Origin Theater Company in association with Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò and Kairos Italy Theater presented a one-act play, The Woman in the Wardrobe featuring actors Tom O’Keefe (the Poet), Rocco Sisto (the Chief of Police), Carlo Giuliano (a Policeman) and Rosemary Fine (the Maidservant).

    Directed by Laura Caparrotti of Kairos Italy Theater and translated by Marisa Trubiano, this absurd and ironic story, written for “simple, deplorable entertainment,” tells us about a poet and his hidden secret.

    “The Woman in the Wardrobe is brief yet exceptionally powerful,” Laura Caparrotti explained. “How many of us had to deal with the absurdity of meaningless and never ending bureaucracy? Historically, Marisa has told me, with this piece Flaiano was mocking Fascist bureaucracy. The way I see it, especially after having read all the writer’s notes on the characters (i.e. the notes say of the Inspector that ‘he ponders with intensity’ or ‘he meditates’ yet it is obvious that he is not doing that at all and actually the author is mocking his behavior), I find in it, once again, a portrait of the society I live in. Flaiano is a friend, someone who is always there to tell me ‘I understand.’” 

    The casting was, in addition to the writing, what made this play so wonderful to watch. “When I first read it,” Caparrotti said, “I immediately saw in my mind Rocco Sisto playing the Inspector and Tom O'Keefe in the role of the Poet. They are wonderful actor who are always willing to play and have fun. Working with them was easy because they immediately understood the spirit of the text.”

    It has been years now, at least ten, that Kairos Italy Theater has focused its attention on Flaiano. It all started with public readings, in Italian, of his books and plays. Then Laura Caparrotti met Marisa Trubiano, Assistant Professor of Italian at Montclair State University and the Flaiano in the US, and the collaboration began. 

    In 2002 and 2004 the company brought to the stage The Papaleo Case (a satirical one-act play about the absurdly funny resurrection of a self-absorbed writer and the demise of his illusions) performed, by two separate casts, both in English and in Italian. The piece was translated by Marisa herself. More readings were performed through the following years and now it is time for The Woman in the Wardrobe. 

    We were able to reach Marisa Trubiano for a short interview. In 2010 Marisa penned Ennio Flaiano and His Italy: Postcards from a Changing World, a book that “identifies the ways in which Flaiano's distinctive travel diary 'satirically registering the transformative journey from provincial Italian to global citizen' captured and shaped the changing tastes of an entire generation of Italians on the film set, in the newspaper office and on the street. The book highlights Flaiano's uneven yet steadily developing anticolonialist stance, his emerging postmodern autobiography, and his interrogation of notions of regional, national and cultural superiority.”

    We talked a bit about her work on The Woman in the Wardrobe. 

    When did you first hear about Flaiano and what captured your attention?

    I first heard about Flaiano while vacationing in Pescara many years ago. The annual Premi Internazionali Flaiano organized by the Associazione Culturale Ennio Flaiano in collaboration with the Ministero degli Esteri were being publicized, and when I asked about this author, a cousin of mine recommended that I read his novel A Time to Kill. The more I read about Flaiano, the more interesting I found his work and I decided to focus my PhD dissertation research and then a book (published in 2010 by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press) on it.

    How is Flaiano perceived in the US and in Italy? Does he get the attention he deserves?

    My impression continues to be that in Italy, Flaiano's work for the cinema has always been noted and appreciated, mostly due to his long working relationship with Federico Fellini. If in the U.S. he is known at all, it is almost exclusively for that. In Italy, he is often reduced to a sarcastic and witty figure, known for his caustic epigrams that illustrated a great -- and often antagonistic -- intelligence. Instead, a real description of Flaiano should acknowledge how versatile, forward-thinking, insightful, and perfectly relevant he was -- and still is -- as a writer working with a number of genres. In recent years, thanks to the work of the Associazione Flaiano, the Fondo Flaiano of the Biblioteca Cantonale in Lugano, and publications by Sergiacomo, Natalini, Fracassa, and others (and here, I'd like to thank Laura Caparrotti and Kairos for bringing Flaiano in very tangible ways to an English-speaking theater audience), Flaiano is gaining more of the attention his whole oeuvre deserves.

    Why did you choose the Woman in the Wardrobe to celebrate his anniversary?

    I am currently working on the translation of all of Flaiano's comedies. Years ago, again thanks to Laura and Kairos, The Papaleo Case was preformed in New York and Montclair. It was Laura who chose The Woman in the Wardrobe to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Flaiano's death. I think this farse is particularly relevant these days, as our modern lives become more and more embroiled in the details of modern life, and we are losing sight of the bigger picture of the real issues -- even real crimes, for example -- being perpetrated.

    What are the challenges of translating his work?

    The challenge in translating Flaiano is precisely translating the humor -- one of the hardest things to do as a translator and, quite frankly, something that I am still learning to do! -- and specific cultural referents for a non-Italian audience. It was quite an honor to hear such accomplished actors read my translation in English of La donna nell'armadio. Hearing the comedy in English come alive, understanding even better the rhythm of the dialogue, among other things, was an incredible experience. I am even more convinced that this project is truly worth pursuing and bringing to a larger audience.

  • Art & Culture

    Writers & Translators: IMAFestival on Art, Migration and Literature

    Before closing for the summer, Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò at NYU hosted another great event.

    IMAFestival in collaboration with the Fondazione Cesare Pavese presented a conference on the theme of translation moderated by IMAFestival organizer Rossella Canevari, featuring Italian best-selling writer Giorgio Faletti and the translator of his work, Antony Shugaar, and to discover and get to know Art Your Food literature and film categories winner who presented their works.

     IMAF (International Migration Art Festival) was conceived by writer Rossella Canevari and Lawyer Elena Maria Manzini to discover new talents while focusing the spotlight on the relevant issue of migration, especially on its cultural and social dimensions.

    The evening was divided into two parts: at first the audience viewed two short films

    Senza Aggiunta di Conservanti (Without Preservatives) by Maria Tilli a beautifully crafted portrait of the old ritual of the making of tomato sauce that takes place every summer in Abruzzo. Three stunning old ladies keep tradition alive by working by a cauldron that is boiling outside in the late night breeze. Following this little jewel there was a screening of the 'Best Film' Category winner, Mexican Cuisine, by Spanish director Fran Guijarro. The short effectively shows, in just a fistful of minutes, how behind the kitchen doors of any type of restaurant, either Italian, Chinese or Japanese, there are Mexican workers who are able to prepare each and every specialty. Meanwhile, a soft-spoken narration explains the culture and ingredients of Mexican cuisine, but we don’t see any of the cooks cooking them. The short perfectly captures the theme of IMAFestival combining the art of food and migration.

    The evening continued with readings of the 'Best Short Story' category winner Straniera a casa mia (Foreigner in my Own Home) by Egyptian native and second generation Italian writer Heba Madkour. With a pinch of humor and much reality the author portrayed the cultural differences, and foods, that make of her who she is today.

    Madkour moved to Italy when she was only two years old and, like many immigrants, she feels like a foreigner both in her native land and in her adoptive country. She is the embodiment of both.

    After her reading the audience was treated to an excerpt of Cesare Pavese’s The Moon and The Bonfires (the novel La Luna e i Falò was written in Italian in 1949 and it is considered Pavese's best work). Wikipedia writes: “the novel is set in the small town of Santo Stefano Belbo, in Piedmont, north-west Italy. The main protagonist, known only by his nickname of Anguilla (Eel), has returned to his hometown in the years immediately following the Second World War. He had left just before the war, ostensibly for political reasons, and had made his fortune in the United States. Returning to his hometown, he finds many of the same smells and sights that filled his youth, but he also finds a town and its inhabitants that have been deeply changed by war and by the passage of time. The first English language translation was undertaken by L. Sinclair in 1952. A more recent translation by R.W. Flint, published in 2002, uses the arguably more correct translation of the The Moon and the Bonfires, taking account of the use of the plural i Falò in the original Italian title.

    Pavese was a poet, novelist, literary critic and translator. He was deeply influenced by American literature, and, “when official censorship closed his mouth, he would use his position as a translator and editor indirectly to bring into Italy messages of freedom and new ideas from English-language authors. Most Italians first encountered Herman Melville, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Charles Dickens, Gertrude Stein, John Steinbeck, John Dos Passos, and Daniel Defoe in Pavese's translations, and also encountered their influence, and echoes of their meditations, in Pavese's own highly accomplished body of novels, short stories, and poems,” the Poetry Foundation writes.

    This served as an introduction to the second part of the evening, the conference Writers & Translators. How a Bestseller becomes International. Giorgio Faletti, Antony Shugaar, Elena Maria Manzini and the President of the Fondazione Cesare Pavese, Luigi Icardi had a conversation about key issues regarding the dissemination of contemporary literature; unfortunately a rarely discussed topic especially regarding translation. “Translators such as the great writer Cesare Pavese were once highly regarded, but today the importance of the role of the translator is rarely acknowledged or publicized. Everyone knows the name of at least a couple of international writers, almost nobody can name the translators of important works. This phenomenon is counterproductive to the whole literary world and the movement of novels, which, if not well translated, lose quality and essentially differ from the original book,” The Foundation representative explained.

    Translating is indeed a tough job where the translator has to dive into the author’s spirit and lead the reader in a dance between two different languages and cultures.

    “The difficulty with translating Faletti’s work often lies in the jokes, puns (a word play exploiting multiple meanings of words) and rhymes, that have a specific meaning in Italian but lose it with a literal translation,” Shugaar explained. “Therefore the solution we came up with,” Faletti added, “was to cut them out in the English version. The book is much shorter but nobody has complained about it yet.”

    Faletti even joked that there are parts in Shugaar’s work that sound better than the original Italian work. Excerpts of his newest novel, A Pimp’s Notes, were read in both languages and they both captured the audience… equally! The book is a mystery set in 1970’s Milan and is expected to be in bookstores on July 17th.