Articles by: Letizia Airos

    Life & People

    Ban Ki-Moon with the Young Global Citizens of the Future

    The Scuola d'Italia Guglielmo Marconi organized a very special gala this year. We will remember the moments spent in the elegant dining room of Cipriani 42nd Street for a long time.  One of the most famous Italian restaurants in the city, it was first home to an important bank and now has become among the favorite venues for the most mundane events in New York.

    More than at any other time, we witnessed a singular and thoughtful tribute to our culture and the Italian language. The youngsters attending the Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi testified to their work as successful students in the third millennium. Using moving words and pictures they presented their inter-disciplinary project entitled “The Ecology of Mind” and demonstrated how globalization today can become an opportunity to learn more.

    “Future citizens of globalization are formed at the Scuola d’Italia, thanks to the in-depth academic and extra-curricular programs, and the activities that embrace both the European and American cultures.”

    With these remarks, the guest of honor was warmly welcomed by all in attendance, who listened to his words in deep silence. He showed an outstanding intelligence and modesty as he interacted with the audience, all qualities that make of him a great international personality.


    “You are the leaders of the future (...). All of these students carry an important massage, and we have much to learn from them. Global problems need global solutions, but we can't achieve them without being global citizens. It's many years that this school educates and races citizens of the world"

    He also dwelt on the efforts made by the United Nations in a number of fields, including the promotion of peace and the climate changes. "I have been in Chile a few days ago and I am about to go to Haiti to support its government in facing the crisis. We need all of you to carry on our goals, I know that change is possible. I saw it in my own country. Do your share and work to support the efforts made by the Scuola to become an international center. We need your hope, institutions like your school, and people who encourage dialogue and promote the role of language as a fundamental tool to carry out our mission.”

    Those who know the school and perhaps have had an opportunity to visit classrooms, meet students, and see them talking among themselves not only in different languages but about different cultures, also know that there could not have been (a more appropriate host. The Scuola d’Italia is the proof of how to effectively speak and teach Italian culture to students who are from different cultures. Teaching in each environment is relative, not absolute.

    Ban Ki-Moon’s heartfelt speech moved the audience especially when he spoke about the importance of change. The boy who grew up in South Korea also seemed to be speaking to his peers.

    Laura Savini, a familiar face from PBS, hosted the evening with superb elegance and a touch of irony. She, too, was very excited to introduce Ban Ki-Moon. Savini is involved in Italian-American community activities, and as a journalist she has worked on various Italian-American television productions. She has held the title of grand marshal at several local Columbus Day parades and president of the National Organization of Italian American Women (NOIAW).

    The gala dinner was sponsored by Italian Ambassador to Washington Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata. Beside him were Consul General Francesco Talò, UN Ambassador Cesare Ragaglini, San Marino Ambassador to the U.N. Daniele Bodini, the Honore Apostolic Nuncio to the U.N. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, and Rector of the University for Foreigners of Perugia Stefania Giannini, the Guest of Honor.

    Carissimi Amici Buona sera a tutti… Dear friends, good evening to everybody. Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata started his speech in Italian to underline how important the promotion of this language is to him. He talked about Italian pedagogues such as Antonio Rosmini and Maria Montessori, whose works and pedagogic methods have deeply influenced school programs throughout the world, especially in the United States.  

    Education is not a preparation to life, but it is life itself. He took inspiration from this quote to make a number of considerations on the importance of schools like Scuola Marconi, an example of excellency in the field of multicultural teaching. Besides providing the students with a diploma that is valid in Italy, Europe, and the United States, it also promotes cultural initiatives such as   Encounters aimed to spread the values of tolerance and respect among different cultures. 

    As the floor passed to  Consul General Francesco Talò, he proudly highlighted how the school organizes a wide range of initiatives that guarantee a bi-cultural and bilingual education of the students. " This school is an actual community that involves professors, students, and parents. It is part of an Italian System created to support our culture in a city that embraces the entire world within its borders. Thanks, and let's go on with our efforts towards the promotion of the Italian language and culture - continuamo con lo studio della lingua e della cultura italiana -  Consul Talò concluded in Italian.

    Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stephen Madsen remarked that since 1977 the Scuola d’Italia has offered a unique curriculum that embodies the finest attributes of the traditions and cultures of both Italy and the U.S. He thanked the Alexander Bodini Foundation and other institutions for supporting the school, and acknowledged Professor Stefania Giannini, Chancellor of the University of Perugia. His heartfelt thanks were also extended to Headmistress Anna Fiore who, along with Deputy Headmistress Pia Pedicini, has actively continued the tradition of educational excellence.

    During the evening a special award was also presented to entrepreneur, patron and benefactor Ambassador Daniele Bodini, the Honore of the event and a member of the Board of Trustees.

    In her brief but emotional speech, Anna Fiore thanked everyone and emphasized the importance of the school’s curriculum based on bilingual education. She then announced that the school has initiated a joint program with the University of Perugia that will include exchange programs for teachers and students to develop research projects on bilingualism. After a little over a year in office, it is clear that her dedicated work has broadened the school’s horizons through diverse activities and partnerships with various institutions within the Italian cultural community.

    Chancellor  Stefania Giannini,  finally took the microphone and underlined the importance of the partnership between the University for Foreign Students of Perugia and the Scuola d'Italia, as a way to support the spreading of the Italian language in a multicultural world. "In the most ancient Italian university, in Perugia, we make students coming from all over the world feel at home".  

    Among the many guests in attendance, the following dignitaries were also present: recently appointed Director of the Italian Cultural Institute Riccardo Viale, Deputy Consul General Laura Aghilarre, Alfio Russo Director of the Education Office of the Consulate, Vice President of the CGIE Silvana Mangione, Directors of ENIT and the Italian Trade Commission Riccardo Strano and Aniello Musella, Chairman of the Columbus Citizens Foundation Frank Fusaro, and Supreme Court Justice of New York Hon. Dominic R. Massaro, Director of Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò Stefano Albertini, President of CINN Worldwide Stephen Acunto, Mico Delianova Licastro USA Representative CONI USA and President of IACE Berardo Paradiso.

  • Facts & Stories

    Gianfranco Fini and the Three Facets of Italy in the U.S.

    Everybody, including representatives of the press, had to wait in line on the steps and in the hallways of the Grand Hyatt Hotel last Thursday evening, passing through security to participate in an evening that the Italian and the tri-state Italian-American communities will remember for a long time.

    A crowd of over 1,000 guests welcomed Gianfranco Fini, President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies: a veritable ocean of our diverse Italian community in America. And, with tickets at $150 per plate, there were many celebrities present.

    Sitting at the table of honor with President Fini was the Italian Ambassador to Washington Giulio Terzi and U.N. Ambassador Cesare Maria Ragaglini, Consul General Francesco Maria Talò, Apostolic Nuncio to the United Nations Monsignor Celestino Migliore, President of the Molise Region Michele Iorio, and Deputies Amato Berardi and Alessandro Ruben.

    Prominent guests included, to cite only a few names, New York State Governor David Paterson, Vice Governor of the State of Connecticut Michael Fedele, former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo with his wife Matilda, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, former U.S. Senator Alphonse D’Amato as well as several members of the legislatures in the tri-state area, U.S. Marshal Joseph Guccione, and Minister of Tourism for the Region of Sicily Nino Strano. Particularly important was the presence, alongside the U.N. Apostolic Nuncio Mons. Migliore, of Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue.

    After initial confusion while in line, stemming from the inevitable difficulty of directing so many guests at an event that required serious security measures, everything went smooth, which can be credited to the efforts of the organizers, who appeared justifiably satisfied: New York Supreme Court Justice Dominic Massaro, President of the Italian Academy Foundation and Honorary Consul of Westchester County Steve Acunto, President of GEI and the Wine and Food Institute Lucio Caputo and Consul General of Italy in New York Francesco Maria Talò, four pilasters of the Italian community in New York, and high representatives of its culture and history in the United States, were finally deeply pleased with the succesful event resulted from their collaboration

    In the eyes of those around us, the event was the manifestation of a heterogeneous community that within the context of one evening had found a place to come together, and to celebrate.

    President Fini was first welcomed by the excited voices of students from Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi who sang the national anthems. We closely followed their emotional rehearsals in recent days behind the scenes at the only bilingual Italian school in the United States, and we know that the youngsters practiced with sincere pride. The pastor of Saint Augustine’s Church in Ossining, Hilary C. Franco then recited a blessing. Ambassador Giulio Terzi, after the requisite acknowledgements, wanted to repeat the importance of disseminating the Italian language, an issue that has always been at the center of his diplomatic mission, from the time he was Ambassador of Italy to the UN in New York.

    Judge Dominic Massaro introduced President Fini with heartfelt words. He recalled his friend's first succesful visit to New York, which dates back to 15 years ago, and how the city warmly welcomed him, just as today. His speech showed that reciprocal consideration, appreciation, and  esteem have always bonded him to the Italian politician.

    Gianfranco Fini’s speech focused not only on Italy-U.S. relationships but also on the meaningful presence of millions of Italians and Italy’s descendants in America. The President of the Chamber, who had just visited Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in Washington—an Italian American herself—offered the bipartisan greetings of all Italy’s parliamentarians:

    “I greet all of you not only personally, but also on behalf of all members of the Italian Parliament, without any political distinction whatsoever. When speaking of Italians in America, when speaking of Italian-Americans, the children and grandchildren of our emigrants, when it comes to all of you and what you represent, there is no distinction between right, center, and left in the House. Tonight I offer you the greetings of all Members.”

    Fini then defined the three diverse “components” of emigration from Italy now present in the U.S.: the group of Italians with Italian blood whose parents and grandparents left Italy for America; those who were born in Italy and have maintained a strong connection to their homeland, and feel both Italian and American at the same time; and the group that embodies the new emigration, made of people who excell in business, culture, scholarship, and research. All these Italians have put down roots here and have become a great resource for American society. “All that you have done in the past and continue to do in the present, all that your children will do in the future, is a heritage that not only belongs to one part, but one that belongs to the entire nation,” he said.

    The President was also able to show his sensitivity to a subject that is strongly felt in our community these days by picking up the main theme that Ambassador Terzi addressed in his speech earlier in the evening—language—and connecting it to the evolving experience of Italian emigration:

    “It’s a point of great satisfaction that the desire to speak our language is growing within the United States. We have a duty to continue to work together in many sectors, especially business, culture, and education. Today the Italian minds that come to the United States represent our excellence and I think that this is particularly gratifying for those Italians who came here nearly illiterate, without knowing a word of English, and who were often looked upon with mistrust if not suspicion.”

    Rhetoric was remarkably absent from Fini’s speech. And even when he told the audience “You are the true ambassadors of Italy in the United States,” he soon added that he did not mean to employ a mere rhetorical expression, and explained that the massive Italian presence in the U.S. also contributes to reinforce friendship between the two countries.

    “There is always the risk on occasions such as these to fall back on rhetoric, the risk of speaking more to the heart than to the mind. I believe that institutions must know how to simultaneously speak to the heart and to reason. Speaking to reason means remembering that our alliance, our friendship, our being children of common ideals and values is not only the heritage of yesterday, it is something that I was able to see during these days, in the meetings that I had in Congress with representatives of both the Republican and Democratic parties. In a democracy, the color of the government changes, but the values of friendship remain, regardless of whoever governs either in Italy or the United States. Because we are not united by a political party, but we are united by common values, which are those of democracy.”

    In the dining room the “three components” listened in rapt attention. We met the eyes of many, and they reflected a sense of respect – not only for the office but for the politician. And later, talking to the invitees we noticed that all those present, regardless of their political opinions, looked at Fini as an Italian leader who at this moment can more effectively bring Italy closer to America.

    This echoed Nancy Pelosi’s remarks after their meeting in Washington last week, when she praised Fini’s “commitment to human rights, to strong fundamental values as the basis for our relationships and our governments.” Indeed, as President of the Chamber Fini has shown real concern with acceptance and tolerance of immigrants in Italy these days, an important theme for the descendants of Italian emigrants who read so often in the press worrying stories about racism and xenophobia in Italy.

    And the large bipartisan appreciation that surrounded Fini must also be connected to the very peculiar experience of this leader of the Right who has come to play a top institutional role in a political context where the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, is a former Communist: a symbolic image of the new “post-Cold War” Italy that is still largely unknown abroad.

    Italy is changing in ways that many who read about it in English find difficult to understand, given the many old-fashioned sterotypes that are still common in the media. “Know Italy better” is definitely the message that Gianfranco Fini has been launching during his trip.

  • Mariangela Bettanini. Musica come viaggio

    Vi parliamo di una voce.

    E’ nata a Genova, nel quartiere della Foce, proprio lì dove solo dieci anni prima si incontravano - nella “Piazzetta” di Via Cecchi - Luigi Tenco, Gino Paoli, Bruno Lauzi, Umberto Bindi e i fratelli Reverberi… Nella sua stessa strada abitava Lauzi e la mamma di Tenco aveva un negozio di vini.

    Vi parliamo di una cantante unica che sa sorprendere. Una voce, una storia e un’esperienza impostata per il futuro. Intensa, pulita, ruvida e dolce, diretta.

    Ma lasciamo parlare questa voce: Mariangela Bettanini.

    “Erano gli anni sessanta e nella mia famiglia si ascoltava musica tutto il giorno.

    A seconda delle fasce orarie, c’erano i Beatles, i Rolling Stones….Bob Dylan, Joan Baez… Il programma radiofonico "Bandiera Gialla" oppure le canzoni di Luigi Tenco, Gino Paoli, De André…poi c'era Paul Anka o Modugno…. la Vanoni che cantava le canzoni della "mala" . E poi i canti delle mondine….., i Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin…. i Festivals di Sanremo…. Vivaldi o Beethoven, Chopin , la musica barocca..e l'Opera… la Callas …..!

    Di mattina ricordo che mia mamma cantava spesso in cucina o ascoltava la radio mentre faceva i lavori di casa…poi arrivava papà, appassionato di Opera e di musica classica e i miei tre fratelli ben più grandi di me ….si mangiava e poi il giradischi incominciava a suonare la musica + svariata …”

    Tra i 10 ed I 15 anni ha studiato privatamente pianoforte classico. Poi ha cominciato a suonare la chitarra e a cantare da autodidatta, seguendo il suo talento naturale.

    Ed eccola cantare Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, e i nostri cantautori…poi la bossa nova.

    Con un piccolo sforzo di fantasia sembra di vederla in quella Genova, in quelle strade, in quei locali.

    “In quel periodo ho incominciato a cantare come professionista in svariate manifestazioni musicali. Facevo parte di alcuni gruppi di canzone d'autore, canzoni sulla condizione femminile e canzoni popolari italiane. Il mio spirito di ribellione interiore e di ricerca mi ha aiutata molto, ero timida e molto insicura. Nel cantare per ore chiusa in camera mia, ho trovato e scoperto in me il coraggio di tirare fuori la voce, la grinta e la passione. Non lo sapevo, ma il mio canto era già una preghiera, anelito verso un qualcosa di più grande…”

    Il 3 dicembre la Bettanini canterà in una città che conosce ad ama molto: New York. Questa volta presenterà il suo ultimo cd.

    “New York è il Paradiso per la musica, è il crocevia dove transitano o vivono i grandi musicisti di tutto il mondo. Poter cantare qui è un grande onore!Venni a New York alla fine del 2006. Avevo appena registrato un CD con Dado Moroni, con Paolino Dalla Porta e Enzo Zirilli.”

    Con che spirito era venuta allora?

    “Non avevo nessuna connection. Ero molto emozionata. Ricordo il senso di spazio e di possibilità. Il mio viaggio aveva un senso anche piuttostopratico e logico! Mi ero detta: ‘ Se volessi vendere champagne, andrei a degustarlo in Francia e a vivere per un po’ di tempo là….Se davvero il jazz è la mia strada, allora vado dove l’hanno creato! Imparerò, ascolterò e starò a vedere che cosa succeede’.”

    Ecco uno dei punti di forza di Mariangela. Il coraggio di rischiare e sperimentare, intrinseco nelle sue scelte musicali e di vita.

    “Quando la mia ricerca mi porta a intraprendere un nuovo viaggio, un percorso sconosciuto, mi documento e mi procuro i mezzi tecnici. La tecnica e le nozioni, in questo modo, non sovrastano l’espressione musicale, ma ne rimangono al servizi. Questa è la mia personale ricetta.I o ho imparato molto cantando di fronte al pubblico, da ragazzina. In quei momenti di panico e di voglia di esprimersi, dai il meglio di te, se davvero vuoi stabilire una reale comunicazione. Il narcisismo e il bisogno di essere ascoltati e applauditi c’è sempre, è ok!, ma prevale il contatto di Essenza, di Eterno, che ti fa creare uno spazio di intimità e reale comunicazione.”

    E cosa dice dei suoi colleghi oltreoceano?

    “Mi sono sempre trovata molto bene coi musicisti newyorkesi….c’è una sorta di dedizione assoluta, anche competizione, ma io la chiamerei dedizionE, dedicare la propria vita, senza badare troppo agli aspetti di comfort, pratici, e vivendo in mezzo a tanti altri musicisti bravi e in gamba, è direi un atto di fede, nelle proprie capacità e verso la Vita!”.

    E la scelta del repertorio da presentare questa volta, legata al suo nuovo cd, la porta alle origini. A quel quartiere dove è nata. Propone infatti brani di musicisti genovesi.

    “Ero a new York e mi chiedevo che cosa avrei potuto condividere di veramente mio. Che cosa mi distingueva dagli altri? Quali erano le mie risorse? Da dove arrivavo? Da Genova, dalla Foce, dal bel canto italiano anche …dall’amore per la poesia e per la melodia ….E stavo avvicinandomi timidamente al jazz, la fusione fu quasi inevitabile…

    Esteticamente parlando, poi, provavo il desiderio di sentire queste canzoni suonate da dei musicisti jazz d’oltreoceano che lo avevano assorbito mentre ‘ciucciavano’ il latte dal biberon, e magari avevano un genitore appassionato di questo genere o che avevano ascoltato in casa alla radio l’orchestra di Duke o di Count Basie….Cioè jazz musicians che avevano una storia come la mia….solo che, anziché sentire Mina ascoltavano Billie Holiday. E infatti, quando arrivai a New York lo scorso maggio, portavo con me solo gli spartiti: delle note su un pezzo di carta….ero davvero molto emozionata…e felice! Cioè, l’idea era di portare solo gli spartiti e di farli suonare da musicisti ignari delle canzoni originali, musicisti che avevano il loro condizionamento culturale, americano, non il mio…”

    E’ quasi inutile chiederle che rapporto ha con gli States e la Grande Mela… si sente.

    “Il jazz americano e i musicals, oltre agli chansonniers francesi, sono la matrice musicale delle canzoni dei nostri cantautori genovesi… È un po’ come riportarle a casa, riconsegnarle alla fonte….anche se certe, come le canzoni di Fabrizio De André, hanno musicalmente un taglio più….’etnico-popolare’, europeo e mediterraneo..

    ‘Sassi’, di Gino Paoli, per esempio, mi ricorda molto ‘Summertime’…è un po’ come poterle dare la grandezza di un Evergreen, di una everlasting song internazionale…”

    Mariangela nel corso della tua carriera si è avvicinata alla musica popolare e melodica italiana; brasiliana; folk e pop, gospels e spirituals americano; rock, rythm 'n' blues, soul, alla canzone d'autore francese e Italiana. Poi è arrivata al Jazz.

    Viene spontaneo chiederle cosa ha dato al Jazz tanta esperienza musicale.

    “All’inizio molta confusione, perché il jazz è un linguaggio codificato, per cui bisogna impararlo come si impara una lingua. Il timing, il fraseggio…e non si diventa cantante di jazz in qualche anno, anche se canti da una vita intera, come me. Cioè, bisogna in un primo momento dimenticarsi di tutte queste esperienze passate, spogliarsene. Come mi piace dire, ‘cantare come si canta sotto la doccia!’”

    “Qualcuno ha scritto che attraversavo con originalità melodie usurate…o qualcosa del genere….sicuramente la mia esperienza musicale in altri generi crea un approccio versatile, eclettico…Ho imparato a contattare l’intensità e profonda tristezza di quando canti un blues, oppure la grinta che si tira fuori per cantare certa musica popolare italiana oppure il power e la presenza che usi per cantare rock o rythm’n’blues…la finezza e il controllo che sono necessari per cantare canto classico… e direi anche il suono. Il lavoro sul suono della mia voce è la cosa che direi distingue il mio percorso vocale….Il suono è il lavoro di tutta una vita, per me, e quindi spero che arrivi anche nel mio modo di cantare jazz….”

    Il suono è il lavoro della sua esistenza. E nella sua vita un altro capitolo importante è quello che ha affiancato spiritualità e musica in un percorso di conoscenza interiore. Cerchiamo di capire…

    “La voce ti dice lo stato di consapevolezza di una persona…dove è nel suo percorso…quali sono le risorse e dove sono gli aspetti anche psicologici da nutrire, le qualità che non sono state sostenute e che potrebbero essere amplificate e facilitate, la voce è il suono della nostra realtà più profonda…più di tanto non si può controllare, anche con la tecnica più spietata, è la nostra realtà interiore.

    Per questo fa così paura cantare, perché il canto è l’espressione della parte più profonda di noi stessi ed è molto legato all’emozione, infatti c’è il modo di dire che la voce”tradisce” un’emozione, oppure che la voce ‘trema’ dall’emozione. Io parto dal mio tremore, ci sto dentro e poi vedo e sento che cosa succeed. Da questo percorso arriva l’autenticità del suono. E unisco la ricerca interiore con la ricerca vocale artistica.

    Man mano che procedo nel cammino, prendo sempre più consapevolezza di come e quanto il canto e fare musica in un certo modo possano creare dei campi di amore e trasformare, magari per qualche minuto appena, un ambiente, portando dolcezza, leggerezza, consapevolezza, pace a molte persone contemporaneamente. La Vita mi sta portando verso questa direzione..”

    La serata di New York sarà un vero viaggio nella nostra storia musicale. Chi avrà la fortuna di partecipare non solo ascolterà una voce speciale, avrà anche l’opportunità di godere di una selezione musicale accurata, veramente unica.

    “Per celebrare Fabrizio de André nel decimo anniversario della sua morte, ho scelto 4 canzoni chiave che potessero a mio avviso essere adattate al jazz e potessero illustrare le tematiche fondamentali della sua poetica:

    La vita, la libertà : Il suonatore Jones ;  L'amore: Amore che vieni, amore che vai; La morte: Anime salve;   Genova: Creuza de ma.           

    Il Cd inizia col Suonatore Jones: <In un vortice di polvere gli altri vedevan siccità /

     A me ricordava la gonna di Jenny in un ballo di tanti anni fa> Mi sembrava bello questo inizio, come se fosse lo stesso Fabrizio a parlare così…(e non + Fiddler Jones)

    Così, dal punto di vista di questo 'qualcuno' che è lontano ma vicino, nell’incontro attraverso la musica, in un’altra dimensione di arte, amore, compassione, ho aggiunto e alternato altre 6 canzoni, una per autore, di Luigi Tenco, Umberto Bindi, Bruno Lauzi, Gino Paoli e Ivano Fossati…. Ho incluso anche Giorgio Calabrese e Gianfranco Reverberi che tanto hanno scritto per la Scuola Genovese, con una canzone a me particolarmente cara: “Se qualcuno ti dirà”.

    Concludiamo quest’incontro di musica in parole che potrebbe durare molto più a lungo. Entriamo nel mondo dei suoi desideri e dei progetti. Le chiediamo con quale musicista newyorkese le piacerebbe lavorare in particolare. La risposta è felice ed appagata.

    “Se dovessi progettare qualcosa di nuovo, magari un progetto di songs americane, non chiederei di meglio che il trio con cui ho registrato : Pete Malinverni al piano, Ugonna Okegwo al contrabbasso e Billy Drummond alla batteria. C’è passione, eleganza e sensibilità: i tre ingredienti per me fondamentali nel jazz …E al livello umano, non potevo trovare persone più nel cuore e nel rispetto!”

    E poi… ecco i suoi programmi: “Un progetto di composizioni mie legate al mondo del Sufismo che mi porterà in Turchia prima di Natale; una serie di incontri di Meditazione e Canto intitolato 'Il Canto del Silenzio' e un progetto… 'monumentale' sul jazz che vorrei attuare qui a New York, fra qualche lustro, se Dio lo vorrà!!!”

    Thursday Dec 3


     "JAZZIN' some singer songwriters

          from GENOVA"




    LEE HUDSON  bass


    Kitano Hotel

    66 Park Ave @ (E.38th Street)


    Please advertise Reservations Advised  Tel 212 885-7119

    Early Dinner receive preferred seating (6:30 - 7:00 PM)

    No Cover, No Music Charge,  $15.00 minimum on food or beverages.

    Great American and Japanese menu , very reasonable.

    2 shows   8 pm  & 10 pm


    Sponsored by Regione Liguria

    In collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute of New York

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy. 928 Pages of Authentic Tradition

    928 pages. It is a huge book, and we picked it up for the first time last Thursday. We are, however, certain that the weight it carries in the world of Italian cuisine is not only a physical one. It is truly an important book for both professionals and enthusiasts alike. Its dimensions are a bit like that of an old bible – but this bible should be kept near the stove. 

    The book is entitled La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy, published by Rizzoli USA and presented to the press and American readers at the Italian Consulate in New York, thanks to the generous support of the Italian Government Tourist Board.    

    It is a complete work that includes the best recipes of Italian regional cuisine. Essential, clear, organized, and designed for one specific purpose: to allow readers to create the best regional Italian dishes flawlessly with all of the correct ingredients, colors, tastes, and smells. 

    The path that the reader takes through its pages is fascinating. It is enough to browse through it to understand. Glimpses of the bel paese, past and present, are brought to life. Two thousand recipes of typical regional Italian dishes are carefully cataloged and include the best of the work carried out by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina. 

    But what is the Accademia Italiana della Cucina? We are addressing the few of you who may not have heard of it. The following is how the publishing house Rizzoli described it when presenting the book: “Fifty years ago, a group of Italian scholars gathered to discuss a problem: how to preserve traditional Italian cooking. They formed the Accademia Italiana della Cucina to document classic recipes from every region. The academy's more than seven thousand associates spread out to villages everywhere, interviewing grandmothers and farmers at their stoves, transcribing their recipes – many of which had never been documented before.” 

     These words are enough to bring to life a project that has embodied the best of the best in the areas of Italian culture, business, art, and communications.  

    It was 1953, in Milan, when the mission to preserve the culinary legacy of Italy began, using the very heritage and traditions that were specific to each region. This project grew year after year to where it is today.  

    Today the academy hosts a number of educational programs and awards prizes to leaders in the culinary industry. The academy also publishes a monthly magazine and a restaurant guide.  

    Giovanni Ballarini, president of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina and one of the authors of the book, tells us about this new milestone publication in English.

    “This work represents the culmination of our project, with recipes that represent the heritage of our country. Each recipe is related to its region of origin and there are not only well-described ingredients but the preparation techniques that change according to the geographic area, as well.” 

    It is certainly the most complete and authentic regional Italian cookbook ever published in the English language. “It was created with the same attention to detail that has characterized classic French cooking by Julia Child,” said Paolo Petroni, Secretary General of the Franco Marenghi Research Center at the Accademia Italiana della Cucina

    There is also a mention of the challenges of translating such a vast and complex culinary landscape into English. “It had to be comprehensible to all. Nothing could be assumed. With an easy to understand logic, it is clear even to those who are not familiar with Italian terms, methods, and measures,” Petroni continued. 

     Needless to say given its intrinsic quality, the book was immediately received with great enthusiasm by chefs on both sides of the ocean, and in the United States by one of the most famous of all: Lidia Bastianich called it a “must-have reference book.” 
    It should also be pointed out that “this work,” as Giovanni Ballarini told us, “is geared to both the typical consumer as well as chefs of haute cuisine who will find it to be a useful tool and a secure base for the preparation of their recipes." 

    It was the start of the 1950s when the Accademia Italiana della Cucina was formed in Milan, in the restaurant of the Hotel Diana. Who knows if its founders were aware of the role that they would play in the next 50 years in the preservation of Italian culinary culture? Certainly they would never have imagined the world today and the inevitable effects of increasing globalization. 

    Today, now more than ever, it has become important for a work to help pass on as well as renew the most diverse culinary traditions of the world. 

    La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy is a fundamental tool that we recommend to all those who not only want to know how to cook Italian well but also want to understand a historical and cultural heritage that also covers extraordinary but replicable recipes. 

  • La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy. 928 pagine di tradizione culinaria autentica in inglese

    928 pagine. E’ un librone, lo abbiamo preso in mano per la prima volta lo scorso giovedi. Ma siamo sicuri che il suo peso sarà non solo fisico nel mondo della Cucina italiana. E' un tomo importante per addetti ai lavori e non. Le sue dimensioni sono un po’ come quelle di un’antica bibbia. Ma questa bibbia va tenuta vicino ai fornelli.

    Si tratta de “La Cucina - The Regional Cooking of Italy", edito da Rizzoli Usa, pubblicazione presentata alla stampa e ai lettori americani nel Consolato Generale Italiano di New York, grazie anche al sostegno dell' l'Italian Government Tourist Board. 

    E’ un opera completa che raccoglie le migliori ricette della cucina regionale italiana. Essenziale, chiara, schematica, studiata per uno scopo preciso: quello di far realizzare i migliori piatti della cucina regionale italiana senza errori, con tutti gli ingredienti, i tempi, i colori, i sapori e gli odori giusti.

    Ed il percorso che si intraprende nelle sue pagine è affascinante. Basta sfogliarlo per capire. Sotto gli occhi abbiamo uno spaccato del Bel Paese tra passato e presente. 2.000 ricette tipiche delle regioni italiane accuratamente catalogate che mettono insieme il meglio del meglio di anni del lavoro realizzato dall’Accademia della Cucina Italiana.

    Ma cosa è l'accademia della Cucina Italiana? Ci rivolgiamo certo a quei pochi che ancora non la conoscono. Sul sito Internet is legge." Non fu scelto a caso il nome Accademia, quando uomini sensibili ad ogni forma elevata di cultura, decisero di fondare l'Accademia Italiana della Cucina per rispondere al grido di dolore – ‘La cucina italiana muore!’ - che Orio Vergani, negli anni '50, aveva lanciato a proposito della civiltà della tavola. Percepirono immediatamente che proprio ad essi - rappresentanti dell'intellighenzia italiana dell'epoca - spettava il compito, quasi un obbligo morale, di agire immediatamente in favore della salvaguardia di un patrimonio culturale importantissimo: quello del costume gastronomico italiano, che portava e porta con sé la storia, la tradizione, le nuove tendenze, l'identità di un popolo."

    Bastano queste parole per far entrare nel vivo di un lavoro che ha impegnato il meglio dell'ambiente culturale, imprenditoriale, artistico e della comunicazione italiano.

    Era dunque il 1953 e da Milano partiva quest’impegno. E anno dopo anno questa questa realtà è cresciuta fino ai giorni nostri.

    Giovanni Ballarini il presidente dell’ Italian Academy of Cuisine e tra gli autori del libro ci racconta così questo nuovo traguardo di una pubblicazione in lingua inglese.

    "Quest'opera rappresenta il culmine del nostro lavoro. Con ricette che rappresentano il patrimonio del nostro Paese. Ogni ricetta è riferita alla sua regione di origine e non ci sono solo gli ingredienti ben descritti, ma anche le tecniche di preparazione che cambiano in relazione al territorio geografico."


     “E stato realizzato con con la stessa attenzione nei particolari che ha contrassegnato il classico sulla cucina francese di Julia Child” ci ha detto Paolo Petroni, Segretario Generale del Centro Studi ‘Franco Marenghi’ per l’Accademia della Cucina Italiana. 

    E ha anche accennato alle sfide legate alla traduzione in inglese di un panorama culinario cosi vasto e complesso. "Doveva essere comprensibile a tutti. Dare niente per scontato. Con una logica di facile comprensione ed immediata anche a chi non ha a che avuto a che fare con termini, modi e misure italiane".

    Inutile dirlo, visto la sua qualità intrinseca, il libro è stato subito accolto con grande entusiasmo da chef tra i due oceani. Negli Stati Uniti uno tra tutti: la notissima Lidia Bastianich che lo ha definito un "Must-Have reference book"

    Ma va anche precisato: "Questa opera – come ci detto sempre Giovanni Ballarini - è rivolta sia al tipico consumatore che ai cuochi di alta cucina che trovano uno strumento che è una base sicura per la preparazione delle loro ricette."

    Erano appena iniziati gli anni ‘50, quando l'Accademia Italiana della Cucina si costituì a Milano, nel ristorante dell'Hotel Diana. Chissà se già da allora i suoi fondatori erano consapevoli del ruolo che avrebbero avuto nei successivi 50 anni per la salvaguardia della cultura culinaria italiana? Certo non avrebbero mai immaginato il mondo di oggi e gli effetti di una sempre più inevitabile globalizzazione.

    Oggi, ancora di più che allora, diventa vitale un lavoro che aiuti a tramandare pur rinnovandola la piu variegata tradizione culinaria del mondo.

    “La Cucina - The Regional Cooking of Italy" è uno strumento importante che consigliamo a tutti coloro che non solo vogliono saper cucinare bene italiano ma intendono avvicinarsi ad un patrimonio storico e culturale che passa anche attraverso ricette uniche ma ripetibili.

    Si ripetibili, leggiamo e seguiamo con attenzione le istruzioni di questa bibbia.

  • Art & Culture

    Mariangela Bettanini: Music as a Journey

    We speak of a voice.

    She was born in Genoa, in the area of Foce where only ten years before Luigi Tenco, Gino Paoli, Bruno Lauzi, Umberto Bindi, and the Fratelli Reverberi would meet in the little piazza on Via Cecchi. Lauzi lived and Tenco’s mother had a wine shop on the very street where Bettanini grew up.

    We’re talking about an extraordinary singer who knows how to surprise as only a few do. A voice, a history, and an experience set in the future. It is intense, clean, rough and sweet, and comes on quick.

    But we’ll let this voice speak for itself: Mariangela Bettanini.

    “It was the Sixties and my family listened to music every day. Depending on the time of day, there were the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez. The radio program Bandiera Gialla [Yellow Flag], or the songs of Luigi Tenco, Gino Paoli, de André. Then there was Paul Anka and Modugno, Vanoni who was singing about ‘the malavita.’ (organized crime).  There were chants of the mondine [female rice workers] along with the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the music festivals at San Remo.... Vivaldi and Beethoven, Chopin, baroque music, opera, Callas…!”

    “In the morning I remember my mother often sang in the kitchen or listened to the radio while doing housework. Then my dad who loved opera would come home, and then my three older brothers. We would eat and then the turntable would start to play a wide range of music…”

    Between the ages of 10 and 15 she studied classical piano privately. She then taught herself to play the guitar and sing, following her natural talent. And so she sang Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Italy’s own singer-songwriters...and then the bossa nova.

    With a bit of imagination, we can almost picture her in that Genoa, in those streets, and in that setting.

    “At that time I started singing professionally at various musical events. I was part of several groups of singer-songwriters and sang songs about the female condition and traditional Italian folk songs. My inner spirit of rebellion and research helped me a lot; I was shy and very insecure. After singing for hours locked in my room, I found and discovered in myself the courage to bring out the voice, grit, and passion. I didn’t know it at the time, but my song was a prayer, a longing for something bigger…”

    On December 3, Bettanini will sing in a city that she knows and loves very much: New York. This time she will present her latest CD.

    “New York is a paradise for music, it’s the crossroads where the greatest musicians from all over the world live or pass through. Being able to sing here is a great honor! I came to New York at the end of 2006. I had just recorded a CD with Dado Moroni, Paolino Dalla Porta, and Enzo Zirilli.”

    In what state of mind did you arrive?

    “I had no connections. I was very excited. I remember the sense of space and possibility. My trip was also, in a sense, rather practical and logical! I said to myself: ‘If I wanted to sell champagne, I would go to France to taste it and live there for a while. If jazz is truly my path, then I’ll go where they created it! I will listen, learn, and then see what happens.’”

    Mariangela’s strength lies in her courage to take risks and experiment, which is inherent to her musical choices.
    “When my research leads me to undertake a new journey, a path unknown to me, I document the process and procure the technical means. Technique and fundamental knowledge don’t need to dominate musical expression, but they do remain in service to it. This is my personal recipe. I learned a lot by singing in front of an audience as a little girl, in those moments of panic and desire to express myself – to give the best of oneself, to establish a real sense of communication. Narcissism and the need to be heard and applauded are always there and it’s OK! But what needs to prevail is the contact with the essence, the eternal, which allows you to create a space for intimacy and true communication.”

    And what does she say about her colleagues overseas?
    “I have always felt at home with musicians in New York. There is a kind of absolute dedication, even competition, but I would call it dedication, to devote their entire lives to music without paying much attention to personal comfort and the practical aspects of life, and living among many other good and talented musicians – I would say this is an act of faith in their own abilities and faith in life.”

    The selection of songs she chose to perform this time around is directly connected to her CD and it has brought her back to her roots. She is, in fact, performing compositions by Genovese musicians.

    “I was in New York and I wondered what I could share that was really my own. What distinguished me from the others? What were my resources? Where did I come from? From Genoa, from Foce, from beautiful Italian songs…from the love of poetry and melody…. And as I was timidly approaching jazz, the fusion was almost inevitable….”

    “Aesthetically speaking, I then felt the desire to hear songs played by jazz musicians overseas who had absorbed them while “sucking milk from the bottle.” Perhaps they had a parent who was a fan of this kind of music or they had listened to Count Basie’s or Duke Ellington’s orchestra on the radio at home.... I mean jazz musicians who had a history like mine, except that instead of listening to Mina, they were listening to Billie Holiday. And indeed, when I arrived in New York last May, I only brought music scores with me: notes on pieces of paper.... I was really excited... and happy! That is, the idea was to bring only the music scores and to ask musicians play them, musicians who weren’t familiar with the original songs, musicians who had their own cultural, American background, not the same as mine….”

    It’s almost useless to ask about her relationship with the United States and New York; it’s palpable.
    “American jazz and musicals in addition to French singers-songwriters – these are the musical building-blocks of Genovese singer-songwriters. It’s a bit like bringing them back home, returning them to the source, even if some of them, like Fabrizio de André’s songs, have more of an ‘ethno-folk,’ European, and Mediterranean musical bend.”

    “’Sassi,’ by Gino Paoli, for example, reminds me a lot of ‘Summertime.’ It’s a bit like giving them the breadth of an evergreen, of an eternal, international song.”

    Over the course of her career Mariangela has explored folk and melodic Italian music, Brazilian folk and pop music, American gospel and spirituals, rock, rhythm ‘n’ blues, soul, songs by French and Italian singer-songwriters. And then she came to jazz.

    I spontaneously thought to ask her what she brought to jazz with all of her broad musical experience.

    “A lot of confusion at first, because jazz is a coded language, so one must learn it the same way one learns a language. The timing, the phrasing... you don’t become a jazz singer in a few years even you’ve sung your whole life, like me. That is, from the start you must forget all of your past experiences, you must undress. As I like to say, ‘Sing like you sing in the shower!’”

    “Someone once wrote that I attempted tired, worn out melodies with originality…or something to that effect. Certainly my experience in other musical genres creates a versatile, eclectic approach. I learn to connect with the intensity and profound sadness when I sing the blues, or the grit that I draw on to sing certain kinds of Italian folk music, or the power and presence that I use to sing rock or rhythm ‘n’ blues, while finesse and control are necessary when singing classical songs. I would also say the sound. The work on the sound of my voice is the thing that I would say distinguishes my vocal style. The sound is the work of an entire lifetime for me, so I hope it comes out in the way I sing jazz.”

    The sound is her life’s work. There is another important aspect of her life, one that touches on spirituality and music on a path to inner knowledge. We try to understand…

    “The voice tells you the state of a person’s awareness…where he or she is on the path… what the resources are, and where there are psychological aspects that need to be nurtured, the qualities that have not been supported and that could be amplified and facilitated. The voice is the sound of our deepest reality…you really can’t control it; even with the most aggressive techniques, it’s our inner reality.”

    “This is why singing is so fear-provoking, because singing is an expression of the deepest part of ourselves, and it is very tied to emotion. In fact, there is an expression that says the voice ‘betrays’ an emotion, or that the voice ‘trembles’ with emotion. I start with my own trembling, I go inside and then I see and feel what happens. From this place comes the authenticity of sound. And I combine this inner search with the inner artistic voice.”

    “As I slowly proceed along the path, I always become more aware of how much singing and playing music in a certain way can create places for love, and how they can transform an environment, even for a few minutes, by bringing sweetness, lightness, awareness, and peace to many people at once. My life is leading me in this direction.”

    Her concert in New York will be a true journey into Italy’s musical history. Everyone who attends will not only hear an astonishing voice, but also have the opportunity to enjoy a thoughtful selection of truly engaging music.

    “In celebration of Fabrizio de André on the tenth anniversary of his death, I chose four key compositions that I think could be adapted to jazz and illustrate the main themes of his poetry:

    Life, liberty: Il suonatore Jones (Jones the musician);

    Love: Amore che vieni, amore che vai (Love that comes, love that goes);

    Death:  Anime salve (Saved souls)

    Genoa: Creuza de ma (In Geneva dialect “Mulattiera di mare – mule track of the sea)

    The CD begins with Musician Jones:

    In a swirl of dust the others saw drought.

    It reminded me of Jenny’s skirt at a dance so many years ago.

    This start seemed beautiful to me, as if it were Fabrizio speaking like that, not Fiddler Jones.”

    “So, from the perspective of this ‘someone’ who is far away but nearby, in meeting through music, in another dimension of art, love, compassion, I added six more songs, one that I wrote, and one each by Luigi Tenco, Umberto Bindi, Bruno Lauzi, Gino Paoli, and Ivano Fossati. I also included Giorgio Calabrese and Gianfranco Reverberi who have written so much for the ‘Scuola Genovese,’ with a song that’s very dear to me: ‘Se qualcuno ti dirà.’ [If Someone Tells You]”

    We conclude this meeting of music in words that could last hours. We enter the world of desires and dreams. We ask which musician in particular she would like to work with in New York. Her answer is happy and contented.
    “If I were to plan something new, even a project on American songs, I could ask no more than to work with the trio with whom I recorded: Pete Malinverni on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass, and Billy Drummond on drums. There is passion, elegance and sensitivity – the three ingredients that for me are fundamental in jazz. On a personal level, I couldn’t have found people who were more warm and respectful!”

    And here are her plans:

    “One project of my own compositions related to the world of Sufism that will take me to Turkey right before Christmas. It’s a series of meditations and songs entitled ‘Il Canto del Silenzio’ [The Voice of Silence]. It’s a monumental project on jazz that I would like to bring here to New York within five years, God willing!”

    Thursday Dec 3


     "JAZZIN' some singer songwriters

          from GENOVA"




    LEE HUDSON  bass


    Kitano Hotel

    66 Park Ave @ (E.38th Street)


    Please advertise Reservations Advised  Tel 212 885-7119

    Early Dinner receive preferred seating (6:30 - 7:00 PM)

    No Cover, No Music Charge,  $15.00 minimum on food or beverages.

    Great American and Japanese menu , very reasonable.

    2 shows   8 pm  & 10 pm


    Sponsored by Regione Liguria

    In collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute of New York

  • Life & People

    A Jaunt in the Abruzzi Among its Mountains, Lakes, Hills, and Sea

    Held at ENIT’s North American headquarters directed by Riccardo Strano, the Commissioner of Tourism for the Region of Abruzzi, Mauro Di Dalmazio, joined the President of the Region, Gianni Chiodi, for NIAF’s annual gala.

    The conference focused primarily on tour operators, but with an audience full of enthusiasts the commissioner made a point of saying that after his official visit, he intends to initiate a more tangible relationship with the U.S. and that there will be other conferences like this aimed at major markets like North America.  

    “We have a concrete strategy for promoting the Abruzzi,” said Di Dalmazio, “beginning with logistical steps such as certifying tour operators, implementing business-to-business workshops, organizing educational tours, offering packages for young and elderly travelers, as well as increasing our presence in the local media.” 

    This virtual trip to the Abruzzi also featured a culinary journey thanks to Carla Cotellessa and Adele Cicchitti, editors of Il Pane e La Lingua (Bread and Language). Cicchitti briefly explained how cuisine can open the door to an anthropological relationship with a number of other disciplines.  

    “Based on a systematic analysis of food culture in the Abruzzi, we can find and track connections between the various aspects of food, and food itself can be studied and seen as a means of communication and knowledge.” 

    For the commissioner, his objective is to emphasize the Abruzzi’s exceptional tourist attractions, especially its high quality hotels.

    “The Abruzzi continues and has never stopped,” Mauro Di Dalmazio told us, "thanks to its natural resources and culture, and its extraordinary people and warm hospitality in particular. It has been and remains an outstanding destination for tourists.” 

    The commissioner sincerely thanked all those who contributed to helping the Abruzzi during this difficult period. “The President of the Region will also be sure to express his gratitude directly in Washington. I know that there was a major effort here to collect funds for the people in Abruzzi. NIAF also created a collaboration agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to coordinate the U.S. relief efforts,” he added.

    “This region has so much to offer, especially because of its strong history and real life experiences,” said Riccardo Strano, Director of ENIT, North America.  

    One of these touching real life episodes interwoven between America and the Abruzzi was recounted in the story presented by Mayor Guardiagrele (CH) e Doris Schechter. During the Second World War, as she was hunted by Nazis because she was Jewish, she found refuge among the families in the Abruzzi.

    It was an emotional moment that brought the images of the documentary that was screened for the occasion even closer.

  • Life & People

    Italy’s Tourism Trucks: Italia Much More. So Much More Than an Invitation!

    ITALIA MUCH MORE is the slogan for ENIT’s ad campaign which began on television and will now take to the streets of North America. We spoke with Riccardo Strano, Director of ENIT, North America who organized the tour throughout the United States, an innovative campaign despite its simplicity. 

    Two 18-wheel hospitality trucks will cross the States to promote the various facets of Italian tourism.  

    “Italy can satisfy your every desire,” says Strano. “You will discover the food, flavor, music, and folklore of your dreams. Yes, Italy is so much more.” 

    The journey begins this fall so be on the lookout for the tourism trucks, replete with breathtaking images of the Italian countryside, to roll through your hometown. The hospitality truck tour will cover the continental United States nearly in its entirety, with stops on both coasts, the Midwest, the South and the Northwest, and will feature several special events. 

    Inside each rolling hospitality suite you will find touch-screen displays offering a glimpse of all 20 regions of Italy. You’ll also have the opportunity to stroll around ancient Rome thanks to a new cutting-edge 3D reconstruction of the eternal city developed in collaboration with several world-renown historians who were able to create this incredible virtual journey throughout ancient Rome. 

    For more info on the Rome virtual tour go to:

    Trained personnel with brochures and promotional materials will be on hand to assist curious travelers. Specifically, visitors can get a taste of four distinct characteristics of the Italian experience – culture, cuisine and wine, fashion and nature. Information, photographs, and recollections of personal experiences will offer a sneak peek at the pleasures that await visitors to Italy. 

    Strano goes on to say that “enormous posters with pictures of Italy will attract attention throughout the United States in both big cities and small towns. The trucks will stop and welcome visitors. They hope to attract different types of people, from tour operators and travel agents in the tourism industry to everyday consumers. It will also be an important way to teach young people and anyone interested in learning about Italy. Inside the trucks, modern technology and touch-screens will allow visitors to navigate the various regions and learn about Italian geography. You cannot imagine how many people I have seen who now understand where Rome is located using the maps we brought! It seems obvious but it’s the ABC’s of tourism.”

    “From Houston to Dallas, from Philadelphia to Washington, Orlando, Nashville...these are just a few of the stops that the two beautiful trucks will make and we are sure that they will capture everyone’s imagination, even children.” 

     “Then in January,” Strano tells us, “we will address travel professionals directly and offer very detailed seminars on the market. Last year we met with more than 1,400 travel agents across the United States. We strongly believe in this program, and I am personally taking care of the details.” 


    “For example, I myself decided to move the slogan lower on the engine to make it more visible from the height of a car. This was a great undertaking and I confess...I lost a lot of sleep over it.”  

    We would like to end on this personal and human note because we often forget that behind every marketing campaign there are real people who work hard and with passion, day after day.  
    These are the stops the two trucks will make. Ready to visit Italy?


    Translated by Giulia Prestia

  • Life & People

    Discussing the Mafia. Don Ciotti with High School Students at the Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi

    It was a special meeting with Don Ciotti and students in New York City. When we asked the president of the Libera if he wanted to meet with high school students at the Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi we saw his eyes light up: “Yes, where, when?” Accompanying him through the hallways and classrooms of this important bilingual educational setting in New York City and seeing him speak with and respond to students was particularly exciting. 

    In the presence of these youngsters, Don Luigi Ciotti was both armed and disarmed He was armed with his experience, his history, his courage, his sensitivity, and his faith. He was disarmed before the eloquent simplicity that is often present in an unconscious manner in the young, in their disbelief, and in their questions.  

    Sitting among the students, Don Ciotti watched the movie that was screened before his talk. A wisely chosen film, it was the last interview with Enzo Biagi. The film is an important document for two reasons: one, for the clarity with which the great journalist recounts Libera’s work, and two, because it was made shortly before Biagi’s death

    We have rarely seen students pay such close attention for so long a time in a classroom. Eyes wide, ears pricked for the entire presentation.  

    Ciotti began with a heartfelt recollection of Enzo Biagi in which he recalled his contributions to Libera. “His wife had only been gone a few hours and Enzo did not want to give up the service that he knew was so important for Libera. He told me, ‘I cannot leave you alone.’” 

    The questions, timid at first, came from the gut after a short while.  

    Have you ever met a mafioso? What is Libera? I am from Cinisi. Can you tell me something about my land? Can you explain what it means to confiscate assets for public use?  

    “I will give short answers...if I can,” he says. And he begins. 

    “Libera is an association. It was born after the Falcone and Borsellino were murdered. Seeing the emotional responses from ordinary people, I wondered if we had to keep marching and demonstrating and whether it was time to join forces throughout Italy. The mafia problem is not only in Sicily, Calabria, Campania... the problem concerns the entire country.”

    “We bring different worlds together. We work with schools and universities that have signed agreements and follow protocols to examine these issues through academic courses.” 

    His mission continues with sustained energy. “It’s not enough to know, however. One must also assume responsibility. What affects the mafia? Money, business, power. We told ourselves: then we must take away all of the profits from their traffic. So we collected signatures in Italy to demand a law that confiscates assets for the public. These assets should be returned to the people. We collected over one million signatures. Parliament voted to approve a measure to confiscate assets for public use.” 

    “Today in the heart of Naples I discovered a shop that had written ‘The flavor and knowledge of the law’ with the tag ‘Libera Terra.’ These are work cooperatives for young people that have been developed thanks to the confiscated assets. We send an open invitation for them to work on confiscated land from the big bosses.”  

    He stops and adds: “The hardest slap you can give the mafia is to take property away from the bosses, property that is the result of violence, trafficking, and illegal activities. It then becomes a place where young people can go to work legally. It means that the mafia has lost control.”

    “Certainly, seized goods are often blown up or burned. But our activities have always resumed. There is a growing number of people who won’t abandon those boys and girls who do that. This is the right way. Today there are many cooperatives.”

    “Mafia groups have become globalized. We have succeeded in getting to the European Parliament. And we have done it in such a way that after a year and a half of working in Brussels the confiscation of assets for public use was also approved there.” 

    A particularly emotional moment for the young audience came when Don Ciotti spoke of families hit by the mafia. “They lost fathers, they killed wives, innocents, mothers, brothers. In Italy unfortunately only a small fraction of victims knows the truth.”  

    He refers back to the young native of Cinisi. “Sicilians are amazing people. You should be proud of your roots in Sicily. You must avoid people who have prejudices and make generalizations. There is certainly the mafia, but there are also beautiful people. People who have fought against the mafia: policemen, judges, journalists, politicians, and ordinary citizens – your fellow citizens.”  

    “Peppino Impastato belonged to a mafia family. His father was a mafioso. His uncle was in America and they were in business together. Peppino rebelled and began to attack Badalamenti, the town’s big boss. He does this with passion, over the radio, and he is murdered. But his murder was staged to look like a suicide. His family struggled for 23 years to prove that it was not a true suicide. It was his mother Felicia and his brother Giovanni’s fight. But they eventually won. Have you seen the movie I Cento Passi? Go see it….” 

    “I recommend another film: Fort Apache. It’s the story of Giancarlo Siani, another journalist murdered by the mafia. He was the first to write about the Muschilli. Do you know who they were? Kids of about seven or eight who the Camorra used to smuggle packages of drugs...” 

    But what differentiates organized crime from the mafia?  

    “To achieve its goal (money-business-power), the mafia uses competent people, professionals like lawyers, accountants, financiers, all who are corrupt, and today it has both direct and indirect connections to politics. People who turn a blind eye, or who vote in return for favors.... When we speak of the mafia you must quickly go through it in your head. It’s an organization that avails itself of professionals and their skills, including politicians.” 

    A student originally from Northern Italy comments: “Everyone thinks that the mafia is only a phenomenon in the south.”  

    Ciotti quickly comments: “I’ll tell you something. There are too many prejudices. One evening as I screened the film I Cento Passi and at one point a man gets angry. He says, ‘The film is beautiful, but Sicilians...they want the mafia. They are not of our blood.’”  

    “I said to myself, ‘Luigi, stay calm. Smile at him and respond.’ I couldn’t refuse to respond. And so I said, ‘Look, if you read the documents you will find that the city of Corleone was founded in 1237 by immigrants from Brescia and Bergamo.’ This is history. His ancestors are there, people of his blood.”  

    Ciotti gives the youngsters yet another important message: 

    “I call them grave sins: the sin of knowledge. The lack of depth. Everything on the surface. All hearsay. Instead we have the duty to deepen our knowledge and the questions you asked today are a great credit to you.”  

    “If you find someone who has understood everything about life, you are on the wrong path.”

    “We are all children and we need to help each other. I’m here, but I'm a little thing.”

    “For me, joy is hundreds of thousands of people who try to move forward together.”  

    “The problem is not one reality, but putting the many, many realities together. Drawing different worlds together. We have a responsibility as citizens and we must ask ourselves, ‘What are we doing?’ We must begin to respect the rules in small matters. Let’s join forces. Don Bosco used to say: We must be good Christians and good citizens.” 

    And for the Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi on the Upper East Side of Manhattan hope materializes.  
    Don Ciotti, a priest, is currently a member of the Pastoral Council of the Diocese of Turin and actively engaged in the fight against the mafia in Italy. He founded Libera, a network that coordinates the activities of more than 700 anti-mafia associations and groups on a local, national, and international level.

  • Life & People

    Live Italian Music & More. Gallotta Will Handle It

    We met him in his home-office in Harlem. From his window our glance bounces from   roof to roof, from Harlem to the skyscrapers of Midtown. He is the man who brought Morricone and Benigni to America, and after many years of trying he made Pino Daniele’s concert possible.

    But these are just the latest in Massimo Gallotta’s career as a music producer and so much more.
    And so we spend our visit with him, coffee in front of us while night falls and the buildingsaround us light up. A few of his memories reflect on the presence of Italian music in New York.
    “I’ve been here since 2002 with the intention of organizing concerts. After the event with Ennio Morricone, which was incredibly successful, the number of American offers grew and so I structured a collaborative effort between Italy and the U.S. to produce music events.”
    All of the events until now have had his particular touch… “Yes, I concentrated on difficult events, challenging ones from an organizational point of view. There were some that had been anticipated for years, but I think they required special arrangements.”
    “In recent years there have been various Italian artists who have appeared for the first time in New York. It seems like a magic moment for our music after a long time. Our music has had difficulty crossing over and overcoming a certain stereotypical image that is associated with traditional Italian melodies.”

    Is it truly as good a time as it seems for our music?

    “Yes, but why, I don’t know. I tried to read what the public wants here. There is a pressing need to understand more about the current musical landscape. Obviously, I mean live music productions that I’m involved with. It’s been said that it’s risky to come to American and, in fact, even though many have tried sporadically they have haven’t found the right protection and location in this market. A different approach must be used, and to do so a commitment to understanding the business is required.”

    What are the qualities one needs to be in your line of work?
    “Imagination, but also strong motivation. There is also a lot of competition, but when you have very clear ideas and you succeed in bringing them to the right places, your success is assured.”
    Massimo has been in this business for 35 years. He was there behind many music events that have made history in Italy. Entering the American world was not by any means easy for him. It certainly involved courageous choices even after solid success in Italy.
    “Integrating oneself into the work world here takes time and effort. The business rules here are very different. We are in the motherland of entertainment. It’s different situation here, bringing Italian artists and promoting them with success, especially promotion that requires sophisticated logistics so the artists are presented to the American public in the best possible way. The artists are followed in every detail with a real physical presence...”
    How does Massimo Gallotta Productions work? Is it a big company?
    “There are six of us and obviously I have a support system in Italy that helps me to organize the moves and transfers, and resolve visa problems for the technicians and the artists. And then there are external firms that I consult for advice.”
    Despite the relaxed and cordial atmosphere and a decidedly sunny air, Massimo’s demeanor is one of a true professional who knows his business. He is even meticulous in his explanations. On promotional channels he says: “I usually use both the Italian as well as the American ones. It’s been said that the American ones are more effective. So, we use the New York Times, TimeOut New York… It depends, of course, on the type of artist.

    For example, this time with Pino Daniele we pushed it more in the community with a few nods in the American press. With Benigni and Morricone the promotion was more ‘American.’”

    He quickly elaborates: “This is Pino Daniele’s first concert. With him, as I did with other artists, I made an atypical choice to introduce him. An Italian artist has never played the Apollo. It’s the signature theater in Harlem.

    In this place there is not only the infrastructure for music, but there is a tradition of music, of African-American music, jazz, and other kinds of music. It’s a theater that makes headlines. Pino Daniele understood this immediately. It’s a theater that affects an artist’s career. And for me an artist truly understands when the right moment is and when the proposal is interesting.”

    So how did this concert come about?
    “I tried to convince him for four years. At first I didn’t think of the Apollo. I discovered this location with Patti LaBelle’s concert. A big night. And I really liked the atmosphere. Harlem has been changing for a long time. It’s alive. I also looked for an historic theater for Benigni’s show. [Daniele] will do the same Italian concert. It’s very beautiful. It’s already a success in terms of the number of reservations, and I hope that he will explore the possibility of also experimenting here in America. He will play with his Italian group and two American musicians.”
     Gallotta began this work at a very young age. In 1976 he organized a concert in his hometown by chance. After this, there was another, and another, and still another. In the end it became his job and the good fortune for many musicians.

    From there, he went on to work with Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, the Manhattan Transfer, Gilbert Becaud, Gilbert Gil, Lina Sastri, Gianni Morandi, Renzo Arbore, Lucio Dalla, Gigi Proietti. There are so many artists that he followed, names that belong to the history of international music. Even Renato Carosone. We cannot help but ask him some details about his encounter with the man who sang “Tu vo fa l'americano….”

    “Yes at twenty years old  I became Renato Carosone’s manager. A long story… I wanted this with all my might. He had retired from the scene and didn’t want to play live. I asked him for a meeting which he kindly accepted. I remember entering his beautiful villa at the wheel of a borrowed car. I didn’t even have my learner’s permit. He met with me as a courtesy. I told him, ‘Maestro, I want to promote your concerts!’ He gently responded that he could not. ‘I have to study and I study eight hours a day!’ I didn’t lose heart. I sought after him and after some time I convinced him. He did two solo concerts and then it took off. Viareggio, Montecarlo...and many others. I became his confidant, the person he trusted. The personal approach is usually successful with artists. They need to trust you.”
    He has so much to tell…and i-Italy will soon return to visit him again. He currently has a

    project underway with Renzo Arbore…and many others.

    “Today I’m no longer interested in being a manager in the traditional sense. I’d like to be able to completely dedicate myself to an event, to organize the details. I have different responsibilities. I work on innovation, on a variety of things. I like to work on an artist’s first debut and create an event to generate interest. I do this with many artists and not only those who are connected to Italy. I promote Italian music as well as American music in Italy.”

    The secret? “Every event needs to be unique for me.”
    And we would like to conclude his profile by quoting a sentence from the bio on his website.
    “Above all I have to thank my Parents who right from the beginning of my career have given me a hard time, teaching me to never avoid the hard times, but rather to proceeding with the strongest determination to complete what I truly believe in.”
    The Concert of Pino Daniele will be on October 1st  8.00 pm at the Apollo -253 West 125th Street, New York