Articles by: Emily Hayes

  • Art & Culture

    Libiamo! The Upcoming Production of La traviata with the Washington National Opera

               After their poignant, breathtaking performances of a few arias from La traviata, soprano Venera Gimadieva, tenor Joshua Guerrero, and baritone Lucas Meachem sat down with the Maestro Renato Palumbo in the intimate space for a discussion of Italian opera. To experience such faultless, strong voices in the presentation room was uniquely moving, and revealed the true talent of the cast.

                Internationally recognized director of opera and theater, and WNO’s Artistic Director of La traviata, Francesca Zambello began the night by invoking the history and social context within which Verdi wrote the timeless, classic opera. As she noted his political commentary on the role of class in society, and described the perfect balance between music and heart-rending lyrics, it was clear an ongoing dialogue between Zambello and the now mythical figure of Verdi had guided the performance to be the success that it is.

                For those who are not familiar, La traviata means “the fallen woman” or “the one who goes astray,” and refers to Violetta, the protagonist. As a courtesan, Violetta indulges in the high-class pleasures of music, poetry, and magnificently outrageous parties, toasting to life alongside wealthy men. However, she is secretly dying. The affluent Alfredo confesses his love for her, and the couple escapes to the countryside. Alfredo’s father, skeptical of the match due to Violetta’s low social status, convinces her that the best way to show her love is to let Alfredo go, and protect his reputation. Violetta leaves Alfredo, to his great dismay, and eventually dies married to a man she does not love.

                The lavish set design by Peter Davidson and turn-of-the-century Parisian costumes by Tony-Award ®-winning designer Jess Goldstein make this production of one of the most popular operas truly unique. Zambello shared images of the final set and costume designs for a behind-the-scenes look at what the audience could expect at the Kennedy Center starting on October 6.

                “Thank you, Italy, for Verdi, Rossini, and Puccini. Thank you for keeping us [WNO] in business.” She credits the countless Italian opera composers for the big, dramatic, romantic tragedies most audiences crave in an opera. Most importantly, she credits them for their humanity, an aspect of Italian classical music that drew Maestro Renato Palumbo to La traviata as well. Italian operas make up at least half of WNO’s productions each season.

                Giuseppe Verdi specifically has been a source of inspiration for musicians and music-lovers for generations. Maestro Palumbo has conducted productions of La traviata going back some 37 years, he confessed to the audience. Yet he never tires of the masterpiece. He references Verdi almost like a father figure, who teaches him something new every time Palumbo is a part of a La traviata production. While rehearsing at the Kennedy Center, he realized the beginning of the opera hints at what will happen at the end, even musically. The white, cold sanatorium set design, where Violetta lives out her final days, opens and closes the show. In both scenes, the music is the same, it is just in a different key. The first act starts with a “strong, rude tone,” suggesting the calamitous conclusion, and the final act starts with the same score in a different key, with a “sweet, realistic tone” that conveys Violetta’s melancholic acceptance of her fate, as “she enjoyed every moment, since every moment she knew she would die,” according to Maestro.

                Palumbo has conducted operas in the most important international theaters, such as Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Covent Garden in London, Liceu de Barcelona, Berlin Deutsche Oper, and La Fenice in Venice. An audience member asked if he approaches relating to American audiences differently than Italian and European audiences.

                “Coming to the opera, you think to be an Italian in Italy,” Palumbo mused, especially for a famous show like La traviata. “To be like an Italian, Verdi helps us. In the end, music is music, the soul is the soul. We are all brothers under Verdi,” one global audience in awe of the humanity in his euphonious musical score. 

                “The only difference is who reads the subtitles,” he joked.

                Venera Gimadieva (Violetta), Joshua Guerrero (Alfredo), and Lucas Meachem (Giorgio) studied opera in different places around the world, yet each school required Italian language and Italian diction classes. The three performers developed an enjoyment of Italian opera in their studies, but admitted learning the language was not easy.

                Gimadieva, “the new voice of Russia” whose performances as Violetta have earned sensational reviews, admitted that she struggled through proper pronunciation at first. The instruction she received from La Fenice in Venice ingrained the correct pronunciation into her voice, and was necessary for her stellar execution of the role at the esteemed theater. Grammy award winner Guerrero said that his mother tongue, Spanish, both helped and hindered him, but also noted it takes a long time to memorize an opera to begin with – La traviata, about six months. Also a Grammy award winner, Meachem is from North Carolina, and had to work through a slight accent to speak Italian well. The trio praised and thanked Maestro Palumbo. Working with and learning from him, as an amazingly accomplished Italian conductor, is being truly immersed in the essence Italian opera, “directly from the source,” according to Guerrero.

                La traviata will run at the Kennedy Center from Saturday, October 6 to Sunday, October 21.

    To buy ticket: >>

  • From the left: Director Laura Bispuri and Actress Alba Rohrwacher
    Art & Culture

    Cinema Italian Style: A Talk with Director Laura Bispuri and Actress Alba Rohrwacher

    Italian films have always captivated American audiences. With 42 Academy Award wins and 14 Best Foreign Language Film victories, Italy has won the most Academy Awards out of all the non-English speaking countries. This is Bispuri’s first time in Washington, D.C., but she expressed the strong “calore” or warmth she feels when visiting America. This is due in part to the praise of her beautiful, first feature film Sworn Virgin, which in its development phase was selected by the Cannes Film Festival’s “Atelier de la Cinéfondation.”

    Rohrwacher discussed another strong tie between American and Italian films born out of the #MeToo movement. This global revolution gave a voice to women who experienced sexual harassment and inequity in the film industry, and has since grown to include women in all industries. Rohrwacher is one of the 13 founding members of Dissenso Comune, the logo for which she designed. Like #MeToo, Dissenso Comune has allowed women in the Italian film industry to “uniamo la nostra voce,” to unite their voice, and add it to the global chorus.

    Dissenso Comune is not only raising awareness of harassment and abuse women experience, but it also aims to publish and present concrete examples. The group is for “tutte le donne,” lawyers, journalists, and all women who want to add their voice, not just women in the film industry. Dissenso Comune presented a paper to the President of the Italian Republic, asking for equal pay, to establish an ethics code, and among other things, education in primary school on gender parity and equality.

    The movement also resonates with Bispuri, whose Sardinia-set film Figlia Mia “is an exploration of motherhood that gains authenticity and emotion from a superb cast,” according to Variety magazine. Her female characters are “caged in by body, country, culture, and situation,” and must go on a journey “until they free themselves.”

    Archaic, traditional landscapes and cultures serve as the backdrop, and according to Bispuri, are a “major ingredient,” to her exploration of contemporary issues that “really have always been there.” In Sworn Virgin, the transgender protagonist is set within and yet questions the ancient Albanian mountains and traditions. Figlia Mia “comes down to the same question.” It is the story of a young girl in Sardinia who comes to understand she has two mothers, one biological and one adopted mother. The ancient issue is who the child truly belongs to.  

    As a mother and a daughter, Bispuri told the story looking at both sides. For Rohrwacher, the role was a challenge executed beautifully. She felt her character in Sworn Virgin was a “journey to the moon,” as she had to transform into a man. However, there was a sensitivity in the character she could connect with. Figlia Mia was a challenge only in a different direction, as she had to become louder, more aggressive, and “really free herself.” In both films, Rohrwacher was tasked with displaying “traits that are hard to get right if you don’t experience them in real life.”

    Delli Colli noted comparisons between Anna Magnani’s portrayal of Italian mothers and Rohrwacher’s role in Figlia Mia. Although the mothers as characters are not similar, there is a certain “emotional investment and passion common to Italian mothers” that both Magnani and Rohrwacher bring forward in their roles.

    At the end of the event, Rohrwacher was awarded an Italian Cultural Icon award for her work with Dissenso Comune.

    Figlia Mia will screen on Tuesday, April 24 and Thursday, April 26 at the AMC Mazza Gallerie in Washington, D.C.

  • Art & Culture

    Sharing Images Long Before Social Media: Renaissance Prints in Maiolica and Bronze

    It is clear from the examples Gabbarelli shared during his lecture that reinterpretations of renowned works by Italian artists such as Michelangelo Buonarrotti and Raphael were stamped into bronze or reinvented on maiolica, or tin-glazed pottery. Single sheet prints guided and educated other artists in Europe, which made visual echoes of Michelangelo accessible to those of moderate means.

    Due to erroneous interpretation, Michelangelo was skeptical of prints and discouraged the reproductions made of his works. However, Raphael “embraced the new medium of prints, as they would help him spread his own fame and influence,” according to Gabbarelli. Raphael was correct in his prediction, and his name became almost synonymous with maiolica.

    Gabbarelli’s exhibit, the first of it’s kind in the United States, includes some 90 prints, plaquettes, and istoriato-style plates based on the same famous works of art, allowing the viewer to see interpretations and reinterpretations of recognizable themes from Renaissance Italy side by side. Maiolica and bronze plaquettes were the two media most dramatically influenced by the new technology of image replication. The word “istoriato” refers to the style of the decoration on Italian maiolica pottery, usually with a mythical, historical, or biblical subject.

    For example, in 1515 Raphael designed a set of ten tapestries for the walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. One subject was a story from the Bible in which Paul visited Athens and preached against the worship of false idols. These designs were engraved and published in Rome, and served as the main source of knowledge about Raphael’s tapestries. Only the five compositions that appeared in print were copied onto maiolica. Some of the craftsmen duplicated the entire composition on their plates, others created new settings or different subjects altogether. One painter inserted the ancient Roman hero Marcus Curtius on horseback in the middle of the image.

    The exhibit also focuses on the designs of other major Italian artists, such as Andrea Mantegna, Antonio del Pollaiuolo, and Parmigianino. Albrecht Dürer, a German Renaissance painter and printmaker, is also featured in the exhibit, demonstrating the geographical boundaries the ceramics and bronze reliefs were able to cross. Gabbarelli effectively posits through his lecture and exhibit that “images transform the world around them when copied and shared,” and perhaps even when reinterpreted. This was certainly true in artistic exchanges between Italy and Northern Europe during the Renaissance.

    A native of Assisi, Italy (a dual Italian and British national), Gabbarelli was inspired by the ceramics and maiolica pottery of Central Italy to put together this exhibit, and research the relationship between prints and other media. His exhibition is accompanied by a catalog he authored, and generously signed for all those in attendance after his lecture, of the same name.

    Sharing Images: Renaissance Prints into Maiolica and Bronze is open until August 5 in the West Building on the Ground Floor of the National Gallery of Art, and included in both English and Italian language tours of the museum.



  • From the L: R. Roger Remington, Professor of Graphic Design from the Vignelli Center for Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Emanuele Amendola, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in DC and Professor Elisabetta d’Amanda, also from RIT
    Art & Culture

    Design is One: The Vignelli Legacy

    Photographs, sketches, book covers, maps, and brochures lined the walls of the exhibit, demonstrating the range of media and scope their work covered. New York City and Washington, D.C.’s iconic subway maps, Bloomingdale’s department store graphics, and the interior of St. Peter’s Church in Manhattan were just a few of the well-known designs the Vignelli’s created. Furniture, plate ware, clothes, jewelry, books on animal anatomy and brochures for the U.S. National Parks, all seemingly unconnected items, came together in the exhibit on Massimo and Lella Vignelli. Even the chairs and coffee table on the stage were Vignelli-designed.

    R. Roger Remington, Professor of Graphic Design from the Vignelli Center for Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology, spoke as a long-time friend during his lecture. He recalled Massimo Vignelli’s quirks, such as when he began his career at Unimark International in Chicago after studying in Milan and Venice. Vignelli had all of his employees dress in white lab coats, because “just as a patient goes to a doctor to get better, a client goes to a designer so the designer can make them better.”

    Remington also recalled the deep love and respect Massimo had for Lella. He was frustrated by the lack of respect Lella received from contractors, and that newspaper accolades failed to mention her contribution to their work. Massimo believed that the list of successful women in architecture and design was too short.

    Professor Elisabetta d’Amanda, also from RIT, spoke about Lella Vignelli’s role and her experience as a woman in design. There was clarity and simplicity in Lella’s work - for her there was “no room for meaningless design.” She was busy as both a mother and a designer, and “she did all this and did it so well,” according to Massimo. Professor d’Amanda shared more of Massimo’s reflections on Lella, such as how she was “a role model for all women in professional contact with her.”

    In the almost 60-year span that Massimo and Lella Vignelli spent together designing, Remington emphasized the passion and joy both brought to their work. The title of the book Design is One could have many meanings. After all, the pair was talented at designing so many different products. The concept of “design is one” derived from Bauhaus, a German art school that Massimo Vignelli referenced often, according to Remington. Vignelli Associates was a unified creative endeavor that could design anything.

    The exhibit is on display at the Italian Embassy until April 29 at the Embassy of Italy in Washington, D.C.

  • Art & Culture

    The Art of the Brick

    Sawaya attended NYU School of Law and became an attorney. However, tired of sitting in a boardroom negotiating contracts, Sawaya rediscovered the beloved Lego bricks and began to create what is believed to be a revolutionary new art form. It became a way for him to unwind after a long workday.

    Born in Colville, Washington and raised in Veneta, Oregon, Sawaya’s creative childhoodconsisted of drawing cartoons, writing stories, and of course playing with Legos.

    Years later, he has over 4 million of the tiny, colored bricks in his studios in New York City and Los Angeles. Sawaya started a webpage for his 3-dimensional sculptures, and before long he began receiving orders on commission.  

    Each sculpture takes about three weeks to complete, and his exhibition includes over 80 of his works. This painstaking form of art is beautiful and playful, and elevates an ordinary toy to the level of fine art.  

    "I believe that my works capture the public because Legos are familiar toys. So I propose art that's democratic and accessible to everyone, in which everyone can find his own approach" Sawaya said to ANSA News in an interview.  

    These eye-catching exhibits include recreations of classical masterpieces, such as the Venus de Milo and the Parthenon, which took precisely 30,201 Legos to build.

    Recreations like the Mona Lisa or The Kiss by Klimt “bring children closer to art history, thanks to a language that is appealing to the whole family” Sawaya told ANSA.  

    His touring exhibition has already travelled to Australia, Taiwan, Singapore and China, inspiring artists around the globe. CNN has honored “The Art of the Brick” as “one of the world’s ten must-see exhibitions.” Nathan Sawaya’s ability to reach scale and color perfection, and turn the Lego bricks into something new was an art that Fabio Di Gioia, the show’s curator in Italy was something they “couldn’t deprive” themselves of.

    Sawaya continues to create works of art daily, accepting commission work from individuals and corporations requesting works of art that are unique.

    "Legos belong to our childhood and Sawaya speaks to our deepest self," Di Gioia said, according to ANSA News.

  • Art & Culture

    Italians Can Soon Walk on Water

    After 40 years of living abroad, Christo returned to Italy to present his work, “The Floating Piers,” with Italian art critic and curator Germano Celant in Rome on Wednesday. Christo raised about $11 million to fund the project.

    Viewers will actually be able to walk on top of the artwork, which consists of 200,000 floatable cubes wrapped in fabric for about three miles. Christo’s design becomes an artwork when viewers climb the lush green mountains surrounding the lake and look down on the water.

    This is not Christo’s first project in Italy. Before his wife Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009, they created “Wrapped Fountain and Wrapped Medieval Tower” in Spoleto in 1968. In Milan they created many “Wrapped Monuments” in 1970, and a wrapped Roman wall in 1974.

    Jeanne-Claude and Christo collaborated to create other environmental art projects, such as the wrapping of the Pont Neuf in Paris and the Reichstag in Berlin. In America, Jeanne-Claude and Christo installed 7,503 vinyl gates with saffron-colored nylon panels in Central Park. Called “The Gates,” the work attracted over five million viewers in two weeks. In 1969 they wrapped a million square feet of coastline in Australia, near Sydney.

    Christo’s The Floating Piers is similar to his 1983 work Surrounded Islands, in which 11 small islets in Biscayne Bay, Miami were wrapped in hot pink fabric that rested on the top of the water.  

    The artist recently faced objections to his proposed project in Arkansas, because it may be detrimental to the environment. Despite local activists, a judge recently allowed the six-mile installation, because it complied with environmental regulations.

    According to the news agency ANSA, Christo said: “we do these projects because we think they will be beautiful, they will be exciting, they are physical and experimental.”

    Christo attempted to do the same floating walkway project in Argentina and Japan, but local authorities in Italy were more willing to give him a permit. The process of placing the floatable cubes in the water will begin in May 2016. Christo stated that surrounding the island was Jeanne-Claude’s idea. He told ANSA it “will be a very sexy experience, for the fabric follows the movement of the waves.”

    At the end of the allotted time, the fabric will be taken apart and recycled.

  • Facts & Stories

    Expo Milano 2015. The Kick Off Date is Only a Week Away But ...

     Milan feels more pressure than ever to host an alluring event, since officials are expecting the Expo to produce $10.7 billion euros for the city during a stunted growth in the economy. The fair is also providing 19,000 jobs on site and four times as many jobs off the site. The probable success of the Expo could draw more investors to Milan.

    However, many critics of the Expo from the start accused the organizers of poor, last minute planning. Projects that were supposed to be included in the Expo are not on the itinerary.

    Other newer controversies for the Expo arose over its inclusion of McDonald’s and Coca Cola among its list of partners for the fair as official sponsors, since it was meant to focus on Italy’s pride in its excellent food. These companies do not fit into the theme of the event: “Feeding the planet, energy for life.”

    Exhibitors such as Slow Food, a global organization that strives to keep local food traditions alive with supporters in 150 countries around the world, protested the inclusion of McDonald’s and Coca Cola in the Expo. Including a fast food company gives fair goers the wrong impression about what is good for the body and good for the planet. They said in a statement that including multinational companies implies “feeding the planet or fattening it, caring for it or depleting its resources, seems to be the same thing.”

    Companies like McDonald’s and Coca Cola would want to be involved in an event that focuses on a healthy lifestyle, in order to make their products seem more appealing and linked to health for consumers.

    Expo officials are hopeful that debates, concerts and art exhibitions on the theme of food, as part of the various events, will entice the visitors. The organization said in a statement “with Coca Cola the experience of our visitors will be enhanced through the development of issues such as the food balance.”

    Corruption scandals ( Seven managers and ex-members of parliament were arrested one year ago for alleged attempts to influence public tenders) provoked the Italian government to appoint an anticorruption commissioner to oversee the major public contracts in Italy, Raffaele Cantone. This helped improve the speed of the construction, and workers are finishing 53 pavilions for international groups, 150 restaurants, exhibition areas and an arena. Trees, shrubs and flowers were planted, and roads and passes were set up to lead visitors the six miles from Milan’s center to the Expo. Construction barriers are up all over the city.

    Many shopkeepers in the center of the city have complained that the Expo is too far to benefit from, but shopkeepers close to the site have complained that construction has driven away customers.

    Milan citizens are worrying about the traffic that will invade the city, and the stricter limitations because of the necessary security for the Expo.

    Others are excited that Milan has chosen Leonardo Da Vinci as its “hero.” The city hoped that the spirit of Da Vinci in the atmosphere of the fair would inspire creativity.

    Palazzo Reale, or the Royal Palace of Milan, just opened an exhibition of the iconic Italian artist’s work.

  • Facts & Stories

    Three Italian Films Nominated for the Cannes Film Festival


    The first film is Giovanni “Nanni” Moretti’s Mia Madre (My Mother). Moretti previously won the Palme d’Or in 2001 with his film The Son’s Room. In 2012 he was the festival’s President of the Jury. Moretti is also a producer, screenwriter and actor. 

    John Turturro, an American actor, stars in the film Mia Madre alongside Italian actress Margherita Buy. Buy plays the role of a director shooting a film with an American actor protagonist while her mother is dying in the hospital. She has just separated from her husband, Victor, and is also trying to raise her teenage daughter Livia.

    The second Italian film is Oscar-winner Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth. The film is in English, and stars American actor Harvey Keitel and English actor Michael Caine. Caine plays the role of a retired orchestra conductor who is on vacation in the Alpine mountains when he is asked to perform for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip.

    Sorrentino was nominated for the Palme d’Or for his 2004 film The Consequences of Love and won an Oscar for The Great Beauty in 2013.

    Matteo Garrone’s film Il Racconto dei Racconti (The Tale of Tales) was also nominated for the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is comprised of interwoven stories starring Mexican and American actress Salma Hayek, French actor Vincent Cassel and Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher. It is based on a collection of stories by 17th century Neapolitan author Giambattista Basile, and also in English.

    Garrone’s Gomorrah, a film adaption of an award-winning book by Roberto Saviano, was nominated for the Palme d’Or and won the Gran Prix at Cannes in 2008. He won the Sacher d’Oro, an award sponsored by Moretti, with the short film Silhouette. Garrone won Best Director at the European Film Awards and at the David di Donatello awards for Gomorrah. His film Reality won the Gran Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012.

    The three directors stated “we are happy and proud to represent Italy at the next Cannes festival. We’re aware that it’s a great opportunity for us and for the whole of Italian cinema.”

    Festival director Thierry Fremaux said that Sorrentino and Garrone’s choice of filming in English emphasizes that “English is the Esperanto… a world language, not necessarily tied to just one country.”

    Culture Minster Dario Franceschini commented “the Cannes Film Festival programmers’ selection of three Italian films for competition is a reward to our cinema, which is speaking to the world once again.” 

  • Facts & Stories

    Pizza Makers from Pizzeria Brandi in Naples Celebrates the Expo in Milan


    What better way to celebrate the Expo in Milan than by creating a new pizza, one of Italy’s most delicious and popular foods? Of course, it was designed in the home of pizza, Naples.

    This past Thursday, pizza makers from the Pizzeria Brandi baked the first Neapolitan “controlled designation of the origin" pizzas. It serves as the symbol of the Expo world fair in Milan, whose theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.”

    Pizzeria Brandi is also supposedly the place where Italy’s iconic margherita pizza was first created.

    Originally, pizza was known as a dish for poor people, sold in the street. The story goes that in June of 1889, to honor the Queen of the consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, the Neapolitan pizza maker Raffaele Esposito created “Pizza Margherita.” The pizza had bright red tomatoes, white mozzarella, and green basil to represent the national colors of Italy and the Italian flag.

    The pizza makers were inspired by the farmers’ association Coldiretti to use all local specialties, such as buffalo mozzarella from Campania, Sorrento extra virgin olive oil, San Marzano tomatoes and Vesuvio cherry tomatoes. All of these classic ingredients follow the European Union’s system of geographical indications.

    The pizza for the Expo also represents the national identity of Italy, and reminds consumers of the importance of Italy’s agricultural business. Too often pizza served today is made using stored curd from Eastern Europe instead of milk, tomatoes from America or China, Spanish olive oil instead of Italian extra virgin and French, German or Ukrainian flour instead of flour made from Italian wheat according to Roberto Moncalvo, the president of Coldiretti. These replacements make Italy’s iconic food lack Italian authenticity, as well as destroy employment opportunities. The Neapolitan “DOC” pizza for the Expo is a refreshing use of traditional and local materials. 

    Only six in ten pizza makers in Italy are Italian, and there are 6,000 available pizza-making jobs all over. 100,000 people are employed regularly, while another 50,000 are hired on the weekends.

    It is no coincidence that the pizza was created on the same day the Italian UNESCO commission was expected to pass a proposal to include the art of the traditional Neapolitan pizza maker in the UN cultural organization’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

    The campaign to include the art of the Neapolitan pizza maker on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage was started in March of 2011 with the strong support of Coldiretti and former agriculture and environment minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio.

    Coldiretti stated that the “inclusion of pizza in the UNESCO list protects a business that generates 10 billion euros in Italy alone, in the roughly 63,000 pizzerias and take-away joints, outlets serving pizza by the slice and providing home delivery.” Five million pizzas are baked every day in Italy, leading up to a total of 1.5 billion pizzas a year. 

    A curiosity: according Società Dante Alighieri  'pizza' is the most famous Italian word in the word, followed by 'cappuccino', 'spaghetti' and 'espresso'.

  • Life & People

    Italian Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti Tweets to Support Earth Hour


    Samantha Cristoforetti, Italy’s first female astronaut, was born in Milan on April 26th, 1977. She attended high school at Liceo Scientifico in Trenta, Italy, and spent a year as an exchange student in the United States. In 2001 she graduated from the Technische Universität in Munich, Germany with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and specializations in aerospace propulsion and lightweight structures.

    After graduating, Cristoforetti joined the Italian Air Force Academy in Pozzuoli, Italy, and graduated in 2005. During her time there, she was class leader and awarded the Honor Sword for best academic achievement. As part of her training, she completed a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical sciences at the University of Naples Federico II, Italy, in 2005.

    Cristoforetti was based at Sheppard Air Force in Texas, USA for a year. While there she completed the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training, and became a fighter pilot. She was assigned to the 132nd Squadron, 51st Bomber Wing, based in Istrana, Italy.

    A year later, in 2007, she completed Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals training, flew the MB-339 and served in the Plan and Operations Section. By 2008 Cristoforetti had joined the 101st Squadron, 32nd Bomber Wing, based at Foggia, Italy. This was where she completed operational conversion training for the AM-X ground attack fighter.

    Cristoforetti is a Captain in the Italian Air Force. She has logged over 500 hours flying six different types of military aircraft, such as the SF-260, T-37, T-38, MB-339CD and AM-X.

    In May 2009, Cristoforetti was selected as a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut. She immediately joined in September of that year and completed basic astronaut training in November of 2010. In July of 2012 she was assigned to an Italian Space Agency mission on the International Space Station.

    On the 23rd of November in 2014, Cristoforetti was launched on a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the second long-duration ASI mission and the eighth long-duration mission for an ESA astronaut.

    Cristoforetti is now living and working on the International Space Station as part of her Futura mission. The name “Futura” was chosen to highlight the science and technology research she will run to help shape our future.

    While on the International Space Station, she enjoys communicating with fellow space enthusiasts on Twitter as @AstroSamantha. On Thursday, she tweeted her support of Earth Hour, a World Wildlife Fund mobilization against climate change. It asks that everyone around the world turn of their lights on Saturday from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

    Cristoforetti tweeted “Join us at #EarthHour” with a picture of herself holding a sign that says “Change climate change.”

    Join millions around the globe and across time zones by turning off your lights on Saturday, March 28th  from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm as a symbolic gesture against climate change.