Articles by: Marina Melchionda

  • Life & People

    2008 Economic Crisis. How Devastating is “The Perfect Storm”?

    How deep is this economic crisis? How long will it last? How is it going to affect our future, and how can we prevent other economic downturns?

    These and many other questions are tormenting our minds in this tough moment of recession, questions to which we cannot find any answer on our own. We are affected by this economic crisis in every possible way, our friends and relatives are losing their jobs, our favorite brands are disappearing, the banks, when they do not go bankrupt, don’t grant loans as easily as before. What to do?

    We have to ask experts, and trust their opinions. Make our own decisions based on their advice. We need to know what is going to happen.

    The Italian American Chamber of Commerce is promptly responding to this demand by organizing a series of encounters with the major experts in the field for its members. “In this particular moment, we feel the need to reinforce our activities and offer our members a reference point where they can find valuable advice and support”, explained Prof. Ammendola to us. Prof. Amendola teaches International Business at New York University.

    The conference “The 2008 Financial Crisis-The Perfect Storm”, held on May 19 at IACC’s Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, saw the Italian-American business leader Joseph Grano in conversation with Prof. Giuseppe Ammendola, IACC Economic Advisor. They debated before a wide audience, made up of some of the major representatives of the Italian-American business world in New York. Many members of the directory board of IACC were also there, among whom President Alberto Comini and Secretary General Franco de Angelis. With them Rino Gradassi, economic expert at the Italian Consulate General in New York; and Marco Martella, Director of the North American branch of Banca d’Italia

    Frank D. Desiderio, Tariffs & Trade Law Advisor at IACC, introduced Mr. Joseph Grano listing his numerous qualifications and briefly tracing his long career. Chairman and CEO of Centurion Holdings LLC, a company that advises private and public enterprises, Mr. Grano is a member of the Council for the United States and Italy, and a member of the City University of New York’s Business Leadership Council.  Moreover, from 2001 to 2004, Mr. Grano was Chairman of UBS Financial Services Inc. and served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD).

    Together with Prof. Ammendola, he put forth a number of issues of common interest, defining the current crisis as “the perfect storm”, one that can sweep away the pillars on which the contemporary world economy is based. 

    We will briefly summarize what Mr. Grano had to say about the current down-turn, looking at its causes and consequences on America as a world power

    “Next to the crash of 1986, this crisis is the worst I have ever seen. It is the result of a combination of different political decisions, the first one of which dates back to 1999, when our Congress decided to lower credit standards, allowing institutions to grant mortgages to people that otherwise would not be able to buy a home”. After these first considerations, Mr. Grano went on explaining the other circumstances that brought us to this final crash, from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that shocked the American financial markets, to the costs associated with our military engagements of the last years.

    How do we get out of this? That is the question we all asked ourselves after his deep analysis. Mr. Grano answered by saying “If Obama’s stimulus package will bring 2 to 3 million Americans back to work, we will slowly come out of this crisis, and our GDP will soon grow by 2-3%. But if it will not, we have ahead of us another couple of years of great recession, with a percentage of unemployment equal to 10%”. He thus offered us a double perspective, two opposite destinies for the American superpower. However, he concluded showing optimism for the upcoming future: “this recession will never be comparable to the Great Depression and the United States will remain the strongest economic power in the world. Believe it or not, the dollar will get stronger, not weaker”.

    His greatest concern? The current administration’s strong intervention in the economic life of the country: “I am a little bit concerned about this. Yes, I am persuaded that there should be greater control than the one we had with the

    former President, but I don’t think that nationalizing companies is the solution we should look for.” Instead, he suggested, we should promote the reduction of of commercial banks in the country from 8.000 to at least 4.000 and allow a more extensive control over their activities, avoiding an excessive deregulation of the financial markets.

    And what about the real market? Americans have carried on an extremely expensive life style that has ultimately increased the foreign National debt - a situation to which the government responded by “creating” money by selling Treasury bonds to Japan and China. The situation, as Mr. Grano explained, is difficult to manage and can menace the stability of the American economy on the long run. This especially if we look at the empowerment of three other currencies: the euro, which has acquired more stability than it was ever thought it would; the yen; and the petrodollar in Middle East.

    Is the growth of new powers dangerous for America’s economic hegemony? According to Mr. Grano, if America wants to maintain its control on the world market, it must learn to accept the growth of new economic centers, even if these do not respect or adhere to “the American model” of free market and democratic policies. This has been the greatest mistake made by the past Administration, and has weakened the National “soft power” and, consequently, its “hard power”. Obama is now trying to offer the world a new profile of the American foreign economic policies, while the Bush administration was perceived as going, transforming America in an “arrogant” hegemonic power.  The growth of these powers, however, could also result in an  advantage for American exporters. China, as an example, is slowly becoming a capitalist economy, although it still has a very controlled agenda. The so called phenomenon of “growing expectations” will transform the Chinese population in millions of potential consumers, with a consequent growing demand of goods from abroad: “I see potential benefits coming from the ascendance of new economic powers as the United States could find new markets where to export, thus benefiting our manufacturing sector”.

    After he offered us his vision on the current economic situation, Mr. Grano responded to questions posed by the audience. In particular, President Comini asked him to share with us his opinion on the recent merge between Fiat and Chrysler. He showed optimism, stressing that Fiat will find in the United States a great demand for its models, remarkable for both design and technology. “Fiat is becoming a world leader in its field. It is now in negotiation to buy Germany’s Opel too. We will witness an increasing specialization in the manufactory industry, with the different economic regions producing a narrow range of products, of which they will detain almost a monopoly. Italy, of course, will contribute to the reinforcement of the Euro region with excellent realities such as Fiat in the automobile sector”.

    Finally, Mr. Grano dedicated his final words to the role Italians have played in the growth of

    America as a world power. “We have been essential contributors to the enforcement of this economic engine. We should be much more compact as a group, we should become a strong community. I am committed to founding a new Italian-American museum in New York, a tribute to our ancestors. Every other ethnic group in this city has a big one, we deserve it too”.

    Mr. Grano believes that a good part of his success in life is due to the values his Italian parents have passed down to him, and thus he believes in the importance of spreading and teaching them to the new generations. He has transformed this belief in a goal to achieve, and pursued it throughout his life. In 1996, indeed, he received the “Bellissima America” award for his leadership role in preserving the heritage of Italian-Americans.

    We had the occasion to talk to him right after the debate  ended and we discussed the effects of the crisis on the Italian economy. Although the Italian National Product has decreased by 5.9 points, he showed great respect and appreciation for the economic policies implemented by the Italian government. He stressed that Berlusconi is “the right man at the right time, he has the character and charisma to stand up. He has done for the country more than anybody had done before”. To him, he is a businessman that can run Italy as an enterprise: “the point is that politics nowadays is a lot about economy”.

    We finally talked to Professor Ammendola who explained to us how he sees his responsibilities as the Economic Advisor of IACC evolving. “It is hard to make exact previsions on the length and real incidence of this recession and its future impact on the world economy. But our commitment is to closely analyze its evolution and do my best to offer advise and support to our members. The IACC is doing much in this regard: at our seminars our members can hear eminent speakers such as Mr. Grano and experience significant intellectual stimuli by interacting with them”. 

  • Art & Culture

    Recounting, Describing and Denouncing Reality in NYC

    The Tuscany region is in New York to celebrate the Italian National Day. Among the initiatives scheduled, the New York Documentary Film Festival will take place from May 27 to May 31 at the Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10003). This year’s edition was presented at the Italian Cultural Institute of New York today, May 26.

    Simonetta Magnani, Cultural Attaché at the Italian Cultural Institute, welcomed the numerous Italian and American journalists attending the Press Conference and introduced the organizers of the Festival: Giorgio Bonsanti, President,  Francesco Fadda, Vice-President of the Fitzgerald Foundation of Florence, and Luciano Barisone, Director of the Festival. Mrs. Magnani also read the greetings sent by the Director of the Italian Cultural Institute Renato Miracco who could not attend the event: “It is a great pleasure to support and collaborate with this new edition of the New York Documentary Festival, organized and produced by the Fitzgerald Foundation of Florence and Festival dei Popoli – International Documentary Film Festival, and supported by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. I would like to congratulate the organizers and wish great success to the Festival dei Popoli”.

    It was Mr. Fadda who, right after the screening of the video presentation of this year’s edition, explained to us the history of the Festival and told us something more about the calendar of the movies to be presented in these upcoming days.
    We learned that the Festival was founded in 1959 as an initiative devoted to promoting and studying social documentary cinema. In fifty years, the collection has grown into an unparalleled

    treasure of documentary films covering the history of non-fiction filmmaking. The 2009 program, organized in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute, Mediateca Regionale Toscana Film Commission, Regione Toscana, and Toscana Promozione, and presented by Tribeca Film Institute – Reframe Collection, the New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT), and the Producers Guild of America, features three sections of documentaries with a total of 18 films, and also commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Festival’s first edition.
    The first section, “A tribute to Albert Maysles”, honors the famous director’s long-term relationship with the Festival and his contributions to the documentary as an art form. Maysles will present three of his less-known movies: his first production “Psychiatry in Russia”, “With Love from Truman”, and “Meet Marlon Brando”, to whom the opening night of the Festival on May 27 will be dedicated.
    The second section, “Italian Chronicles”, is completely dedicated to the Italian documentary tradition. Three award-winning Italian documentary filmmakers , also with us at the Press Conference, will show the New York public the best of their works: Alina Marazzi will present her “We Want Roses Too” and “For One More Hour With You”; Leonardo di Costanzo his “Trial of State”, and Bruno Oliviero his “Napoli Piazza Municipio”. These two latter also collaborated in the production of “Odessa”, which will also be shown during these days.
    Finally, the third section “Fifty Years of Documentary (50th!)”, is a selection of nine of the best documentaries of the last 50 years from the Festival dei Popoli’s archive, featuring iconic International authors such as Agnès Varda (Mur Murs), Alan Berliner (Nobody’s Business), Artavazd Pelechian (The Seasons), and Volker Koepp (Holunderblut).
    The Consul General of Italy Francesco Maria Talò is one of the major supporters of this initiative: “Last year we launched the idea of bringing the Festival dei Popoli to New York, it was an experiment but it went so well that we decided to do it again. Tuscany and Florence, the “crib of Renaissance”, are reaffirming theirselves as ambassadors of culture throughout the world and at the highest level. The Documentary Festival not only demonstrates its ability to produce culture, but also to function as a catalyst of international projects and exports them throughout the world. Tuscany is thus covering the same role it had during the Renaissance Era, and I am proud to support the Festival”.
    “We are the oldest documentary Film Festival in Europe, promoting a genre that powerfully represents reality through the eyes of its directors. They are inspired by the environment surrounding them, by the people (and peoples) they meet. That is why we named this initiative Festival dei Popoli: everything comes from the people, and we have to give back to them”, said President Giorgio Bonsanti, who also added with pride that “Tuscany is affirming itself as a new pole for cinema production in Italy. Historically speaking Rome, Milan and Turin have always covered this role concerning fiction and movies. Documentaries has never been too popular in Italy, but thanks to this initiative and its international resonance, the sector is slowly acquiring prestige and consensus”. 
    The director of the Festival, Luciano Barisone, explained that times have been hard for documentary directors in Italy since the government always tended to devolve public financings to other mass media, especially the TV.  But something is finally changing. We would define this evolution as the “democratization of documentary production”, since nowadays every one can potentially produce high-quality works at a relatively low cost”.

    Italians really knew how to get the best from technological modernization, and achieve great results with very little means. To this regard, Mr. Fadda finally commented on the success of Italian documentary in the United States: “Many Italian directors have already a wide public here in America. The young directors we are presenting this evening have captured the attention of the Tribeca Film Institute and of the other sponsors of this edition, which have accepted to support us mainly because of the high quality of the films we have on the agneda.”
    Is the documentary a means to denounce or to recount reality? We interviewed two of the three directors present for the occasion, asking them what is the message they want to hand down to the public through their work. Both Leonardo di Costanzo and Bruno Oliviero come from Naples, the city to which all their works are dedicated. “I want to demonstrate to people abroad the beauties of my city, its history, its culture”, said Mr. Oliviero. “Naples is at the center of many scandals nowadays. It is internationally known for Camorra organized crime and the garbage scandal. But my city is much more than this. In 1975 writer and journalist Pier Paolo Pasolini said that Naples was the last place in the world were you could still find ‘genuine’ people. I believe that it is still the same, and I hope that my people will preserve these characteristics that make them so special and inspire my work”.
    “I could not film anything outside of Naples’ borders”, added Mr. di Costanzo. “I have always represented my city which is a melting pot of many different worlds and cultures. I am particularly proud of “Odessa”, the documentary I directed with my colleague di Costanzo. My next project will still be focused on Naples, the city for which I became a documentary filmmaker. At first, I wanted to be a teacher. But there is way too much to tell when you live in Naples…”
    Stories, experiences, accusations: the Festival will present all of this to the city of New York, and much, much more.
    Moreover, it is also a high-quality initiative that enhances the prestige of Tuscany worldwide, as Mr. Fadda finally commented: “It’s not by chance that we came here with the delegation from Tuscany in occasion of the celebrations for the Italian National Day. The region is using this opportunity to promote its beauties and products, attracting a potentially great number of tourists who will come and visit our breathtaking attractions very soon in the future. At the same time, we are showing the world another aspect of Italian excellence that today is still pretty much unknown to the great public : Italian documentary tradition and production”.
    New York Documentary Film Festival

    May 27 (7:00 pm)

    7:00 PM Opening Night
    (TRIBUTE TO ALBERT MAYSLES) MEET MARLON BRANDO, by Albert Maysles (USA, 1966, 28') with Albert Maysles in-person
    9:00 PM (50TH!) DEAD BIRDS, by Robert Gardner (USA, 1963, 28')

    May 28 (7:00 pm)

    7:00 PM (50TH!) THE SEASONS, by Artavazd Pelechian (URSS, 1972, 28')
    (ITALIAN CHRONICLES) ODESSA, by Leonardo Di Costanzo and Bruno Oliviero (Italy/France, 2006, 67') with Leonardo Di Costanzo and Bruno Oliviero in-person
    9:00 PM (50TH!) UKU UKAI, by Audrius Stonys (Lithuania, 2006, 30')
    (ITALIAN CHRONICLES) NAPOLI PIAZZA MUNICIPIO, by Bruno Oliviero (Italy/France, 2008, 55') with Bruno Oliviero in-person

    May 29 (7:oo pm)

    7:00 PM (50TH!) 10 MINUTES OLDER, by Herz Frank (Latvia, 1978, 10')
    (ITALIAN CHRONICLES) FOR ONE MORE HOUR WITH YOU, by Alina Marazzi (Italy, 2002, 55') with Alina Marazzi in-person
    9:00 PM (ITALIAN CHRONICLES) WE WANT ROSES TOO, by Alina Marazzi (Italy, 2007, 85') with Alina Marazzi in-person

    May 30, (4:30 pm)

    4:30 PM (50TH!) MUR MURS, by Agnès Varda (France, 1980, 90')
    6:30 PM (50TH!) SCASTJE (PARADISE), by Sergei Dvortsevoj (Russia/Kazakhstan, 1995, 23')
    (50TH!) NOBODY'S BUSINESS, by Alan Berliner (USA, 1996, 60')
    8:30 PM (50TH!) A NECESSARY MUSIC, by Beatrice Gibson (USA/UK, 2008, 20')
    (ITALIAN CHRONICLES) A SCUOLA (AT SCHOOL), by Leonardo Di Costanzo (Italy, 2003, 62') with Leonardo Di Costanzo in-person

    May 31, (4:30 pm)

    4:30 PM (ITALIAN CHRONICLES) PROVE DI STATO, by Leonardo Di Costanzo (France/Italy, 1998, 83') with Leonardo Di Costanzo in-person
    6:30 PM (50TH!) HOLUNDERBLÜTE, by Volker Koepp (Germany, 2007, 98')
    8:30 PM (TRIBUTE TO ALBERT MAYSLES) PSYCHIATRY IN RUSSIA, by Albert Maysles (USA, 1955 ,14')


    The New York Documentary Film Festival will take place  at the Anthology Film Archives  (32 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10003).

  • Nemo Propheta in Patria. Marco Albonetti, storia di un sassofonista emigrante

    Nemo propheta in patria. In un antico proverbio, la storia di Marco Albonetti. La storia di un musicista di talento che deve lasciare l'Italia per avere la possibilità di coltivare la sua passione e farsi conoscere dal grande pubblico. La raccontiamo non perchè è un caso unico, raro, al contrario. Il suo percorso lo avvicina a molti suoi colleghi, cantanti, artisti, musicisti, cui successo all'estero non è preceduto nè trova seguito in quello italiano, perchè come dicono spesso "in Italia non c'è spazio". Spazio per cosa? Perchè i nostri talenti sono costretti ad "esportarsi", a fuggire? Cerchiamo di capirlo attraverso Marco, attraverso la sua storia di uomo e di artista.

    Ce l'ha raccontata lui stesso, quando lo abbiamo incontrato lo scorso marzo a New York. Era in città, in quel periodo, per presentare il suo ultimo lavoro, "Astor Place", un sax e un pianoforte per far rivivere le "Four Seasons in Buenos Airos" di Astor Piazzolla.
    Eravamo anche noi al Carnegie Hall quella sera. Non lo conoscevamo fino a quel momento, ma ci chiedevamo "cosa avesse" questo musicista per "meritare" una cornice come quella, un teatro famoso a Manhattan e senza dubbio il sogno di molti suoi colleghi. Insieme a noi, un pubblico folto, misto, giovani, intellettuali, businessmen ed anziani signori e signore che di quel teatro hanno fatto un punto di incontro. Seduta accanto a noi, una giovane donna orientale in pelliccia, elegante, affascinante nel suo sguardo assorto sul palco. Nelle file davanti un allegro settantenne pronto ad alzarsi ed applaudire ogni qualvolta la musica si interrompeva, lasciando al nostro sassofonista e alla pianista Vicky Schaetzinger un attimo di respiro tra un pezzo e l'altro. 
    Una performance durata quasi due ore per un pubblico, al termine della quale Marxo ha ricevuto dal pubblico in sala una standing ovation accalorata, di diversi minuti. Riaccese le luci in teatro, molti aspettavano impaziente che uscisse dalle quinte per incontrarlo e complimentarsi con lui a tu per tu. Noi eravamo tra questi, e lo abbiamo avvicinato. Vestito di scuro, aspetto distinto, ci accoglie sorridendo quando ci presentiamo e gli chiediamo un'intervista: vogliamo che ci racconti della sua storia, della sua musica, della sua passione per Piazzolla.
    "Tutte le volte che suono negli Stati Uniti trovo sempre un pubblico molto caloroso, veramente incredibile. Per me il Carnegie Hall è quasi un luogo sacro, e sentire quei lunghi applausi già dalla prima composizione mi ha dato tanta energia, pura emozione". Inizia così la nostra chiacchierata al telefono, con l'entusiasmo che lo lega ancora a quella sera appena trascorsa. Ma non appena gli chiediamo del suo Paese, dell'Italia, la sua voce diventa più pacata, è quella di un artista deluso, stanco di una realtà che non l'ha cercato e in cui non si ritrova.
    Stanco di dover fuggire, di emigrare, per lavorare e "mangiare":  "ho la mia attività da solista quasi tutta all’estero, parlo del 95%". Quando gliene chiediamo il motivo, lui quasi tentenna all'inizio. Forse parlare in certi termini del suo Paese gli risulta ancora difficile, ma poi si fa coraggio e comincia a raccontare, quasi uno sfogo: "Mah, non lo so. So solo che da quando sono venuto negli Stati Uniti ho visto la mia vita migliorare di anno in anno. Esiste un sistema meritocratico qui. Io facevo le audizioni, le vincevo e andavo avanti. Non ho mai trovato situazioni dove in cui ci fosse qualcuno davanti a me che non fosse bravo. Negli Stati Uniti l’italiano è comunque ben visto come artista, ed è una cosa che noi italiani ci portiamo dietro più o meno in tutto il mondo. E ci giochiamo anche un pò. Questo grazie soprattutto a chi ha fatto la storia italiana, i nostri grandi musicisti del passato che hanno trovato nel nostro stesso Paese un'occasione di fama internazionale. Attualmente, invece, soprattutto negli ultimi anni, tutti gli artisti, i ricercatori, insomma tutta la gente in gamba italiana, non vivono in Italia."
    Anche il concerto al Carnegie, come ci racconta Marco, è stato frutto di uno sforzo personale che ha trovato solo nel centro studi di Stony Brook il supporto necessario: " Il mio spettacolo è stato organizzato, presentato e sponsorizzato dal Centro Studi della State University of New York at Stony Brook, da Gino e Carolyn Balducci, con la mia visione dall’Italia. Viaggio e albergo sono stati pagati dalla Stony Brook. ( avevamo chiesto aiuto all Istituto di Cultura per questo ma a causa di tagli del buget superiori al 20%, come mi hanno spiegato, non sono riusciti a fare molto). Ringrazio Gino e Caroline per il loro straordinario lavoro di networking".
    Quando comincia a raccontarci del suo lavoro, degli incarichi che ha in Italia e quelli, prestigiosi, che ricopre all'estero, il ritmo della conversazione diventa più incalzante, il suo è un discorso di chi vuole far scoprire l'Italia della musica a chi non la vive: "Pensa che ad oggi faccio attività in Cina a Taiwan, ed in alcune città del Sud America e in Russia. Ho lavorato anche al conservatorio di Berlino e di San Pietroburgo, attualmente sono commissario esterno nei programmi di dottorato presso la Sibelius Academy di Helsinki, che è la più moderna d’Europa. Faccio tutta questa serie di cose in giro per il mondo, mentre in Italia sono legato ad un conservatorio del sud d'Italia dove mi fanno insegnare in delle aule senza riscaldamento, con la muffa nei muri, trattato a pesci in faccia. In un ambiente milmcome quello italiano purtroppo c’è questa mentalità non dico di razzismo, ma del tipo ‘Sei giovane, stai zitto’, che ti costringe ad ingoiare il rospo e andare avanti".
    Ma perchè non provi almeno a cambiare conservatorio in Italia per trovarne uno in cui potrai stare meglio? gli chiediamo. "Il problema è che il sistema di trasferimento non è meritocratico. Ho provato a fare domanda, ma è praticamente impossibile, perchè tu puoi trasferirti o per anzianità di servizio, oppure ti trasferiscono se per dire hai famiglia o figli, è tutto un gioco di punteggi che non ha niente a che fare con la tua attività artistica. Un altro motivo è che tra i sassofonisti italiani sono l’unico che ha il master e il dottorato negli Stati Uniti, che in Italia non è riconosciuto. Ma se persino un’università come la Sibelius Academy, che ha un programma tra i più moderni d’Europa, mi invita a essere commissario riconoscendomi i miri titoli, perchè Italia questo nob succede? (...) Purtroppo ritrovo anche in molti miei colleghi la mia storia. Conosco molti italiani arrivati negli Stati Uniti partendo dal nulla, con un sogno e una gran voglia di fare, ed alcuni di questi, i più bravi, riescono veramente ad ottenere grandi cose. Però poi non possono portare la loro esperienza in Italia, perchè ti tagliano le gambe".

    Tutto questo, racconta Marco, per un solo motivo, una sola passione: il sax. Una passione che diventa talento, studio, e lo porta fin qui e ancora avanti.

    Il suo amore per questo strumento nasce in giovanissima età, quando era bambino e andava a scuola dalle suore:  "Il collegio che frequentavo si chiamava Santa Umiltà di Faenza. La mia maestra suonava il pianoforte e organizzava sempre una piccolo orchestrina all’interno della classe. Un giorno venne a trovarci un maestro, che per fare una donazione lasciò alla scuola un sassofono e una tromba. Fu chiesto a tutti noi se ci sarebbe piaciuto suonare uno di quegli strumenti, e io ho alzato subito la mano per il sassofono. È stata una cosa assolutamente istintiva, perchè ero attratto dalla forma dello strumento, questa forma a pipa. Poi naturalmente è iniziato a piacermi tantissimo anche il suono, forse perchè è lo strumento che si avvicina di più alla voce umana, uno strumento molto versatile, si adatta al classico al jazz, al tango, alla musica pop."

    Ancora bambino, a 9 anni Marco suona per Papa Wojtyla, un'esibizione che lo segna particolarmente e gli dà la spinta per andare avanti, e a iscriversi dapprima ad una scuola di musica di Faenza e poi a fare un’audizione per entrare nel conservatorio di Pesaro. " Da lì ho preso il diploma, poi, avendo avuto sempre questo sogno di venire negli Stati Uniti, a 23 anni sono partito mantenendo la cattedra anche in Italia. Il mio amore per l'America lo coltivavo da anni, da quando facevo lezione con il mio maestro nella piccola scuola di musica che frequentavo da bambino.  Mi fece imparare una melodia, poi mi portò in una classe dove c’era lezione di clarinetto e mi fece suonare…fu lì che il maestro mi disse 'ricorda che se vuoi diventare bravo, devi andare a studiare in America'. Una cosa che mi ha colpito tanto, e con queste parole in mente son partito, senza sapere l’inglese, e ho conseguito il Master of Music Degree alla  Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Da lì poi ho imparato l’inglese, ho fatto le audizioni per entrare nel programma di Master e sempre con le stesse audizioni sono diventato assistente. Due  anni dopo la fine del Master, volendo rimanere negli Stati Uniti, visto che l’unica soluzione era rimanere continuando come studente, mi sono iscritto sempre facendo le audizioni al programma di dottorato, che ho conseguito alla Michigan State University".
    Con i suoi numerosi titoli, Marco è tornato infine in Italia, dove ha sperato ma non ottenuto il meritato riconoscimento. Nel corso degli anni è riuscito però a conquistare due traguardi, di cui parla con orgoglio. Il primo è la sua collaborazione con Milva, considerata la più grande interprete di Astor Piazzolla a livello internazionale. Con lei quest'anno è in tour per il Paese con ‘Variante di Lunenburg’, una produzione del Teatro di Gorizia.
    Il secondo è un impegno che porta avanti da ormai dieci anni, che lo vede direttore artistico del Festival Internazionale del Sassofono di Faenza, la città dove vive: " Si tiene ogni anno a luglio. E' un lavoro a 360 gradi, e vi partecipano maestri specializzati in musica di ogni genere, dal contemporanea, al jazz, all'etnico. Ne ho già diretto 10 edizioni, questa è l’undicesima. Le affianco di solito  ad una sorta di seminario, che dura una settimana, dove giovani studenti (prevalentemente stranieri) fanno lezione per 7/8 ore al giorno. Diversi tra quelli che hanno partecipato ai nostri programmi negli scorsi anni si sono fatti onore poi vincendo concorsi in tutto il mondo. Adesso addirittura ricoprono ruoli di docenza, in università e conservatori esteri: sono molto fiero di loro.   Quest’anno , visto tutti i tagli in finanziamenti pubblici che abbiamo avuto, ho deciso di dedicare a loro l'intero evento richiamandoli a suonare in Italia. Saranno bellissime serate di concerto". 
    Marco è dunque un maestro, un esempio per molti dei suoi colleghi più giovani, ma anche un'artista che cresce. Il suo nuovo album, "Astor Place", è un omaggio al musicista argentino che gli ha ispirato la tesi di dottorato. Sulle note della sua musica è arrivato a Buenos Airos, dove infine ha conosciuto la pianista Vicky Schaetzinger, sua partner in questo progetto: "L'ho conosciuta nel periodo in cui ero a Buenos Aires per fare le mie ricerche sul tango. Andai ad un concerto di Milva, Vicky suonava con lei e mi piacque molto. A distanza di sei mesi venni contattato da Cristina Muti, la moglie del maestro, per programmare una serata al Ravenna Festival, che lei dirige, ed è anche molto vicino al posto in cui vivo. L’idea era quella di fare un programma dedicato alle musiche delle americhe, quindi con compositori del nord America e del sud America.  Decisi di suonare anche ‘Le Quattro Stagioni’ di Piazzolla, che avevo orchestrato per sax soprano, pianoforte e orchestra d’archi; a quel punto mi serviva un pianista che potesse dare la giusta spinta musicale, lo sprint, tutte le varie percussioni che servono, e percio decisi di chiamare Vicky".
    Quest'anno finalmente il Carnegie Hall, dove Marco e Vicky hanno presentato per la prima volta il loro album. Sono partiti da New York non  a caso, perchè è questa la città a cui hanno dedicato il loro "Astor Place":  "Diciamo che questo titolo viene fuori un po’ da un gioco di parole. L’idea è ‘Spazio Astor’ che tradotto in inglese è Astor Place. La cosa buffa è che Astor place, come si può notare anche dalla copertina del cd, rappresenta un segnale stradale di una via, di una fermata della metropolitana di New York, che si trova nella Lower East Manhattan. Dalle singole ricerche fatte su Piazzolla, è venuto fuori che lui ha vissuto a Buenos Aires per i primi anni della sua vita, ma che poi in realtà ha vissuto anche a New York, Roma e Parigi. Era a New York quando era bambino, viveva tra la nona e l’ottava strada, casualmente vicino Astor Place, una piazza presumibilmente dedicata ad un architetto che portava il suo stesso nome. Abbiamo voluto vivere questo gioco di parole, riportare questi intrecci del destino nel nostro ultimo lavoro, il nostro tributo a un musicista che ci ha già portato tanta fortuna".

    Auguriamo sicuramente a Marco la stessa e maggiore fortuna che l'ha portato ad arrivare fin qui, a suonare sui palchi più importanti d'America, del Giappone, di Europa, del mondo. Assistendo ad una sua esibizione, abbiamo avuto modo di appassionarci al suo talento, la sua freschezza, la sua originalità. Ad oggi, crediamo gli resti solo un sogno, un obiettivo per il momento mancato: avere il giusto riconoscimento dalla sua Italia, dal Paese da cui si è visto costretto ad andare via più volte, ma da cui è sempre ritornato. In bocca al lupo, Marco. Continueremo a seguirti.








  • Marco Calliari. Senza frontiere per un cantante figlio di emigranti

    Un italo-canadese che suona il Jazz ma adora la lirica. In passato un metalist, oggi il suo repertorio conta solo classici italiani. Lui è Marco Calliari ed è uno degli artisti che ha collaborato alla realizzazione di “Italia”, un progetto lanciato dall’associazione Putamayo con lo scopo di far conoscere a livello internazionale la tradizione musicale italiana.

    “Italia” è un omaggio ai classici italiani degli anni ’50 e nasce da una collaborazione tra importanti cantanti e cantautori nazionali. Giorgio Conte, Gianmaria Testa, Simone Lo Porto, Alessandro Pitoni, Alessandro Mannarino and Rossomalpelo, Serge Gaggiotti, Lino Straulino Bandabardò, Lu Colombo e altri ancora condividono con Marco il sogno di diffondere e promuovere la musica italiana tra le genti delle più diverse culture. Marco partirà da New York, presentando l’album al Joe’s Pub il 18 Maggio.


    Nato e cresciuto in Québec,  è figlio di genitori italiani immigrati in Nord America circa 50 anni fa. A Montreal ha imparato l’italiano come prima lingua ed ha sempre partecipato attivamente alla vita della comunità italiana locale.
    Nonostante i suoi genitori gli avessero trasmesso un profondo amore per l’Opera, che ascoltava già da quando era molto piccolo, a 14 anni lancia la sua carriera artistica fondando un gruppo heavy metal che lo accompagnerà nei suoi primi viaggi europei. Nel 2004, la svolta: Marco pubblica il suo primo disco italiano, “Che la vita”, un successo che vende più di 25.000 copie, seguito due anni dopo da “Mia dolce vita” (2006). Nell’album, una cover de “L’Americano” riscuote un enorme successo di pubblico e lo rende famoso soprattutto nei Paesi francofoni. 
    La sua carriera è costellata di premi e riconoscimenti, tra cui il Prix Étoiles Galaxie (CBC) ricevuto all’Emerging Music Festival a Rouyn-Noranda nel 2004 e la nomina per miglior album dell’anno (sezione world music) nel 2005 e 2007 al Galà de l’ADISQ. (Association québécoise de l'industrie du disque, du spectacle et de la vidéo)

     Abbiamo parlato con lui.... della sua storia, della sua musica, del suo rapporto con l’Italia.
    Sei figlio di immigranti italiani in Canada. Ci racconti qualcosa di più sulla storia della tua famiglia?
    I miei genitori nacquero entrambi in Italia, mia madre a Milano e mio padre nella Val di Non, vicino Trento. Arrivarono entrambi nel 1961 ma non si conoscevano, si sono incontrati qui. Mia madre decise di emigrare perché il marito di sua sorella, che abitava qui, le aveva

    segnalato l’apertura di un posto di lavoro alla Pirelli. Mio padre invece fu praticamente costretto a partire dall’Italia: in Trentino a quel tempo era molto difficile trovare un lavoro in campagna. Subito dopo di lui, poi, arrivarono anche i suoi quattro fratelli. Lasciarono indietro sono una sorella che, poiché malata, non aveva ottenuto il visto e andò a vivere in un convento a Torino.

    I miei genitori mi hanno cresciuto come un vero bambino italiano, insegnandomi la lingua del mio Paese di origine anche prima di portarmi a visitarlo, quando ero molto piccolo.
    Credi che le tue origini italiane ti abbiano aiutato carriera da musicista?
    Sicuramente. Prima di tutto, non avrei mai avuto una conoscenza così vasta della musica Italiana se non fossi cresciuto in una casa come la mia, dove ho sempre avuto la possibilità di ascoltare Pavarotti e la radio italiana. Poi sono cresciuto sempre a contatto con associazioni italiane, da cui ho imparato la cultura e le tradizioni della mia gente. Anche quando ho fondato il mio gruppo heavy metal a 14 anni sentivo delle influenze italiane in quello che scrivevo, componevo, nelle mie performance.

    Quando hai deciso di abbracciare il jazz italiano e abbandonare il tuo passato da “metallaro”?
    Non fu una decisione spontanea, ma piuttosto il risultato di un lungo processo, di un susseguirsi di eventi in un periodo della mia vita. Quando avevo 20 anni andai in Italia per un mese e mezzo a visitare la parte della mia famiglia rimasta lì. Un giorno andai a mare con un mio cugino di Torino, che mi chiese una volta in spiagga di suonare “qualcosa di mio”. A quel tempo non avevo mai cantato nulla di italiano, piuttosto mi piacevano i Beatles, o alcuni cantanti francesi.
    Conoscevo anche l’Opera, sì, ma non l’avevo mai suonata. Così ero li, davanti a tante persone che ormai si aspettavano di ascoltare della buona musica, ed iniziai con il mio repertorio. Ad un certo punto uno tra i tanti lì intorno gridò: “Ma tu sei italiano, perché non suoni un po’ di musica italiana!”. Questa richiesta mi colpì: quando tornai a Montral, comprai un libro di accordi di classici italiani, tra cui Bella Ciao, Torna a Surriento e O sole mio e cominciai a studiarli. Fu così che nel 2004 scrissi il mio primo album italiano “Che la vita”. Sono riuscito a vendere 25.000 copie di quello, ma il secondo album, “Mia dolce vita”, andò anche meglio. Volevo riproporre i classici italiani nel mio stile, e l’ho fatto…

    Ma quale è il tuo stile?

    È una sorta di mix di ritmi diversi. Quando si cresce in Quebéc, si ha a che fare con francesi, inglesi, spagnoli, italiani. È un ambiente talmente misto che anche la mia musica ne fu influenzata, diventando una sorta di “melting point” tra tarantella, flamenco, jazz, swing, e tanti altri suoni. Perciò definisco la mia una “world music”: è un misto di tante culture diverse in una canzone, in un album, in uno show.


    Quale è il Paese in cui hai più successo?
    Sicuramente nella provincia del Quebec, dove i miei al bum hanno venduto 60.000 copie dal 2004. Lo considero un successo enorme, essendo quella una comunità piccola. Credo di essere apprezzato maggiormente dai francofoni, poiché sono generalmente più aperti alla “novità”. Sono stato il primo a cantare italiano nella mia regione, e lo hanno apprezzato, poiché cantanti italiani della mia generazione o di quelle passate hanno sempre cantato molto di più in francese. Hanno saputo riconoscere il mio tentativo, e amano i miei album. 
    Oggi molti italo-americani o italo-canadesi cantano in italiano in Nord America. Cosa ti differenzia da loro?
    Beh, la loro è prevalentemente musica pop, che riprendono da cantanti contemporanei italiani quali Eros Ramazzotti e Laura Pausini. Questo non è il mio caso, il pop non è nelle mie corde. A me invece piace riprendere gli strumenti tradizionali della musica italiana, la fisarmonica, le percussioni, il mandolino, la chitarra classica. Non farei cover commerciali o scadenti: il mio scopo è modernizzare i classici italiani, non trasformarli fino al punto di non renderli più riconoscibili. Non capisco le persone che dicono: “Non ascolto musica antiquata”. Ma cosa è questa musica antiquata, vecchia? Penso che “vecchio” non sia un termine appropriato per la musica. Non importa quando un pezzo è stato composto, l’unica cosa che conta sono le emozioni che riesce ancora a darti.
    Sei molto famoso nei Paesi francofoni ma suoni in Italia. Ci sono tanti cantanti italiani che ad oggi sono quasi “obbligati” ad andare all’estero per poi diventare famosi nel loro Paese. Tra i cantanti che hanno collaborato alla produzione di “Italia” ce ne sono sicuramente degli esempi. Vedi Gianmaria Testa, che in Francia è riconosciuto da diverso tempo mentre solo o ggi riesce a riscuotere un discreto successo in Italia. Perché secondo te è cosi difficile per le giovani promesse italiane farsi spazio e guadagnare visibilità nel loro Paese?
    Quello che so della cultura italiana è che le persone tendono sempre a seguire in massa “la moda”, senza guardare troppo alla “nuova proposta”, ai giovani talenti. È incredibile vedere quanto siano potenti lì i media, e soprattutto la TV di Stato, la RAI. Il Festival di Sanremo ed altri eventi simili, ad esempio, sono seguiti dalla grande maggioranza della popolazione. “Impongono”, si potrebbe dire, un determinato genere, una canzone, affermando che è la migliore in circolazione. Ma non è affatto vero, le persone dovrebbero capire che Sanremo è solo una gara, e che in giro c’è tanto altro di più, forse di meglio. Gianmaria Testa, Giorgio Conte, Bandabardò, Carmen Consoli, Vinicio Capossela ed altre dozzine e dozzine di miei colleghi forse non saranno mai apprezzati abbastanza. Questo solo perché non vanno spesso in TV o non suonano la radio. Non dico certo che l’Italia sia un caso unico, ma non riesco a pensare a nessun altro Paese dove i media abbiano un potere così grande sull’opinione pubblica. Ed è molto triste perché l’Italia è stata la terra natale di molti bravi artisti poco conosciuti per questo motivo. Quindi l’unica alternativa per loro è andare all’estero, per lo più in Francia, dove sono considerati “diversi” e apprezzati per questo. Lì riescono ad ottenere una certa visibilità nazionale ed internazionale di cui potranno godere in Italia, se vorranno tornarci. 
    Ti è successa la stessa cosa?
    No, il mio è un caso diverso. Non sono propriamente un cantante italiano, sono “figlio di emigranti”, un italiano di seconda generazione. Posso quindi comunicare alle persone cose nuove, diverse e presentargli una nuova cultura, nuovi ritmi, quelli degli Italiani all’estero. Posso regalargli emozioni diverse, non voglio dire più forti, ma diverse.
    Che messaggio vuoi comunicare ai tuoi fan?
    Una delle cose in cui credo di più è che non è necessar io parlare la stessa lingua per counicare e stare bene insieme. Il mio pubblico francofono non conosce l’italiano e non capisce una parola di quello che sto dicendo. Sentono il ritmo, solo questo, e gli piace. Il mio obiettivo è dimostrare al mio pubblico che chiunque può sentirsi italiano. L’”italianità” è un sentimento universale. 
    È proprio la filosofia su cui si basa “Italia”, il progetto a cui hai preso parte…
    Fare parte di quel progetto mi rende molto orgoglioso. Mi sento parte di un gruppo, di una missione tutta italiana di diffondere la nostra tradizione musicale nel mondo. In questo senso, sì, mi sento davvero un cantante italiano, nonostante non sia nato lì e le mie esperienze di vita che non mi hanno sempre portato vicino alle mie origini. Il mio obiettivo è far conoscere la bellezza della musica italiana ai miei amici canadesi. Per questo invito tanti miei colleghi italiani a suonare da noi. Finora Bandabardò eVinicio Capossela sono venuti una volta, Carmen Consoli due. Li stimo, sono l’essenza della musica italiana contemporanea.





  • Art & Culture

    IBLA. Fourteen Young Musicians at the Carnegie Hall

     The Carnegie Hall is vibrant. Pianos, violins, violas, the instruments are ready. Fourteen young, very young musicians are waiting on the other side of the stage, where nobody can see them and their excited faces. Of course, it is not their first concert, but that theatre is one of a kind. It is the dream of every musician, and they got there at this early age.

     Winners of the IBLA Grand Prize, these artists exhibited last summer in Ragusa, Sicily, in occasion of the IBLA World Competition for Pianists, singers, composers and instrumentalists. On that occasion, they were not judged one against the others, but only according to an universal standard of excellence. Soon after their performance in Ragusa, they were offered to play in some of the most important international theatres, among which the Lincoln Center,  the Carnegie Hall, the Tokyo Opera City Hall and the Tchaikovsky Bolshoi Hall in Mosca.

    This spring concert in New York is thus part of a tour that is promoting them throughout the world, thanks to IBLA, a foundation that has been widely recognized for its prestige and attention towards the youngest promises of the music panorama.

    The story of IBLA itself is one that inspires a feeling of rebirth, a novelty that rises from the ruins of the past. Founded at the very beginning of the 1990s, the Foundation became a symbol of reaction in a Sicily where organized crime and discouragement had taken over. Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone, two Italian anti-Mafia magistrates, had just been killed in a bombing and there was a great need to give to younger generations new hope for the future. Baronessa Mariuccia Zerilli Marimo’, Chairwoman of IBLA-New York, Lady Dewi Soekarno, Chairwoman of IBLA Japan-Indonesia; Lilia Vernon & Paolo Martino, IBLA New York Vice-Chairs, have sustained this initiative right from the beginning, and were all there at the Carnegie Hall a few days ago, on April 27, to pay tribute to the professionalism and commitment of the young artists performing.

    Master of ceremonies Dr. Salvatore Moltisanti, President of IBLA since 1992, whose international reputation of great pianist is at least equivalent to his merits for having given the foundation the prestige it enjoys nowadays. He welcomed all those attending and introduced to the public each one of the musicians, praising their talent and listing for each one of them a considering number of recognitions and awards they earned throughout their still short career.

    The first exhibiting were two brothers, Thomas and Austin Huntington. The former, a violinist, played a piece by Ravel, while the latter performed Cassado with his Cello. Later on they were followed by another duo of brothers, Kevin e Bryan Matheson, with their violin and viola who performed music by William Ryden.

    Musicians from every corner of the world alternated on the stage: cellist Hee-Young Lim from South Korea played for us a sonata in A major by Cesar Frank, while Scholtes Lestari and Gwylim Janssen from Holland played a four-hand piece by Rachmaninov.

    A remarkable performance by the English flautist Jill Kemp enchanted the public during the second

    half of the concert. Her “magic flute”, as Mr. Moltisanti defined it, was immediately followed by the performance of the only Italian selected, pianist Adalberto Riva, who delighted us with a sonata by Schubert.

    A talented musician, he is grateful to IBLA for giving him the chance to play at the Carnegie Hall: “In Italy I do not have many possibilities to perform before a

    large public. The classical music environment is very hard to access, and often the success you have is not proportional to your real talent. That is why today I play mainly abroad, as many of my colleagues in the past used to do themselves.”

    Elin Kolev was the youngest musician of the group. Of German origins, at the age of 12 he can already play an engaging piece such as the “24esimo capriccio” by Paganini with natural ease, as if he had been practicing the violin for decades. He is tiny ands shy; his suit can not hide or alter his childish features. He also seems embarrassed when we asked him when he first discovered this passion: “At seven, five years ago. And it was already a little late”.

    A few years older than Elin, the Serbian pianist Julija Bal proposed her personal arrangement of "Asturias" by I.Albeniz. She was also one of the two only composers in the group. Her colleague, the English pianist George King, played a selection of pieces from his collection “Etudes”.

    We asked Julija what is that inspires her in composing music. She answered spontaneously: “I just can not avoid doing it. I get the inspiration and start, and sometimes I like what comes up from this enlighten moments. Will I always compose? I do not know, but I will be surely opened to all the sensations and feelings that will eventually come up. I do hope I will, since I believe that, music is the greatest way to communicate”:

    Her words were echoed by Mr. Moltisanti’s, who spent a few moments with us at the end of the concert, after the “encores” by Jill Kemp, Julija Bal ed Elin Kolev. “Our mission is to promote excellence and attract more and more young talented people in this field, and award them for their commitment in a constant improvement. They know how to mix different styles and rhythms, giving classical music a sound it has never had before. It becomes a way to communicate with their friends and coetaneous, helping to keep classical music alive”.





  • Art & Culture

    Umbria, Not Only Jazz. Spoleto’s Opera in the Backstreets of Soho

     When you get to Saint Anthony of Padua Church down in Soho you feel you are back in Italy. Sullivan Street is crowded with Italian shops and delicatessens, people sit in the middle of the street chatting and spending long hours there, maybe playing cards, watching the sun rise and set. It is a scene you imagine you would see only in those small villages of which the peninsula is crowded, where people seem to have nothing else to do than spending their time on the doorsteps of the only Church in town. But it was Manhattan, just a few steps away from the buzz of the Village.

    Entering the oldest Catholic Church in the United States gives you quite a strange sensation - something that tells you that you are about to live a solemn moment that deserves respect and attention. The thrilled excitement of the people present confirms this sensation. Most of them speak Italian, and many of them are extremely young, which is very unusual given the kind of event they were about witness.

    Opera does not attract the young generation - at least in most cases. But in this case, the lyrical show produced and promoted by the Teatro Lirico di Spoleto A. Belli constitutes a fair exception. The Vocal Concert given on the evening of May 7 was just a taste of what you can see in Spoleto during the Spoleto Opera Season during which the numerous students of the foundation perform arias that have given world-fame to Italian music.

    Adriano Belli, a lawyer and musicologist, founded the Teatro Lirico in 1947. He had one only aim in his mind: to help young singers start a career in Opera, above all students who had already completed their singing studies but had not yet made their artistic debut. The activities of the Teatro are divided into three phases: the first is the European Community Competition for Young Opera Singers which concludes with a complete screening of the applicants.

    Those who are accepted go on to the second phase, the Training Course For the Debut. In this period they improve and practice their singing and learn at least an opera from the sixteen/seventeenth century, one from the eighteenth century and one from the nineteenth century. Once this second period is finally concluded, the artists are called on to perform in the Opera Season of the Teatro which aims to show the results of the training courses and is usually held in Spoleto in September.

    Desirée Migliaccio, Giulio Boschetti and Francesco Massini were the three talented young singers and musicians that performed for us on that evening. When the public first met them, they were still not dressed up and were chatting with everybody just as every other person of their age in a friendly atmosphere would have done. They acted so spontaneously that some people from the audience did not guess they were about to perform until they left to get ready!

    For a very long moment everything stopped and all we heard was Desirée singing from the other side of the altar. And we knew that our expectations had not been high enough. This was going to be memorable.

    Francesco Massimi was the first one to come out from backstage. A Pianist, he is still only 26 but has already won many competitions and been in Qatar and Japan with the Teatro’s opera tours. In 2002 he attended the Course for Piano Accompainist of Opera at the Teatro and has worked for the institution as Opera Conductor during the 2007 Experimental Opera Season.

    He sat at his grand piano while Giulio Boschetti came out to sing “Cruda, Funesta Mania” from “Lucia di Lammermoor” by Donizetti, the first of the seven pieces chosen for the concert. A baritone, Giulio has been collaborating with the Teatro for a very long time. He played the role of Bartolo in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” and Fiorello in Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” in two different Japanese tours and in 2009 he performed for the Teatro at the Hermitage International Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia.

    While singing, the public could also notice his remarkable acting skills, and “feel” the Opera through his interpretation. He also sang “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”, maybe his war horse, and “Pari Siamo” from Verdi’s Rigoletto.

    He alternated on the stage with Desireé, this beautiful young Soprano from Ischia. In a red velvet dress, she welcomed her public singing the “Regnava nel silenzio” aria from Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor”. Her voice vibrated against the columns of the church when she finally played “Caro Nome”, from Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, revealing the incredible strength of her tiny body, a real rarity for a Soprano. Her name is already well know by a wide public, since Ennio Morricone lately chose her for his “Cinema Concerto” tour. She started collaborating with the Teatro only in 2008, when she won the “European Community Competition”. Her outstanding talent allowed her to soon after obtain many important roles, one among which being Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto.

    The alternation of the two singers on the stage took the public on a long voyage in the history of Italian Opera. Could that concert end so soon? No, of course. The singers and pianist Massimi were having fun themselves. The show must go on, right?

    “Now we have a present for you”, claimed Desirée when everybody was just about getting ready to leave. “How about some Neapolitan music?”.

    And there they went. Boschetti’s “Je te vurria vasà” preceded her “Torna ‘a Surriento”, while the hundreds sitting on the benches echoed them.

    Their final duo “’O sole mio” (which they sang with felt passion) ended the concert leaving everybody deeply satisfied. Living so far from their homeland, many Italians in New York feel the need of a little taste of Italy once in a while. On that evening the Umbria Region, the City of Spoleto and the Teatro Lirico Sperimentale A.Belli gave it to them, making all those present feel a part of one community. When we finally came out of the church, some of us walked away alone while others remained and formed a group ready to spend the evening together accompanied by the notes of Italian Opera.

  • Art & Culture

    New York. Flavors and Notes from Umbria

    Tuesday, May 5 was the third consecutive rainy day here in the city, but the atmosphere at the Italian Cultural Institute on Park Avenue was  electric. A delegation from Umbria was going to hold a press conference in the  hall decorated in marble and wood. The American preview of the Umbria Jazz Festival ’09 and the Due Mondi Festival opened that evening with a piano concert by Danilo Rea, one of the most famous Italian Jazz musicians.

    When we got there, the first thing we noticed was a group of very young students standing in front of the institute waiting for the event to start. While they were talking and exchanging laughs, other people arrived. They were all well-dressed and their smiling faces witnessed a visible excitement. The institute had never been so crowded. In the foyer a long table was being set up, and it foreshadowed the rich buffet that would be serevd a few hours later. It was only 6:00 pm but it was already impossible to find a seat in the conference room. The Many gave up trying to find a spot and instead they sat outside, waiting to watch the event on a wide-screen.

    International and Italian journalists occupied the first rows, sitting next to several representatives of Italian institutions such as Riccardo Strano, Director of the North American branch of the Italian Tourist Board, Deputy Consuls Maurizio Antonini and Marco Alberti, and Consul General Francesco Maria Talò, along with Carlo Pagnotta, Artistic Director of  the Umbria Jazz Festival and Renzo Arbore, President of Associazione Umbria Jazz. With them, the New York producer Enzo Capua, one of the main organizers of the event.
    The continuous whispering was finally interrupted by Consul Talò who took the podium to present the region's beauty: “Umbria has come here to introduce us to its excellence, its products, and its music. The quality of the wine produced in this region makes it one of the most valued areas in Italy. The region's exceptional water is widely recognized to the point where  it is exported to many different countries, especially America. (…) Umbria is the ideal place for anyone to visit. There you can rest and have peace and quiet, or decide to explore its ancient historical sites and amazing national parks. You can get there by car from Florence or Rome and enjoy a relaxing outdoor one-day trip or even plan to stay there longer. Its small, medieval towns are so welcoming that many have decided to spend their lives there.”
    The quality of life in this area is also enhanced by the many cultural events organized by local public institutions throughout the year, as Mr. Talò explained: “Jazz made in Umbria is certainly the best in Europe, especially since we know that jazz is typically an element of American and Italian culture.”
    Stefano Cinicchi, Director of the Umbria Regional Office for the Promotion of Tourism, echoed the Consul's remarks. He commented that the Umbria Jazz Festival is certainly one of the most important international events dedicated to this genre of music: “I represent a lucky region, the birthplace of Saint Francis, Saint Chiara, and Saint Pagnotta,” referring to Carlo Pagnotta, the festival's artistic director.
    Carlo Pagnotta was soon introduced by Silvia Gianpaola, the official at the Italian Cultural Institute responsible for the promotion of Italian music in New York. He discussed the first international edition of the festival which took place in the same venue more than twenty years ago, and he could not hide his emotions when he listed the international participants in this year’s festival: Burt Bacharach, Steely Dan, Simply Red, Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Maceo Parker, Solomon Burke, George Benson, James Taylor, B.B. King, Richard Galliano, Ahmad Jamal, Dave Douglas, Roy Haynes, McCoy Tyner, Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Mingus Dynasty, Tuck & Patty, theAACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), and the Great Black Music Ensemble, along with some of the most prestigious names in Italian Jazz: Paolo Conte, Enrico Rava, Enrico Pieranunzi, Stefano Bollani, Gino Paoli, Flavio Boltro, Paolo Fresu, Rosario Giuliani, Gianluca Petrella, Danilo Rea, Renato Sellani, Roberto Gatto, Francesco Cafiso.

    The Italian entertainer, musician, and singer Renzo Arbore finally took the microphone and gave glowing praise for the amazing goals that Mr. Pagnotta has accomplished in the last two decades: “Thirty-seven years ago Jazz in Italy was not popular at all. Thanks to the festival, jazz’s ticket sales have surpassed 30% with respect to other  music genres. The credit goes to Carlo Pagnotta; he understood that the festival had to promote not only jazz, but also other genres that can be mixed with its sounds, like rock or Brazilian music. This has allowed it to appeal to a wider audience while maintaining a high level of quality. Thanks to Mr. Pagnotta, as you can hear, today many famous musicians agree to participate in the festival for the widely recognized prestige of the event”.

    As the conference ended, Danilo Rea entertained the audience with a 30-minute concert, a series of improvisations with only one pause filled with applause. Seated at the baby grand piano, he improvised songs by Modugno, De André, Tenco, Paoli, and Puccini. The audience grew quiet, moved by the overwhelming notes composed by his agile fingers sliding on the keyboard.
    The evening finally ended with a "delicious" moment: those present could taste typical products from Umbria showcased in authentic local dishes. They chatted for a long time while enjoying wine that perfectly matched the food served.
    We all went away with one only wish: to take a trip to Umbria and have the chance to attend both festivals, the Umbria Jazz Festival (July 10-19) and the Due Mondi Festival (June 26-July 12).



    The New York Presentation of Umbria Jazz ’09 will last until May 8.

    Upcoming events
    Thursday, May 7 - Friday, May 8  Italian Cultural Institute (686, Park Avenue - New York 10065, NY)

    6 pm: Umbria Jazz presents "Italian Songs in Jazz" with
    NEIL SWAINSON, double bass
    7 pm: reception with superb wines from the Umbria region
    RSVP: 212 8794242 ext. 366 (May 7)
    RSVP: 212 8794242 ext. 368 (May 8)

    Free admission

     (Edited by Giulia Prestia)

  • Art & Culture

    Music. Marco Calliari. Universal “Italianità”

    He is Canadian, he is Italian. He plays Jazz, but loves Opera. He was a heavy metal musician, now he plays classical Italian songs. His name is Marco Calliari and is one of the artists that adhered to the project “Italia” by Putamayo, an association committed to introducing people to the music of the world’s cultures.

    “Italia” is a tribute to the classical Italian popular music of the 1950s and features the collaboration of a group of singers and song-writers that fairly represent the Italian contemporary music world. Giorgio Conte, Gianmaria Testa, Simone Lo Porto, Alessandro Pitoni, Alessandro Mannarino and Rossomalpelo, Serge Gaggiotti, Lino Straulino Bandabardò, Lu Colombo and others share Marco Calliari’s aim in spreading and promoting Italian music throughout the world. Marco will represent his collegues and friends in New York, launching the new album at Joe’s Pub .

    Born and raised in Québéc, Marco is the son of Italian immigrants in North America. He always had full consciousness of his roots, having learned Italian as his first language and being particularly active in the life of the local Italian community. Although he came to become very knowledgeable about Italian Opera at a very early age, thanks to his parents’ passion for Pavarotti, at the age of 14 he got interested in heavy metal music, a genre he abandoned  many years later with his first Italian album “Che la via” (2004), that sold over 25.000 copies in a primarily French-speaking audience.

    After this great success he launched a second album, “Mia dolce vita “(2006) in which he presented his own version of “L’Americano”, the great hit that he is proposing again in this new “Italia” project.

    This great audience was not the only one to appreciate his work. In 2007 he won the Prix Étoiles Galaxie (CBC) during the Emerging Music Festival in Rouyn-Noranda (2004), and then in 2005, the RIDEAU event (The Independent Network of United Artistic Events Promoters). Finally, in 2005 and 2007 Marco Calliari was among the nominees at the Gala de l’ADISQ (Association québécoise de l'industrie du disque, du spectacle et de la vidéo) in the “Album of the year– World music category” section.

    i-Italy interviewed Marco for its readers. We asked him about his personal story, his music and his relationship with Italy.

    Marco, you are the son of two Italian immigrants to the US. Can you tell us something more about the story of your family?

    My parents were both born in Italy. My mom  is from Milan and my dad comes from Val di Non, near Trento. They both arrived in the United States in 1961 but at that time they did not know each other. My mother came here because of her sister, whose husband had an opening for a job for Pirelli. She was the youngest of nine children  My father began to work here since in Trentino Alto Adige at that time it was very hard to find a job in the countryside. Right after him, his four brothers came here leaving only one sister in Italy. She had health problems and the government did not let her come in.  So she went to live with the nuns in Turin. My parents raised me as a true Italian child, teaching me the language of my country of origin and taking me there when still very young.  

    Do you feel that your Italian origins helped you in carrying on your career and becoming an internationally well-known singer?

    Yes, for sure. First of all, I would have never had a similar knowledge of Italian music if I did not grow up in an Italian family, which means growing up listening to Pavarotti and Italian radio. I grew up in Italian associations where I learned a lot about my people’s culture and life style. Even when I started playing music when I was 14 years old and I had my heavy metal band I felt an Italian sound in my music and in the way I performed.  

    When did you to abandon heavy metal music and embrace Italian jazz?

    It was not a spontaneous decision, but the change was the result of a long process and of many happenings in my life. When I was 20 I went to Italy for a month and a half. One day I went to the beach with my cousin from Turin and there she asked me to play some of my music in front of other people. At that time I was not playing any Italian music. I used to play Beatles or maybe French hits. I knew a lot of Opera, I am a big opera fan. But I never played it.  So there I was, standing in front of these people and at one point there was this elderly person who just told me ‘You are Italian, why don’t you play some Italian music!”.  This comment got me: when I went back to Montreal  I bought a book with all Italian classic such as Bella Ciao, Torna a Surriento, O sole mio and I just learned them. These songs actually inspired me to compose Italian songs. So I wrote my first album, “Che la vita” in 2004. I sold over 20.000 copies of this album and I was lucky enough to have even a greater success in 2006 with my second Italian album, “Mia dolce Vita”. I wanted to make a  tribute to Italian music again Italian in my style….



     What is your “style”?

    It is a kind of mixture of different styles. When you grow up in Quebec you find yourself dealing with French, English, Spanish, Italian people. It is a multicultural environment so when I started making my music it came out as a sort of  “melting pot” of tarantella, flamenco, jazz, swing, all these different rhythms. This for me is the real essence of world music, it is a mixing of all these cultures in one music, one album, one show.

    In which country are you most successful?

    It is really in the provence of Quebec, where I sold over 60.000 albums since 2004. This is an enourmous success for such a small provence. I think that francophones are those who like my music the most: they are very open to exotic music. I was also the first one in my generation to promote Italian music in my region, and they appreciated it. Even Italian singers of previous generations used to sing more in French than in Italian. So they responded very well to my albums.

    Nowadays there are many singers who play Italian music in North America, They are either Italian-American or Italian-Canadian. What makes you different from them?

    Well, theirs is mostly pop music, they mainly rearrange the most famous hits of  popular contemporary Italian singers. That is not my bag: I do not do Eros Ramazzotti or Laura Pausini. I like to take instruments from the root. I like playing with a fisarmonica, the drums, percussions, mandolin, classical guitar, they are the true essence of Italian music. I do not like  cheap reproductions. I want to modernize classical music, but I still do not want to transform it to the point that it becomes irrecognizable. I do not understand when people say “I do not listen to old music”. But what is old music? I think that “old” is not a proper term for music that has been composed regardless of the time but which even today gives emotions. It is important to modernize it and keep it always there. It is always a means to understand the  culture of a people.  

    Your are very famous in francophone countries but you sing in Italian. There are many young Italian singers nowadays that are obliged to go abroad before becoming famous in Italy.  Some of them have actively contributed to the production of the album you are soon going to present in New York, “Italia”. One of them, Gianmaria Testa, for example, first become famous in France and then conquered a good public in Italy. Why is it so that young talented Italian singers find it so difficult to get their share of visibility in Italy?

    What I understand of Italian culture is that Italians just follow the trend and do not give great chances to Italian talents. The media and, more than the others,  RAI, the Italian National Broadcasting Company, are just so powerful, it is incredibile. The Festival of Sanremo and these kind of music events are followed by the greatest majority of the population. They sort of “Impose” a genre, a song, claiming that it is the best you can find around. And people follow the “advice”. But it is not true, people should understand that Sanremo is just a contest and there is so much more out there. Gianmaria Testa, Giorgio Conte, Bandabardò, Carmen Consoli, Vinicio Capossela and dozens of others  are just not appreciated enough. And this is only because they do not play a lot on TV or on the radio. It is very sad. I don’t say that Italy is a unique case, it is just that I do not know any other country where media have such an incredibile power in the music field. The point is that Italy has given birth to many good artists who are not renowed there because of this significant obstacle. So they just go abroad, mainly in France, where they are one of a kind, one in three million and they are considered “different” and thus loved (in most cases). They get their share of visibility and become well known. It is only at that point that Italy will be ready for them.

    Has the same thing happened to you?

    No, my situation is different. I am not properly an Italian singer, I am a “figlio di emigranti”, a second generation Italian . So I can tell people something different, I can introduce them to a new culture and to new sounds, which are those of the Italians abroad. I can give them something different, and of course I am not saying that it is better, just different.  

    So when you play in Italy what kind of message do you want to hand down to your fans?

    One of the greatest messages is that we do not have to speak the same language to have a great time together. You know, regularly I sing in front of a francophone public. They do not know Italian and have no idea of what I am singing. They just feel my music and they like it. My main goal is to show everybody that the feeling of “italianità” can be universal.

    The new album “Italia” by Putamayo was actually created based on this philosophy….

    Actually being part of that project really makes me feel very proud, I feel part of the gang, of an Italian mission to spread and promote our musical tradition throughout the world.  In this sense I really feel that I am an Italian singer, regardless of my birthplace and life experiences. My goal is to teach Italian music to my friends in Quebec and I try to do it by inviting some of my friends to play in Canada. Bandabardò and Vinicio Capossela were here one time, Carmen Consoli twice. They are the real essence of Italy.  





  • Life & People

    Rabbi Schneier. When Solidarity Has No Space or Time

    I love you God because you saved my life from death. I saw six million people, all part of my family, dying for their only fault: being Jewish. As I survivor I felt I had to pay back on a daily basis. If I survived, I survived for a reason. Because I was not better than those who perished. I had to give back.


    This is how Rabbi Schneier started his speech on April 21 at the Italian Consulate General in New York, when he was decorated as a “Grande Ufficiale dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana” (Grand Official of the Order of the Italian Star of Solidarity).  


    (The most significant moments of the ceremony)


    “Rabbi Schneier is one of the most distinguished representatives of the Jewish-American Community,” the Deputy Consul of Italy in New York Marco Alberti said for the occasion. “He has always been strongly committed to defending human rights in the U.S. as well as abroad, and he has also promoted several initiatives to support Holocaust survivors. Above all, he represents an important cornerstone for dialogue in the Jewish community, both on a domestic and international level. During Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the U.S. in April 2008, he received him at his synagogue on Park Avenue, where he has been a spiritual leader for over 40 years. In recent months he has been building a strong relationship with the Consulate General of Italy in New York. His collaboration has brought prestige to Italian initiatives and he has personally shown great appreciation for our country, which he has visited on several occasions for high-level meetings.”  
    The ceremony could not have been held on a more significant day for the Christian and Jewish communities. On April 21, in fact, both Holocaust Remembrance Day and the anniversary of the foundation of Rome (753 b. C.) are celebrated. It may not be the case, but it could represent one more step toward reconciliation between the two religious groups. “I don’t think that it’s the case where the Italian government chose this day to honor a Holocaust survivor, one that has lived through this terrible experience and is now a symbol of hope. He is a spiritual leader who has dedicated his life to overcome intolerance and hate. Thank you Rabbi, because you have been a bridge among peoples, a pontifex as Ancient Romans used to say,” said Consul General Francesco Maria Talò at the beginning of the ceremony.
    His speech was immediately followed by a symbolic rite in which all the spiritual leaders present were invited to participate: the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Arcibishop Migliore, the new Arcibishop of the City of New York Timothy Dolan, and the Archbishop of the Armenian Church in America Khajag Barsamian. Together they lightened one candle, only one flame to symbolize their commitment towards following one path, one aim: the building of future peace and fraternal unity among the religions of the world.  

    (The decoration at the Consulate - Courtesy of RAI Corp)
    Rabbi Schneier, in particular, has always worked toward this end. Born in Vienna, Austria, on March 20, 1930, Rabbi Schneier lived under Nazi occupation in Budapest during World War II and arrived in the United States in 1947. Since 1962 he has been the spiritual leader of the Park East Synagogue, a historic landmark in New York City. In 1965 he founded and became president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, where he began fighting for religious freedom and tolerance throughout the world. Throughout his life he has received many honors such as the U.S. Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001. On that occasion he was defined as "a Holocaust survivor who has devoted a lifetime to overcoming the forces of hatred and intolerance and set an inspiring example of spiritual leadership by encouraging interfaith dialogue and intercultural understanding and promoting the cause of religious freedom around the world." He also holds positions of prestige in both national and international institutions and organizations, such as U.S. Alternate Representative to the U.N. General Assembly and Chairman of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. He was one of three American religious leaders appointed by President Clinton to begin the first dialogue on religious freedom with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and is a member of the U.S. delegation to the Stockholm International Forum for the Prevention of Genocide, Sweden
    His deep commitment to increasing dialogue between religions can be summarized in a few, significant, figures: he has headed fifty-eight interfaith missions to the former Soviet Union as a leader in advancing mutual understanding and inter-religious cooperation in the Russian Federation, Caucasus, and Central Asia; he has convened six international conferences, including the Dialogue Among Civilizations Forum; and he holds ten honorary doctorates from U.S. and European universities.
    In spite of these many recognitions, he could not hide his emotions when Consul Talò handed him a plaque signed by the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini and when he finally received his medallion. “This is a moment of extraordinary joy for me,” said the Rabbi. “I can tell you that when I survived, little did I know that God would give me the privilege to see, after the Shoah, the birth of the State of Israel. Little did I know that the Republic of Italy would give me this honor. Today I am proud to say that the Jewish people despite the persecution are still alive. […] I want to thank the Italian government for many things. But, most of all, I want to thank the Italian government for denouncing the recent Holocaust denials. Do you know what it means as a survivor to encounter someone who says the Holocaust has never existed?”  
    His words and the memories they evoked touched many of those present, eminent representatives of the Jewish and Christian communities, among them Natalia Indrimi, Stella Levi, and Andrea Fiano from the Primo Levi Center of New York , Judge Dominic Massaro and Gabriela Shalev, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations.
    “It has been said that those who sing pray twice,” said Consul Talò introducing soprano De Vito who with her warm voice intoned an ancient Yiddish prayer. It became a collective hymn, where words of peace and faith were dedicated to one and only God, a prayer welcomed by every one of us with respectful and meaningful silence.
    (Edited by Giulia Prestia)


  • Life & People

    Small and Medium Sized Businesses. The “Italian Way” to Overcome the Crisis

    We are living in times of deep economic crisis. We hear these words every single day, several times a day. In the morning when we turn on the TV while having breakfast, at noon while having a quick lunch with colleagues, and in the evening when we are with our dearest friends and we discuss our plans and as well as our worries. We read about the recession on the web, and in newspapers and magazines. We see an uncertain future ahead of us, and we hold on to our jobs with tenacity and hope.

     The crisis is real, it is global, and is affecting our lives in many ways; we have to deal with it on a daily basis. “This economic crisis is the worst the world has faced in the last60 or 70 years,” the head of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahnhas warned
    However, each country has a different economic structure and, consequently, different policies to face the downturn. However, what is the best possible solution? There is no definitive answer to this question; it’s just a matter of waiting and “seeing if it works.”

    The crisis in the U.S. has been predicted to last for at least three years. And what about Italy? What are the characteristics of the Italian economy that could help the country overcome the downturn? According to Massimo Capuano, President and Managing Director of Borsa Italia S.p.A., the company responsible for the organization and management of the Italy’s stock exchange, the solution lies in the country’s industrial sector: “More than the 95% of Italian companies are small or medium sized. Their contribution to the growth of the national economy is outstanding. Although their revenue might not be high, they are the main suppliers to larger companies, contributing to their growth. Large, medium, and small companies are all necessary to each other, and they have to develop together and in harmony. If the large businesses are not supported in their productive process by the small ones, the overall national economy will not recover.” This was the gist of the speech that Mr. Capuano gave on April 6 at the Italian Consulate in New York where he met with the young members of NOVA (an Italian MBA association).  

    The event, held at the Italian Consulate General in New York and organized by Deputy Consul Marco Alberti, was part of the series “Obiettivo Futuro” (Target: Future) that allows NOVA students to meet important and high-ranking representatives of the commercial, financial, and economic world. While they have come to the United States to enrich and broaden their skills and expertise in the economic field, they have found that the Italian Consulate is an institution that provides them with effective and innovative tools to launch an outstanding professional career in the economic sector.

    On that day, more than 50 members of the Association attended the conference. All professionally dressed, they were visibly at ease in their “Italian home” in New York and sat in the conference hall alongside Italian and American journalists and economic experts.

    Introduced by the Consul General Francesco Maria Talò and Deputy Consul Marco Alberti, Mr. Capuano gave students what could be defined as a real lesson in the most debated economic issues, from the evolution of economic regionalism to the latest developments on the current economic crisis.  

    He presented his exhaustive dissertation L'integrazione del London Stock Exchange e di Borsa Italiana all'interno del processo di globalizzazione delle Borse mondiali (The integration of the London Stock Exchange and Borsa Italiana in the context of globalizing stock exchanges worldwide) at the end of his visit to New York, on the occasion of the sixth annual Italian Investor Conference.

    Despite the process of economic regionalization that is currently shaping the international economy, Mr. Capuano still believes in the relevance of national economies and finds that they are an effective stimulus to overcome the global economic crisis. “This is especially true in Italy” stresses Mr. Capuano. “If the structure of the Italian economic sector, which is mostly comprised of small and medium sized companies, was somehow considered deficient before, it might now give our country a better chance to fight the depression.” The absence, or minor presence, of great international companies – which have been the first to be affected by the crisis – could now become Italy’s “trump card” and the main feature in the country’s solution to neutralize the effects of the crisis. From this, the primary goal of the Italian Investor Conference is to promote further American investments in Italian companies traded on the Stock Exchange.

    However, this aim, as Mr. Capuano explained to the NOVA students at the Consulate, can only be reached if Italian small companies “show courage” and fully transform themselves into joint-stock companies. “There are two different kinds of obstacles. First, Italian entrepreneurs are often not inclined to lose part of the control they maintain on the companies they own. This is one of the toughest obstacles to face, because it is cultural and stems from the fact that most of these companies are family-based. Second, many company owners don’t feel sufficiently prepared to deal with the financial market, especially during this time of economic crisis. This is why,” he continued, “Borsa Italiana S.p.A. is committed on two different fronts: providing them consultants and economic analysts, and involving young entrepreneurs in the company’s activities and initiatives, since traditionally they have been more receptive to innovation and change and can manage their companies from a different perspective.

    Mr. Capuano’s dissertation was followed by a lengthy and interesting Q&A session. NOVA members showed deep interest in this new approach to studying and analyzing Italy’s economy.

    The balanced development and modernization of traditional small and medium companies could become the “Italian way” to overcome the crisis. That was the lesson and the point, and the young MBA students, the future leaders of Italian economy, got it.

    (Edited by Giulia Prestia)