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Articles by: Kayla Pantano

  • Art & Culture

    New Book Club Explores Italian Literature

    Do you speak Italian and love to read? How about enjoying a good cup of coffee with fellow Italian literature connoisseurs? Then Il Gruppo di Lettura is the place for you.

    Il Gruppo di Lettura

    The aim of this Italian book club is to bring together a diverse range of minds whose common link is a desire to read and to discuss modern and classical Italian literature. Participants will be encouraged to share their personal thoughts, opinions, and reflections on selected readings in a lively free flowing exchange of ideas. As all books and discussions will be in Italian, a good understanding of the language is necessary—ranging from an advanced level to fluent.

    Whether you want to add to your reading repertoire, practice your language skills, or meet new people, be sure to sign up and give it a try. Thanks to Professor Mario Mignone and Professor Luigi Fontanella, the monthly meetings will take place at Stony Brook University in the Center of Italian Studies, located on the fourth floor of Melville Library. The first reading will be a short story taken from I sette messaggeri by Dino Buzzati

    The Founder

    Violanda Franzese, an Italian-born architect who lives on Long Island, is responsible for launching this book club. When she was six years old, she left her hometown outside of Naples to move to the US with her family. She grew up speaking the Neapolitan dialect and went on to receive a BA in Fine Arts and Architecture.

    With an interest in learning more about her roots, she took an Italian poetry class at Stony Brook for fun. However, this on the whim decision ended up becoming an MA in Italian. Through the program, she discovered new writers like Italo Svevo and Massimo Bontempelli. With the hopes of discovering more Italian authors and improving her Italian, she organized this book club.

    For more information and to sign up please contact Violanda Franzese: vfranzese18@gmail.com.

  • Art & Culture

    'Italian Style: Fashion & Film from Early Cinema to the Digital Age'

    In conversation with Grazia D'Annunzio, the US Special Projects Editor of Vogue Italia, and David Forgacs of New York University, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò welcomed Eugenia Paulicelli to present her most recent book— Italian Style: Fashion & Film from Early Cinema to the Digital Age.

    Forgacs opened the evening and introduced Paulicelli to the crowd. The Italy native is a professor at Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, where she founded the Fashion Studies Program. In addition to her three published books, she also writes the column “Fashionology” for La Voce di New York.

    As Forgacs explained, this is the first in-depth, book-length study on fashion and Italian cinema from the silent film era to the present. Italian cinema launched Italian fashion to the world and Paulicelli tells the story of the launch. She explores the process of shaping and inventing an Italian style and fashion—like the French did, which ran parallel to the creation of an Italian national identity. By highlighting these intersections, as well as emphasizing the importance of craft in cinema, fashion, and costume design, the book aims to offer new visions of films by directors who have been central to the development of Made in Italy and Italian style.

    Following Forgacs, Paulicelli took the podium and spoke about her inspirations before diving into a slideshow presentation with shots from iconic films and archived video clips. Afterwards, D’Annunzio probed her on certain topics ranging from how Rome functioned as the fashion capital before Milan to the recent developments in men’s fashion.

    She began, “I started with this of idea of going more in-depth in post-war cinema, as David mentioned in the introduction, because that is when Italian fashion was launched to the world and became global, cinema and media too.” She continued, “I wanted to understand how fashion came to the floor and the construction of Italian national identity.” It was when she was doing her research and putting materials together that she realized she wanted to focus on contemporary clothes, not costumes.

    Paulicelli's first two chapters are dedicated to the 1910s and the Italian divas from the time, like Lyda Borelli, Francesca Bertini, and Pina Menichelli, who swept across the big screen with their extraordinary style. “Italian cinema was really international and it was thanks to the Italian divas who were exporting these films all over,” she shared.

    She projected the famous shot of Borelli in the opening scene of Rapsodia Satanica (1915) when she drapes a veil over her face. She also showed a clip from Ma l’amor mio non muore (1913), which showcased just one of Borelli's many dresses in the film, not to mention her hats on the border of the avant-garde. Like the majority of movie buffs, she loves these “diva films” for the expressiveness of body and clothing. “These films were amazing because you could really see the clothes and the exaggeration of the divas' poses while they walk. The stories itself were secondary, what you really see is a fashion show.”

    In her studies, Paulicelli was interested to see the significant part accessories played, such as the shawl Bertini wears throughout Assunta Spina (1915). “The role accessories have in these films is just fantastic to see. They help create a new cinematic style. It was just not a parade of dresses. The divas was curating a body, performing, projecting these images and at the same time creating a new cinematic language.”

    In her speech and in her book, she goes into further details about other divas like the aforementioned Menichelli, who played the femme fatale and was known for her decadent eroticism, for example, in Il fuoco (1916). She also talks about many directors, including Nino Oxilia, Mario Camerini, Alessandro Blasetti, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Luchino Visconti and Paolo Sorrentino, as well as other film stars, such as Lucia Bosè, Monica Vitti, Marcello Mastroianni, and Toni Servillo.

    Of the many things Paulicelli and D'Annunzio discussed, one was how the two films Contessa di Parma (1937) and I Grandi Magazzini (1939) analyze two different aspects of fashion during fascism but share many similarities. The first movie is based in a fashion house in Turin and the second is focused on the rise of the department store. D’Annunzio pointed out that in I Grandi Magazzini, “Ski outfits are extremely important and perceived as chic and upscale. Sport all of a sudden becomes aspirational.” This is particularly interesting today where we are seeing an extreme rise in active wear.

    D’Annunzio also asked Paulicelli who chose what the divas wore, as Creative Directors and so forth were positions that did not exist back then. In fact, the Academy Awards did not create a category for Best Costume Design until 1948. Paulicelli admitted that back then there was little room in the budget for an on-site costume designer to provide ensembles. In such cases, actresses often looked to their personal wardrobes.

    At 288 pages with a beautiful hardcover, her book has already received high acclaim. Stella Bruzzi, a professor at the University of Warwick, UK, said, “Paulicelli’s book is a tour de force of film and fashion scholarship, a beautifully written and authoritative exploration of Italian national identity that will appeal to a wide readership. In mapping out Italy’s rich cultural heritage from early twentieth century modernism, through the economic miracle years to the present day, this book sets out to do nothing less than define Italian style as embodied by the dialogue between fashion and film. That Italian Style achieves this is testament to its brilliance.”

    The book is available both on the Bloomsbury Publishing website and Amazon.

  • Art & Culture

    First Edition of 'Filming on Italy' in Los Angeles

    On the first Friday of February (02/03) and the following Tuesday (02/07), the Italian Cultural Institute (IIC) in Los Angeles with launch the first edition of “Filming on Italy.” In collaboration with Tiziana Rocca's Agnus Dei Production, the IIC Director Valeria Rumori, and the Consulate General of Italy in LA, the event will promote Italy in all of its beauty as a quintessential cinematic set.

    The Consul General Antonio Verde will open the event followed by a string of distinguished guests who will introduce a series of screenings, such as Oliver Stone. An acclaimed screenwriter, film director, and producer, Stone is a strong proponent of Italy as the country remains a source of inspiration for his films. In a presentation curated by Variety, he will introduce the US premiere of the documentary Ukraine on Fire, which he produced alongside Claire M. Stain.

    Another exciting US premiere on the schedule is Pericle il nero (Pericle) directed by Stefano Mordini. Riccardo Scamarcio will present the film in which he stars as a henchman of his boss who rules a powerful Camorra group.

    The last two documentaries to be screened include the emerging director Irene Dionisio’s Sponde (Shores) and Giorgio Treves’s 60 Ieri Oggi Domani (60 Yesterday Today Tomorrow). The latter pays homage to the most important Italian cinema award, the David di Donatello, as a reflection of Italian society and history of Italian cinema over the past sixty years through the memories and testimonies of Gian Luigi Rondi and other protagonists of the big screen.

    Cecilia and Anthony Peck are also set to take the stage in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of their father, Gregory Peck. Of Peck’s many notable films is Roman Holiday, a cult movie emblematic of “Filming on Italy.”

    Baume & Mercier, the main partner for the initiative, will confer special awards to the select talent in attendance. The new IIC Los Angeles Creativity Award, which recognizes Italian excellence in the world, will be conferred to Scamarcio, who stars in the upcoming US action film John Wick: Chapter 2. Cecilia and Anthony Peck will also receive the award in memory of their father.

  • Facts & Stories

    Abruzzo's Avalanche: After a Week of Search Efforts

    The final death toll from Abruzzo's devastating avalanche, which crushed the Hotel Rigopiano with 120,000 tons of snow on January 18 at a speed of 60 mph, stands at 29. After a week of search efforts amidst sub-zero temperatures and ongoing snowfall, the final bodies of a man and a woman were pulled out of the rubble on early Thursday.

    Stefano Feniello, 28, was one of the victims whose body was recovered. Alessandro Riccetti, the hotel's 33-year-old receptionist, was also identified among the dead, though it is unclear when his body was found.

    The first victim workers discovered was chief waiter, Alessandro Giancaterino, who worked a double shift on the day of the unforeseen catastrophe to spare a colleague from traveling in the snow, which was ten feet deep in some places.

    “He was a great hard worker. He was very professional,” said his brother, Massimiliano Giancaterino. “This is the memory that I want to keep of my brother, beyond obviously the private ones that I keep in my heart.”

    Prosecutors say that post mortem examinations on the first six victims revealed that most died as a result of physical trauma from the structure collapsing with some showing signs of hypothermia and asphyxiation.

    The Survivors

    Out of the 40 who were at the resort, 11 people survived, including two who were not inside at the time of the avalanche. The other nine were pulled out of the ruins on Friday.

    Guest Giampaolo Parete was one of the two who escaped when he went to his car to get something. After 40 some hours of torturous waiting, workers rescued the first survivor: his eight-year-old son, Gianfilippo. The boy's mother, Adriana, was pulled out next, who feared for her six-year-old daughter still trapped inside. The little girl was later saved and the family was reunited at a hospital in the coastal town of Pescara.

    Worker Fabio Salzetta was also at his car when tragedy struck.

    Student Giorgia Galassi and her fiance, Vincenzo Forti, who owns a pizzeria in Pisa, are two more of the survivors. They revealed that they ate ice to stay alive for 58 hours but adrenaline is what kept them going. Galassi praised her boyfriend who hummed to keep everyone calm. "He supported us, everyone, not just me,” she shared.

    During their wait for help, they spoke with Francesca Bronzi, who was also spared, on the other side of a beam. Bronzi was wearing a watch and helped the couple keep track of time. Unfortunately, Bronzi’s boyfriend, Stefano Feniello, did not have a similar fate. After being falsely reported as among the first group of five going to the hospital alive, which naturally destroyed his father, he was announced as dead. The couple was celebrating his 28th birthday on their first vacation together.

    All four children checked in were saved. However, nine-year-old Edoardo Di Carlo and seven-year-old Samuel Di Michelangelo were left orphans. Along with six-year-old Ludovica Parete, the three were playing in the billiards room when the avalanche trapped them. Together they endured two days and nights of freezing temperatures without food or water. They were able to survive because the room did not cave in, but Edoardo’s bravery also played a part. He kept the other children in good spirits as he hugged and reassured them throughout, singing songs from Ludovica’s favorite film, Frozen. Edoardo's older brothers, aged 17 and 19, will now take care of him. As for Samuel, his uncle who was with him at the hospital is believed to be taking custody.

    Many of the survivors had symptoms of hypothermia and dehydration, but were otherwise in good health. Hospital director Rossano Di Luzio said that only one required surgery—for an upper arm compression injury.

    The Investigation

    Rescuers did not reach the site until several hours after the fact because of the many roadblocks from the heavy snowfall that covered Central Italy three days prior. The first rescue team traveled four miles by cross-country skis in a two-hour journey.

    Prime Minister Paulo Gentiloni acknowledged delays in the initial rescue effort after local officials did not take reports of the avalanche seriously enough. However, he told parliament on Wednesday that it wasn’t the time to find scapegoats.

    Despite his view, a criminal investigation is still under way. Many reports suggest that the local prefect's office at Pescara ignored calls for help from Parete and Salzetta, who escaped the disaster.

    Chief prosecutor Cristina Tedeschini believes that considering the long search effort, the delay in rescuer’s arrival may not have had a significant effect.

    The Earthquakes

    The avalanche occurred only hours after four strong earthquakes struck snow-covered Central Italy. The quakes had their epicenters in the city of L'Aquila, Abruzzo, and were felt as far away as Rome, Lazio, and throughout the coast of Marche

    The area experienced similar devastation five months ago when three quakes in and around the towns of Amatrice and Accumoli killed nearly 300 people.

  • Art & Culture

    La Serenissima: Music and Arts from the Venetian Republic

    Venice is a sanctuary on a lagoon that harbors a wealth of artistic and architectural masterpieces. Characterized by marble palaces and labyrinthine streets, it feels like a gondola ride back in time. Despite minor decay and tourism, the city is virtually the same as it was hundreds of years ago, romantic charm and all. However, it’s hard to envision Venice, with its spectacular scenery, as a refuge from marauding barbarians. Nevertheless, dating back to the fifth century, waves of people fled to the marshlands from surrounding Roman cities to escape hostile invaders.

    After experiencing a long history of war and conquest, Byzantine power waned and Venice’s autonomy grew, morphing into an independent city-state between the 9th and 12th centuries. Until Napoleon conquered in 1797, the city stood distinctly apart from Italy and the rest of Europe, achieving long-lasting cultural achievements and innovations.

    During the presentation of La Serenissima at the Consulate General of Italy, the Ambassador of Italy to the United States Armando Varricchio described Venice as a “jewel.” He continued, “For 1,000 years it served as the cultural capital of the nation. Merchants were not just bringing their finest garments, textiles, and products, but they were trading culture and connections.”

    Therefore, the reputation of the Venetian Republic—also known as La Serenissima, or “the Most Serene Republic”—came to be based on its rich cultural heritage, its status as an economic and trading power, and as a symbol of democracy and freedom.

    In recognition of Venice’s accomplishments and its important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music, Carnegie Hall will lead a citywide festival, La Serenissima: Music and Arts from the Venetian Republic, as tribute.

    “We choose topics that are utterly compelling and tell stories that are important to tell. That is why we chose Venice. Venice is one of those truly great stories of human creativity, human ingenuity, and human genius in every way,” Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall Clive Gillinson said.

    Falling during the period of the famed Carnevale di Venezia, the prestigious venue will headline a series of concerts of vocal masterpieces and virtuoso instrumental music from the thousand-year marvel that was the Venetian Republic. Jordi Savall, one of early music’s leading legends, will launch the festival on February 3 with his three ensembles, featuring music from Istanbul, Cyprus, Crete, and, of course, Venice itself. Other highlights include, Vivaldi’s dramatic oratorio, Juditha triumphans with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, and Monteverdi’s monumental final opera, L’incoronazione di Poppea, performed by Concerto Italiano led by Rinaldo Alessandrini.

    Thanks to fourteen of the leading cultural institutions across New York City, the celebration will span an assemblage of creative genres. The myriad of events, including panel discussions, theater performances, and art exhibitions, will all delve into the rich culture and the less familiar scandalous history of La Serenissima.

    For a complete list of the events and ticket information, please visit carnegiehall.org/venice.

  • A sketch of the new garden
    Facts & Stories

    Starbucks to Open in Milan, Renews Garden in Piazza Duomo

    Since its first location opened in 1971, Italy has resisted the arrival of Starbucks throughout the country. However, last year the American coffee company and coffeehouse chain announced their plans to open a store in Milan in 2017. Though skeptics abound, CEO Howard Schultz said in a statement that the approach stems from a place of high esteem.

    “Starbucks history is directly linked to the way the Italians created and executed the perfect shot of espresso,” he expressed. “Now we’re going to try, with great humility and respect, to share what we’ve been doing and what we’ve learned through our first retail presence in Italy. Our first store will be designed with painstaking detail and great respect for the Italian people and coffee culture.”

    An official date has yet to released for when the Milan location will open its doors, but rumors lean towards September. In the meantime, the chain is winning over the hearts of the city through a sponsorship to renovate the garden in the Piazza Duomo, which will guarantee care in the area for three years. This space is only five minutes away from Starbucks’s first Italian office, located in the former post office building in the Piazza Cordusio.

    According to the Councilor of the Green, Pierfrancesco Maran, the Superintendent has approved the operations, which “demonstrate how these forms of collaboration between public and private are fruitful in finding solutions that make the green areas of the city more beautiful and looked after.”

    As part of the plan, the old plants will be replaced with rows of palm trees and banana trees that alternate with Bergenia plants, hydrangeas, and hibiscus. Maran said the evergreen leaves “will give an exotic touch to the square.” The architect of the project, Marco Bay, explained that the trees will be planted amongst the perennials with alternating blooms throughout the seasons in various shades of pink in order to ensure liveliness and color. He continued to explain that the base, a dark gravel carpet, will cover the automatic watering system.

    Work will begin this week to transfer the current 24 hornbeams and 9 Clerodendrum that are in the big flowerbed in front of the Duomo to other parts of the city, in particular between via Salomone and Guido Galli park and between via Gonin e via Giordani. Then in about a month the planting of the palm trees, banana trees, and pink bushes will begin. 

  • Art & Culture

    'Fire at Sea' Nominated for an Oscar

    Gianfranco Rosi's Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) is among the five films nominated for the Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars. It was also selected as the Italian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film but it was not nominated.

    Its rivals for the best doc award include the highly regarded O.J.: Made in America directed by Ezra Edelman and the equally celebrated I am Not Your Negro by Raoul Peck, 13th by Ava DuVernay, and Life, Animated by Roger Ross Williams.

    Shot on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa during the European migrant crisis, Fire at Sea sets the migrants' dangerous Mediterranean crossing against a background of the ordinary life of the islanders. The film is presented without narration and beautifully composed, unlike many shaky documentaries, and provides an inside look at both the refugees and the people trying to help them.

    Throughout the film Risi follows a twelve-year-old resident from a fishing family, Samuele, and a doctor who gives both hope and bad news to the endless stream of refugees. Authentic to the core, he does not skimp out on any details, featuring helicopter rescues and people being pulled from the water either dead or in poor physical condition.

    Last February, the documentary won the Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival. In his acceptance speech, Rosi stated that he hoped to heighten awareness of the migrant situation saying, "It's not acceptable that people die crossing the sea to escape from tragedies." 

    Meryl Streep, President of the Jury in Berlin, described the film as "a daring hybrid of captured footage and deliberate storytelling that allows us to consider what documentary can do.”

    Since 2014, thousands of migrants have been trying to cross the Central Mediterranean to Italy in an effort to escape poverty-stricken homelands or war-torn countries. Lampedusa in particular receives enormous numbers of Africans and Middle-Easterners transported by smugglers along the coast of Libya. However, the journeys are dangerous and many risk their lives on unsafe boats. From January to April 2015, about 1,600 migrants died traveling from Libya to Lampedusa, making it the deadliest migrant route in the world.

  • Emergency units at work
    Facts & Stories

    Abruzzo Avalanche: 22 Still Missing

    Five days after a massive avalanche demolished the Hotel Rigopiano near the mountain resort town of Farindola, Abruzzo, rescue teams continue their search for the 22 people still missing amidst sub-zero temperatures and ongoing snowfall.

    Though the weather is hindering their efforts, rescuers vowed not to stop working until everyone is accounted for. While they located the seventh victim on Monday, they also discovered three wiggling white sheepdog puppies that renewed the rescuers’ faith in finding the remaining people alive. Italian emergency crews joyfully pulled out the dogs, proving conditions under the snow could still support life. 

    The puppies were born last month to the hotel's resident sheepdogs, Nuvola and Lupo, who managed to find their way out after the avalanche on Wednesday.

    Workers hope that the people who are still trapped are able to find air pockets under the debris, like the dogs, and that the snow is insulating them from the frigid temperatures.

    Family of 4 and a Couple Among the 11 Survivors

    Eleven people have survived, including two who were not inside at the time the avalanche hit and nine who were pulled out of the ruins on Friday. The latter survivors had reportedly taken refuge beneath a collapsed portion of ceiling, where they were able to light a fire to keep warm for two days.

    Guest Giampaolo Parete was one of the two who escaped when he went to his car to get something. After 40 some hours of torturous waiting, workers rescued the first survivor: his eight-year-old son. The boy's mother, Adriana, was pulled out next, who feared for her six-year-old daughter still trapped inside. The little girl was later saved and the family was reunited at a hospital in the coastal town of Pescara.

    Student Giorgia Galassi and her fiance, Vincenzo Forti, who owns a pizzeria in Pisa, also survived. They revealed that they ate ice to stay alive but adrenaline is what kept them going. Galassi praised her boyfriend "who never had any doubt" and hummed to keep everyone calm.

    "He supported us, everyone, not just me. He kept the whole group strong," she shared.

    Many of the survivors had symptoms of hypothermia and dehydration, but were otherwise in good health. Hospital director Rossano Di Luzio said that only one required surgery.

    Were Pleas for Help Dismissed?

    Though the guests and workers could not have foreseen the disaster, many gathered on the ground floor of the hotel to await evacuation following the four earthquakes. Bruno Di Tommaso, the hotel’s director, sent an email to local and provincial authorities asking for help. He requested a rescue team to intervene for his stranded and “terrified” clients who couldn’t leave “due to blocked roads,” a result of both the snowfall and the quakes.

    The president of Pescara, Antonio Di Marco, confirmed that he saw an email from Di Tommaso and had arranged for a snowplow to clear the road that night. The avalanche hit the hotel around 5:00 p.m., at which point the snowplow had yet to arrive.

    Prosecutors are currently investigating the situation and looking into possible disaster and multiple manslaughter charges. In particular, they are examining whether local government officials underestimated the threat facing the hotel, which had no phone service and dwindling gas supplies.

    Chief prosecutor Cristina Tedeschini reported that they are looking into the timing and content of communications, where the snowplows were deployed, who was alerted and when about the risks of avalanches, and how authorities responded when the avalanche hit the hotel.

    It is still unclear of when communications were received and when they were acted on. However, according to Tedeschini, since five days have passed and the search continues, she believes the delay may not have had a significant effect on the search effort.

  • The Rigopiano Hotel after the avalanche
    Facts & Stories

    Earthquakes Strike Abruzzo, Avalanche Buries Hotel

    Four strong earthquakes struck snow-covered Central Italy on Wednesday, a tragedy the area is all too familiar with—recalling the three quakes in and around the towns of Amatrice and Accumoli five months ago that killed nearly 300 people and caused significant damage to infrastructures. Following the most recent tremblers, an avalanche swept over a small resort hotel, trapping more than 30 people inside.

    Four earthquakes strike Central Italy

    The first tremor hit Montereale in Abruzzo with a magnitude of 5.3 just before 10:30 a.m., at which point the town had already been buried under more than 3 feet of snow for days. The heavy snowfall cut off electricity and cell phone service, with the quakes only worsening the situation for the residents. Fortunately, no deaths have been reported, though, as Premier Paolo Gentiloni described, it was a “difficult day” nonetheless. Now thousands of commercial, industrial, and agricultural enterprises throughout the four central Italian regions are experiencing further setbacks.

    The quakes had their epicenters in the city of L'Aquila, Abruzzo, and were felt as far away as Rome, Lazio, and throughout the coast of Marche. Officials registered more than 100 aftershocks on Thursday.

    Following avalanche buries hotel, killing 4 with up to 20 still missing

    At nightfall on the same day the earthquakes hit, a powerful avalanche swept over a small mountainside hotel, only adding to the devastation. The roof collapsed on the four-star Hotel Rigopiano, weighed down by 16½ feet of snow, trapping more than 30 people inside. The force was so strong that the resort was also pushed more than 30 feet of its foundations. Farindola Mayor Ilario Lacchetta believes the hotel had 24 guests, four of them children, with 12 employees onsite. It is still unclear if the quakes triggered the avalanche.

    The snow piled 10 feet high matched with fallen trees and rocks hampered search and rescue teams tremendously. It took hours for only 25 vehicles and 135 rescue workers to arrive. The first rescue team traveled four miles by cross-country skis in a two-hour journey, proving their relentless efforts in a desperate search for survivors. Firefighters were dropped in by helicopter and snowmobiles were also mobilized. Emergency units are still continuing their search.

    Upon arrival, the Alpine rescue team found two people who were able to escape the avalanche. Guest Giampaolo Parete and maintenance worker Fabio Salzetta both went to their respective cars, the former to get something. There were no other signs of life until Friday afternoon.

    To cheers of joy rescue crews pulled nine survivors from the debris. This was an incredible discovery after two days of what seemed to be a hopeless quest. Two children were among the nine found alive. This news was particularly uplifting, as four people have been reported as dead. 

    One of the survivors reported that at the time of the 5:30 p.m. avalanche all of the guests had been checked out and were waiting for the roads to be cleared to be able to leave, as they were frightened from the tremors. However, the scheduled snowplow never arrived.

  • Art & Culture
    Life & People

    Gianandrea Noseda on the Future of Opera

    As part of the Italian Cultural Institute of New York’s ongoing series highlighting Italian conductors, they recently welcomed Gianandrea Noseda, who is widely recognized as one of the best of our times. In conversation with Harvey Sachs, an accomplished writer and music historian, the event showcased the brilliant new production of Shakespeare’s classic in Charles Gounod’s adaption “Roméo et Juliette” at the Metropolitan Opera House. Vibrantly led by no other than Noseda, the show will run until March 18. Together Sachs and Noseda also shed light on how the world of opera has changed throughout history, addressing the challenges the industry faces today but with an overwhelming air of optimism for its future.

    Harvey Sachs: Writer and Music Historian

    While Sachs received much of his musical training in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, he lived his entire adult life throughout Europe before settling in New York just over ten years ago. Of his many accomplishments, on top of his nine published books and over 700 articles, he founded the annual Festival del Quartetto d'Archi in Arezzo, Italy, in 1991, which remains the only festival in the country dedicated to the string quartet. He also served as the Artistic Director of the Società del Quartetto di Milano, Italy’s most prestigious concert organization, from 2004-2006.

    Gianandrea Noseda: Internationally Recognized Conductor

    Noseda, who hails from Northern Italy—apparent from his blonde hair, blue eyes, and light Milanese accent, was named the International Opera Awards Conductor of the Year 2016 and Musical America’s Conductor of the Year 2015. Starting in the 2017-18 season, he will become the Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Noseda also serves as the Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Orquestra de Cadaqués.

    Since 2007, he has led the Teatro Regio Torino, propelling the opera house onto a global stage where it has become one of Italy’s most important cultural exports. He was at the helm of the BBC Philharmonic from 2002 to 2011 and in 1997 he was appointed the first foreign Principal Guest Conductor of the Mariinsky Theatre, a position he held for a decade.

    As proven by his extensive experience and thus too his limitless curiosity, his repertoire expands beyond Italian. Of course, this is evident with his mastery of Russian works from his time in St. Petersburg and his current endeavor into French opera. In fact, his eclectic background is mirrored in “Roméo et Juliette,” as Noseda pointed out: “A British writer wrote the play that takes place in Verona orchestrated in music composed by a Frenchman conducted by an Italian with an American company featuring a German soprano, so it’s intriguing.”

    Opera’s Past, Present, and Future

    While Noseda wields the baton with remarkable fervency and athleticism at the podium, he’s much less dramatic offstage; however, his passion for the art is equally overt. When Sachs questioned him on everything from the rehearsal process to the differences between French and Italian opera—the latter tends to be more dramatic, Noseda spoke for minutes on end, digging into the deeper meanings. One such topic they explored in great length was the transformation the opera world has experienced, starting with the downscaling of theaters.

    In Italy, for example, there used to be an opera house in almost every town and village; this is simply not the case anymore. Noseda admits that there’s no longer a demand for it, possibly due to the vast availability of other art forms. He also says that name recognition does not play the part it used to. Fifty yeas ago singers like Caruso were able to sell out more than 15 performances, but today even the best of talent can’t draw a crowd.

    Of course, opera houses operated differently when the art form first gained popularity. An impresario invested in productions and the company would do as many performances as the audience would continue to pay to go to. Once the show flopped, they would be ready in a couple of days with the next show. Now this is not possible for many reasons. For one, the productions were much simpler, especially from the visual point of view. There wasn’t built out staging but rather printed backdrops they could reuse, and costumes were much less extravagant.

    Furthermore, you have to schedule everything today. “The musicians’ unions rightfully need to know if they’re going to be employed for two months or two days," Sachs explained. "Everything has to be organized long in advance and it creates a whole different system that functioned one hundred or two hundred years ago.” However, it's difficult to schedule an entire season when people no longer subscribe to shows. Now people are interested last minute, they buy a ticket and then they go. If they do commit to a subscription, it's only five or so shows at once. Therefore, “to organize a season is difficult,” Noseda laments.

    One of the major problems is that there is no longer commission for new operas. Noseda, among many others in the industry, often is at a loss for what to do. On the one hand, he wants to attract the masses by showing what is popular, what has proven to be successful. On the other, he feels that the people really do want something different. “In history, artists have always had to be very creative,” he proclaimed. “We are not serving our field very well; we don’t commission new operas. This is a tragedy.” As an alternative, companies recreate interest by reviving the classics. In October, Noseda sold out 9 performances of “La Bohème” because he made it more modern and provocative. “If you don’t do either one thing or the other, why would people go to the opera?” he asked. But it's a risk that only smaller companies tend to take. “When you do a new opera at the Met you have to fill almost 4,000 seats, it’s a big problem,” Sachs explained.

    Noseda worries where the opera will be 100 years from now if new operas aren’t being produced as rapidly as they were 150 years ago. “Will we exist still? I hope so. I’m not sure. It’s very hard to say. Unless we find the way to connect and to present the opera, but you cannot force the opera to be something different because the opera is the opera. You have to use all the elements you have to make the opera, to sound, to look more believable,” Noseda said. He continued to explain that instead of preserving, people have to revitalize. “I still believe it is a live art form, but to be taken as a live art form it needs new operas, which will subsequently enlighten the repertoire ones. But people will not follow. Beethoven was not followed with the last quartets, Mozart was not followed, but now we know Mozart, we don’t know Dittersdorf or Hummel, who were much more famous at the time.”

    Despite all the challenges, Noseda is hopeful. He notes that technology has endless possibilities, not only to heighten the mystery, but also to push and to create new operas. He also believes that the proper funding can be achieved by combining public money with private sponsorship. He concludes that with more support, the world of opera can continue to reach the right standards. To him this means being more artistically involved in the performance and totally present in every moment.