Center for Italian Studies hosts annual concert
Every year, the Italian Studies Department brings to the stage students, faculty, and alumni for a night of celebration of Italian culture. On Friday, March 31, the Center for Italian Studies sponsored this year’s performance, entitled “Diversitàlia: Italian Cities and their Soundscapes.”
The concert was held in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center to a sold-out crowd in the Leighton Concert Hall and took audience members on a tour of Italian cities. The concert began by looking at Italy through a tourist’s eyes with a performance of “On an Evening in Roma,” sung by graduate student Sean Leyes.
Professor of Italian Lesley Marcantonio, who is the producer, musical director, and a performer in the concert, then came onstage and introduced the concert, saying, “Together in one place, experiencing one moment in time, breathing one moment of this music, we immerse ourselves in the Italian passion for spectacle, for beauty and for music.”
In an interview with the Rover Marcantonio spoke of the pedagogical function of the Italian concert: “The hope is that the music opens [Italy] up. Beyond a lecture, beyond anything, [music] is something that you can experience, and you can encounter something that is true through the music.”
She explained the theme and how it came to be, saying, “The themes grow out of conversations in class, with Italian friends and family over a meal, with students returning from abroad, with colleagues. This year’s theme—Italian Cities and their Soundscapes—came from my heart, but the love is one shared and recognized by all who have encountered, or dreamed, of Italy.”
Marcantonio wished to explore, “Why is it that when someone says ‘I went to Milan…Rome…Naples…’ you have a totally different feeling for their visit? Or when an Italian says “I’m from Milan…Rome…Naples…” you know something intimate about them, beyond stereotype. We wanted not just to answer this question, but to present this question on stage, through music.”
Following Leyes’ performance, the remainder of the concert took the audience on a journey through Italy, presenting each Italian city through the eyes of a native.
One of the most moving performances of the night was that of Dr. Anthony Monta, Dean of Holy Cross College and professor of English. Monta has performed in the Italian Concert since 2018. This year, he sang a song entitled “Genova Per Noi” about the city of Genoa.
The song captures the feelings and wonder of a small-town villager who experiences the busyness of a large port city for the first time. Monta’s paternal grandfather, Pietro, came from the small Piedmontese town of Roasio and immigrated to the United States. For men like Paolo Conte—the author of the song—and Pietro, these port cities meant opportunity.
In an interview with the Rover, Dr. Monta described his grandfather’s journey through various port cities, saying, “There was no work in the foothills, so Pap had to go to St. Moritz in France to make money. His older brother, who had moved to Pennsylvania, said in letters that the US was the place to be, so Pap and his friend Eusebio Micheletti came over just before World War I.”
He continued, “Pap was drafted in 1916. He went with Pershing’s Army to France, where he was … gassed. [He was] sent to recuperate at a French resort, which he rather enjoyed. I say all this because port cities like Le Havre and Genoa were gateways for Pap and his friends to new worlds for their families, and new futures.”
“Genova Per Noi” was an easy choice for the concert. Monta said, “Professor Marcantonio had had her eye on this song the minute she settled on the theme of songs from and about Italy’s many cities..”
Teresa Tompkins, who returned to the Italian Concert for her second year, spoke with the Rover about how her experience performing has changed the way she views music. She said, “I had been trained very competitively, and it took the joy out of [music] for me. So, when I met this band, it was just the greatest breath of fresh air, because they are all about loving the music and giving that back to the audience, letting them experience Italy in all of its spirit and culture … It is something that has brought back the joy in performing.”
Tompkins performed two songs, “Napul’è” and “Maledetta Primavera,” which closed the concert. Tompkins could not decide which of the two she prefers, but said of her pieces, “‘Napul’è’ is such an enchanting piece because Naples is so often disregarded. That song is saying even though Naples is dirty and forgotten, it is beautiful, and it should not be forgotten, and its people should not be forgotten.”
She continued, “But of course, ‘Maledetta Primavera’ is all passion. It’s about blaming yourself for the mistakes that you’ve made, but also saying, ‘I can’t live my life any more this way’ … and ‘Damn Spring!’ I love the way that the song is a complete giving of [yourself].”
Marcantonio performed six songs, one of which, “Roma Nun Fa la Stupida Stasera,” she grew up hearing her mother sing around the house. Marcantonio told the Rover, “I am definitely not used to the vulnerability of performance. For myself, singing ‘Roma Nun Fa la Stupida’ for my mom is something that I’m not communicating directly to the audience, but it’s something that I am keeping in my own heart and mind while I perform.”
Marcantonio made sure to praise the band which makes the concert possible. She said, “Prof. Joseph Rosenberg, assistant professor in the Program of Liberal Studies, has been the core of the band since the beginning, and now, along with Joseph, we have an established band of incredible musicians from around campus. One of the greatest characteristics of this project is the collaboration. The band is the engine of this project … They play a variety of styles rarely covered by one group of musicians—folk, rock, jazz, opera, electronica, beach, indie and even big band music.”
Next year’s concert will celebrate Italian female voices, particularly the iconic singer Mina.
Elizabeth Hale is a sophomore studying political science. While she does not speak Italian, she insists that she understands what everyone says, “Even though I can’t translate it.” To explain ‘il congiuntivo,’ please email her at email@example.com.
Photo Credit: Allison Dethlefs
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