Monday, July 9, 2012

Italy, as we love it

Look at this great video, found on a friend's blog.
[Unfortunately, this video is no more available with Youtube in some countries]. Watching it, we experience a moment of true humanity, in other words, a moment of transcendence: in a theater, but above all in hundreds of hearts, Beauty, Truth and Goodness are gathered in freedom. This was Italy at best: culture, lyricism, «franciscan» simplicity –even in the Opera –, its slightly rough sweetness, its joy of living without vulgarity... Italy, and Italians, as we love them.

What is it? We are in March 2011, at the Rome Opera, for a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Italian Unity. Berlusconi is present. Riccardo Muti leads Verdi’s Nabucco. Before the performance, the mayor of Rome took the stage to denounce the budget restrictions on culture imposed by the government. At the time of the famous “Va pensiero”, the sublime chorus of slaves, evoking the deportation of the Jewish people to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, the audience is as if electrified. Riccardo Muti explains: “... when we came to the famous Va pensiero, I immediately felt that the atmosphere became tense in the audience. There are things that you cannot describe, but that you feel. Previously, it was the silence of the public that reigned. But when people realized that the Va pensiero would start, the silence was filled with genuine fervor. You could feel the public's visceral reaction to the lament of slaves singing: ‘O my country, so beautiful and lost!’

Even before the chorus ends, the public was already shouting “bis”, and applause and endless cheers followed. Although he had already done it at La Scala in 1986, Muti hesitated to grant a “bis”. For him, an opera should not be interrupted. He explained: “I did not want just an encore. It had to be for a specific intent”. But when rose the cry: “Long live Italy!”, the conductor turned, faced the audience, and spoke: “Yes, I agree with that ... My thirty years are passed, and I have lived my life, but as an Italian who has traveled many times around the world, I suffer from what is happening in my country. So I accept your request for an encore of Va pensiero. This is not just for the patriotic joy that I feel, but because tonight, when I was leading the choir singing ‘O my country, so beautiful and lost’, I thought that if we continue like this, we will kill the culture on which the history of Italy is built. In that case, we, our homeland, would really be ‘beautiful and lost.’ ”

After a round of enthusiastic applause, including the singers on stage, Riccardo Muti went on: “As we are in a very Italian mood, and as Muti spoke very often to deaf ears [There is a play on words: in Italian, “muti” means “dumb”] for so many years ... Let us make an exception... We are at home, right? The theater of the capital, with a choir who sang beautifully, and who is superbly accompanied... If you dont mind, I suggest you to join us and sing together”. Then, smiling, he added: “But a tempo!

Look and listen at this, see the singers wiping the tears running on their faces... An unforgettable moment of communion, of fervor and restored pride. [Unfortunately, this video is no more available with Youtube in some countries].


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