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Friday, October 2, 2015

The Destruction of the Cathedral of San Tomasso

The Cathedral of San Tomasso in the town of Ortona prior to World War II.

The Cathedral after the Battle of Ortona in World War II

The Cathedral as it looks today.

The Dance of the Tarantula - La Tarantella-

La Tarantella is one of the most famous, most beloved folk dances of Italian culture. Its beauty and elegance is unsurpassed. Today, you can see the Tarantella performed by a solitary couple or in a group of couples.

Tarantella means tarantula in Italian. It is the dance against spiders and is said to have originated in Napoli and spread to Apulia, Basilicata, and Calabria in the 15th century. Apparently, the original legend tells the story of a person who had been bitten by a Mediterranean Black Widow spider and had to dance to an upbeat tempo to sweat the poison out.

When someone was bitten by a spider, the victim and the entire community would join hands, dance, leap, scream, and shake for hours to vibrant music with shrill tunes played on trumpets and fifes.

It was also believed at some point that the dance could be applied as a cure for the neurotic behavior of women or that tarantulas would be compelled to dance by the music.

The Tarantella is a dance in which the dancer and the drum player constantly try to upstage each other by dancing longer or playing faster than the other, subsequently tiring one person out first.

Regardless of its many variations to the dance and its legend, it is beautiful to watch and a celebration of authentic Italian culture.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Luigi Rossini

Long after the Renaissance, Italy continued to produce wonderful artists. In the 19th Century, Luigi Rossini became one of the most famous and talented authors in this modern time.

Luigi began his work in the city of Bologna. He studied with Antonio Giuseppe Basoli (1744-1843).

It was during this time that he developed an interest in architecture. He immersed himself in such learnings and attended numerous lectures. He soon began to draw and sketch Italian achitecture. In 1813 he won a prize for his art which led him to Rome where he continued to stimulate his artistic talents. Some of his most famous art depict the most revered ancient structures of Rome.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Adelina Patti

Adelina Patti
1843 - 1919
Opera Singer

When it comes to opera, Adelina Patti (February 10, 1843 – September 27, 1919) was one of the most highly regarded female singers of the 19th century.  She earned exorbitant fees at the height of her career.

She is considered one of the most famous sopranos in history due to the beauty of her lyric voice and the unsurpassed quality of her bel canto technique. Giuseppe Verdi, wold famous composer, called her the greatest vocalist that he ever heard.

Adelina was the youngest child of tenor Salvatore Patti (1800–1869) and soprano Caterina Barilli (died 1870).  Her Italian parents were both working in Madrid, Spain, at the time.  Her elder sisters, Amalia and Carlotta Patti were also singers. 

Adelina and her family moved to New York City when she was a young child.  She grew up in the Wakefield section of the Bronx.  To this day, her family's home still stands. 

Age 15

Her professional singing career began in childhood where she developed into a coloratura soprano.  It is believed that Patti learned much of her singing technique from her brother-in-law Maurice Strakosch, although later in life Patti, like many famous singers, claimed that she was entirely self-taught.

In 1861, at the age of eighteen, she was invited to Covent Garden, to take the soprano rôle of Amina in Bellini's La sonnambula.  Her performance was a resounding success.  With the proceeds, she purchased a house in Clapham where she travelled to perform in Paris and Vienna.

In 1862 she sang John Howard Payne's Home, Sweet Home at the White House for Abraham and Mary Lincoln, who were mourning for their son Willie, who had died of typhoid.  The Lincolns were moved to tears and requested an encore.  This song would forever became associated with Adelina Patti.  She performed it many times as an encore by popular request.

Patti sang in the United States, all over Europe, including Russia; and in South America, inspiring popular frenzy and critical raves wherever she went.  Her girlish good looks made her an appealing stage presence. In her prime, she reportedly had a beautiful soprano voice of birdlike purity.

Patti helped give fame to the title "Diva".  In her prime, Patti demanded to be paid $5000 a night, in gold, before the performance.  Her contracts stipulated that her name be top-billed and larger than any other name in the cast.  Her contracts also said that while she was "free to attend all rehearsals, she was not obligated to attend any."  She was known to have a stubborn personality and sharp business sense.  She reportedly had a parrot whom she had trained to shriek, "CASH! CASH!"

Patti's last tour to the United States in 1903 was a critical and personal failure.  From then on she restricted herself to the occasional concert here or there, or to private performances at the little theater she built in her home at Craig-y-Nos in Wales.

By her 60s, with her voice was well past its prime.  Many decades of busy use had weakened her breath control.  Nonetheless, the purity of her tone and the smoothness of her legato line remain uniquely impressive.  The records also display a lively singing personality as well as a surprisingly strong chest voice and a mellow timbre.  Her trill is wonderful and her diction excellent.  Overall her discs have a charm and musicality that give us a hint of why, at her peak, she commanded $5000 a night.

Patti's piano accompanist Landon Ronald wrote: "When the little trumpet gave forth the beautiful tones, she went into ecstasies! She threw kisses into the trumpet and kept on saying, ‘Ah! Goodness me! Now I understand why I am Patti! Oh yes!  What a voice!  What an artist!  I understand everything! Her enthusiasm was so naïve and genuine that the fact that she was praising her own voice seemed to us all to be right and proper."

Patti's personal life was not as successful as her professional life. It was widely believed she had a dalliance with the tenor Giovanni Mario, who bragged at Patti's first wedding that he had made love to her many times.

Engaged as a minor to Henri de Lossy, Baron of Ville, Patti married three times: first, in 1868, to Henri de Roger de Cahusac, marquess of Caux (1826-1889).  The marriage soon collapsed; both had affairs and de Caux was granted a legal separation in 1877 and divorced in 1885.  The union was dissolved with bitterness and cost her half her fortune. There was a report in The New York Times in April 1875 that the Marquis was killed in a duel in St Petersburg whilst Adelina was fulfilling a professional engagement!

She lived with the tenor Ernesto Nicolini (1834-1898) for many years until, following her divorce from Caux, she was able to marry him in 1886. That marriage lasted until his death and was seemingly happy, but Nicolini cut Patti out of his will, suggesting some tension in the last years.

Patti's third and last marriage was to Baron Rolf Cederström (1870–1947), a priggish, but handsome, Swedish aristocrat many years her junior.  He severely curtailed Patti's social life.  He cut down her domestic staff from 40 to 18, but gave her the devotion and flattery that she needed.  He became Patti's sole legatee. After her death, he married a woman much younger than he. Their only daughter, Brita Yvonne Cederström (born 1924), became Adelina Patti's sole heir.

In her retirement, Adelina Patti, Baroness Cederström, settled in the Swansea valley in south Wales, where she purchased Craig-y-Nos Castle. There she had her own private theatre, a minature version of the one at Bayreuth.  She made some of her recordings at Craig-y-Nos.

She died at Craig-y-Nos and eight months later was buried near her father at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Article Source: Wikipedia

Friday, September 11, 2015

Luigi Villoresi

Luigi Villoresi was born on May 16, 1909 into a wealthy family in Milan. Both he and his younger brother Emilio starting racing as private entrants since they could afford a racecar. Then in 1937, Emilio was offered a contract to drive for Ferrari and the following year Luigi signed on with Maserati. Emilio was killed while test driving a car for Ferrari and the circumstances surrounding his death caused Luigi to develop a dislike for Ferrari. Luigi continued racing winning the South African Grand Prix in 1939.

Then World War II erupted in Europe and put Luigi's racing career along with all the other drivers on hold. One of these was Alberto Ascari who had taken over his family's business. Ascari saw an opportunity for profit in transporting fuel to the Italian army depots in North Africa and partnered with Luigi to establish a business. During the war Alberto and Luigi developed a close friendship. When the war ended Alberto thought about abandoning racing as he was now a family man but Luigi persuaded him not to do this. Luigi and Alberto signed on with Maserati and stayed on that team until 1949 when Luigi received an offer from Ferrari.

Luigi Villoresi in a Maserati

Luigi went to talk to Ferrari with mixed feelings. He still harbored a grudge against Enzo over the death of his brother. However, in the end he procured a contract for him and Alberto. Both he and Alberto entered the 1949 Buenos Aires Grand Prix-President Juan Peron Grand Prix. Alberto won and Villoresi placed second. They continued to race for Ferrari and Luigi made his debut in Formula 1 at Monaco in 1950. However, wins were accompanied by injuries. He had two serious accidents in Geneva. In one, his car overturned, tossing him out into the middle of the road. Fortunately, the driver following him, Nino Farino, spotted Luigi in the road and was able to swerve. But Nino also spun and crashed.

Painting of Luigi in a Ferrari

Villoresi was in a coma when he arrived at the hospital and lost a joint from one finger. In spite of his injuries he was still able to enter and win the 1951 Inter Europa Cup at Monza. At the end of 1953 he and Alberto decided to leave Ferrari to race for Lancia in 1954. However, the Lancia was not yet ready so Luigi drove again for Maserati. He returned to Lancia in 1955 and took fifth place at Monaco. But Alberto Ascari was killed that year during a test drive. Luigi became severely depressed over the death of his closest friend and his career went into a nosedive. He raced in the Grand Prix at Rome in 1956 but crashed his car.

In 1957, Eugenio Castellotti was killed in circumstances similar to his brother's death. Now the love/hate relationship that Luigi had with Enzo turned to pure hate as Luigi blamed both deaths on Enzo's hubris and was quite outspoken on the subject. Luigi retired from Formula 1 racing that same year but did continue to engage in rally racing. He won his last race, the Acropolis Rally in Greece in 1958, and then retired permanently. He was eighty-eight years old when he died in Modena, Italy in 1997.

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