For those of you who love music, you will find here one of those rare moments where the depth of what we are shows amazingly.
Before you watch the video below, let me do my best to translate what happened in Rome on March 12th 2011 in the opera house.
As Italy was celebrating its 150th birthday, the most symbolic opera for Italy written in 1840 by Giuseppe Verdi, named Nabucco, was played directed by Riccardo Muti.
Nabucco was conceived at a time where music and politic combined. The story in Nabucco talks about jewish slavery in Babylon: one of the most famous songs of the opera named Va Pensiero has become the symbol of Italian people’s quest for freedom. In 1840, Italy was oppressed by Hasbourg Empire, and Italy fought until its reunification was completed. Va Pensiero, although created to reflect the heart and soul of these poor slaves, represents now Italy deep connection to freedom.
Just before the opera started, Gianni Alemanno, Rome’s mayor, made a speech criticizing budget cuts done by his own political side in culture funds. Silvio Berlusconi, current prime minister, was in the audience.
In Europe, culture is extremely important. Culture is everything that we have inherited: architecture, paintings, music, books and others. You probably know how Italy stands out in bringing history back to life just by looking around you: walking in Rome is a visit to the past. Italy has an outstanding heritage on all levels.
Italian’s culture is our culture. It is a beyond value asset of our civilization.
Unfortunately, except for tourism, there is not much financial value in preserving all these edifices, and this heritage.
The temptation is then to cut in the funds for this heritage when Italy is close to bankruptcy.
What this video shows is how important it is to keep your soul, even in the most challenging times.
Mr Alemanno’s speech triggered unexpected reactions from the audience and most amazingly from the conductor.
As Riccardo Muti recalls: “ At the beginning, there was a public ovation. Then we started the opera and all went well until we started Va Pensiero. Suddenly the atmosphere changed, silence was heavy. There are certain things you can feel and have difficulty to express in words: silence before that song was different. As soon as the audience realized that Va Pensiero was about to start, their silence became intense, especially when the choir sang “Oh My Homeland So Beautiful and So Lost!””
As the choir was finishing the song, some in the audience started to ask for “Bis”. Some started to scream “long life to Italy” “long life to Verdi”. People on the balconies started to throw notes praising Italy and Muti.
In 1986, Muti had agreed to repeat Va Pensiero at the Scala in Milan, but that evening he was hesitating. Finally he turned around and facing the audience, he started a speech as moving as unexpected: people had just screamed Long Life to Italy. “I agree with that, he stated. I am not 30 years old anymore. I have had my life. I traveled all over the world, and I am ashamed by what I see in my country. So I will grant you another Va Pensiero. The reason is not only this patriotic fervour I feel tonight, but also the feeling I had when the choir was singing “Oh my home country, beautiful and lost”: if we keep going in that direction we will lose this heritage that is the base of our country. And our Homeland, nowadays, would then also be beautiful and lost.” The audience, the artists on stage went clapping and cheering at his words. He then continued: “ Since this “Italian climate” has started, I have remained silent for too long. I would like now to give even more meaning to this song beautifully sung by this talented choir with the moving music played by the equally talented orchestra, please I invite you to join us so we all sing.”
The audience started to stand and sing. The choir on stage stood too. The whole opera house sang Va Pensiero, the song of the choir of slaves …
Nabucco once again was political as well as musical.