Two years ago, I wrote a story about the history of music in Naples in order for the fans to understand why the guys sing Opera, in their case Operatic pop or popera and Neapolitan songs and why their Bel Canto worked!
This story was really two stories in one. It was about Il Volo and their music, and it was about where their music came from and the people who made this music famous.
I am going to give you a small portion of that story so that we can follow this journey that will lead us Beyond Bel Canto.
Italy is an emotion and in the center of that emotion is a passion and that passion is Naples. Naples is like no other place in Italy or, for that matter, no other place in the world. Neapolitans are the most diversified people in all of Italy. Naples is a feeling you can never shake but, above all…
Naples is music!
The first Neapolitan songs as we know them, date back to 1835 but the golden age of song, in Naples, was from 1890 – 1910 when immigration to America began. Men left with the dream of a better life but what they found was even harder than what they left. They left their homes and families, and, in some cases, they never went home again. They found themselves alone with nothing but their music.
Many Neapolitan songs were written about these times. Most of these immigrants lived in New York City in lower Manhattan in an area which became known as Little Italy. Small music companies would put on one act plays. Little vignettes. The stories were always the same, they were about home and family. They were about the mother they would never see again.
In 1903, Enrico Caruso made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Caruso’s debut on November 23, 1903, was in a new production of Rigoletto. A few months later, he began his lifelong association with the Victor Talking Machine Company. He made his first American record on February 1st, 1904, having signed a lucrative financial deal with Victor. Thereafter, his recording career ran in tandem with his Met career, both bolstering each other, until his death in 1921.
Torna A Surriento ~ Not Caruso! Actually, the version I prefer!
Caruso was the first international singer to come to America. He introduced America to Italian Music. He loved to sing Neapolitan songs and they were so popular that when he performed at the MET at the end of the show he would come out and sing these songs. Among these songs were “’O sole Mio,” “Torna Sorrento” and “Santa Lucia.” As a result, Neapolitan songs became a part of an opera singer’s repertoire and every opera singer after Caruso would sing opera and Neapolitan songs.
Music in Naples remained the same until after World War I. At one-point singers were taxed for singing but that’s a story for another time!
With the arrival of US troops in World War II, Naples woke up to a new beat. The US troops introduced them to the buzz and rhythm of jazz and boogie, and Naples immediately liked it. It took little time for performers and songwriters to understand how these new US imports could benefit them.
Now it was time for a new name to appear in Neapolitan music. Enter, Renato Carosone. Carosone introduced Naples to music they could dance to and so Naples got up and danced and never looked back until the late 1970s when a new movement was started in Naples.
I would not do Neapolitan Music or Il Volo justice if I didn’t mention Pino Daniele.
Pino Daniele was an Italian singer-songwriter, and guitarist, whose influences covered a wide number of genres, including pop, blues, jazz, and Italian and Middle Eastern music.
Daniele made his debut in the Italian music world in 1977 with the album Terra mia, which was a successful mix of Neapolitan tradition and Blues. Daniele defined his music with the term “tarumbò”, which indicated a mix of tarantella, blues and rumba.
Daniele’s talent is evident in albums like Pino Daniele (1979) but, he scored his greatest success in 1980, with “Nero a metà,” which was noted by some authorities as the hallmark of the rebirth of Neapolitan song.
Daniele wrote and sang his own music, and this music was known in America.
I started this piece by saying Italy is an emotion and Naples a passion. If Naples is a passion, that passion was Pino Daniele. Songs like Napulè, Quando and Quando Chiove are just a few examples of his songs. Examples I chose because I know you know these songs. They are very deep passionate songs. Many artists have sung Daniele’s songs but in order to do justice to a Pino Daniele song you have to bring passion, emotion and Neapolitan dialect to the song.
Enter Ignazio Boschetto….
Ignazio’s tribute to Daniele is amazing and emotional.
Ignazio’s rendition of Alleria is one of the most beautiful expressions of this song I have ever heard.
Daniele’s songs are very deep and very emotional, and you can feel the depth of the song because of the presentation of the song. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it’s as if Daniele wrote his songs for Ignazio.
So now let’s move on to 2009 when three Italian teenage boys revolutionized the music industry and brought life back to Opera and Neapolitan music. They were the first Italian artists in history to sign a contract with a major American music label. This was unheard of! No international artist or group ever captured the ear of an American music label before even stepping foot in America! When they came to America, they had a signed Universal Music contract in hand!
They presented Operatic pop or popera to America. What is this movement? It’s singing Opera in a more classical style. While opera is very strict and regimented, popera is more ethereal it has a lighter feeling, and it moves freely. It takes away the hard edges of opera and replaces it with a more ethereal feel while still presenting the drama and the high notes of the opera. It has a more popular appeal. This along with the classical Neapolitan songs become a big draw. Why did it work? One reason is three amazing voices! If the voice wasn’t there the song wasn’t going to sell.
Over the years the guys continue to change and evolve finding new directions and taking lots of risks! With their win at Sanremo, they finally opened the last door, their front door ~ Italy. For Il Volo this was a very important win because it brought their music home!
We stop along this amazing journey to see departure points.
In 2018, it was time to crossover!
The albums keep coming, the success keeps coming and the boys have grown into very attractive young men. And now they’re ready for a new experience. The music evolves and they are ready to crossover.
In 2018 they released one of the most exciting Latin albums to come out in years. I would go so far as to say Amame is the most exciting Latin album that was ever produced. It’s opera, its rock, it’s classical, it’s pop and it never stops giving. The rhythm in songs like Noche Sin Dia is amazing. You have to move with the music. You can’t sit still.
Maldito Amor is a phenomenal experience for your ears. The delivery is smooth and beautiful. It’s one of those songs that stays with you forever.
This album is so exciting that I will not play it while I’m working because from the first note you have to get up and dance. Exciting! Exciting! Exciting!I thought about this album and how I would write about it. These three amazing guys absolutely floored me. The beat is so intense and they are spot on. I think the guys knocked it out of the box with Noche Sin Dia. With Latin music you don’t just sing it, you feel it and if you don’t feel it, you don’t cut it. This album cuts it! Good move!
As if that wasn’t enough, they follow up with Musica!
This is the album that proved that great can get greater. This album is representative of where these young men are now. It’s beautiful, it’s sensitive, it’s romantic. It’s about love. It’s about them being ready for love. It comes from deep within them. All the sweetness and humility of these guys is in this album. It moves your senses. What I am saying is they have evolved, and their voices have evolved. They’ve grown into their voices. Their voices are mature and have expanded in such an amazing way. There’s an intriguing balance in their voices. To experience this amazing evolution in voice and song you need go no further than “Be My Love.” Gianluca’s voice vibrates and expands to realms I’ve never heard before. Ignazio makes your heart stop as you journey along his notes which lead to absolute ecstasy. Piero fills all your senses and brings you to such heights that you have to stop and breathe. This is Musica che resta!
And then it’s time for a new direction! A new risk! Il Volo sings Morricone was that new direction. No, they didn’t leave Bel Canto behind, instead, they moved forward and added Morricone’s music to their repertoire.
This project started with their desire to pay tribute to Ennio Morricone. What better way than to present an album of his Academy Award winning songs.
Morricone died at the beginning of the COVID pandemic and because of this, it gave the guys the opportunity to go through his songs and compile a list of songs that would give a true representation of who Morricone was. In the beginning of their career, the guys sang E Più Ti Penso accompanied by Ennio Morricone.
Most of Morricone songs where movie theme songs like The Ecstasy of Gold from The Good, the Bad and, the Ugly. The guys along with the Morricone’s family and in particular Andrea Morricone put words to music to form an album which has become the theme of their new World Tour, IL Volo Sings Morricone.
There are so many wonderful songs in this album that it is hard to single one out. The Ecstasy of Gold is Gianluca’s favorite. Se from Cinema Paradiso is Piero’s favorite and Here’s to You from Sacco & Venzetti is Ignazio’s favorite.
And so, we move forward.
This year the guys recorded a new album Tres Voce Un Alma. This album like Amame is phenomenal. It includes some very beautiful Spanish songs like Abrazame and Tan Enamorados. And let’s not forget the Portuguese song, Come Vai Voce. The tour that followed in South America proved that they are phenomenal entertainers whether singing in Italian, English or Spanish!
So, I touched on the different directions they’ve gone in over the last 14 years, but now we must look to the future!
A New Direction!
Almost 15 years have passed since they came together and what they’ve done in those years is amazing. When they began they were unique. There was no one else like them. And they began to grow first musically by leaps and bounds. And they were constantly changing. They were always ready to try something new! From Bel Canto they formed relationships and feelings more musically than personally. They started to climb, not to stardom, that they always had, they climbed the ladder of success. Over the years they grew together in their relationship, and they grew apart in their music. They began to feel their music in their bones. They began to understand how their music works together but also how it works apart. In music you need freedom. In Bel Canto they have freedom because they feel it in their blood, and no one can separate them from it. But now they are ready. Each man has found themselves Beyond Bel Canto. They are now expressing who they are in relationship to their music.
It’s the dawn of a new day. It’s the beginning of finding a new way of keeping all that you treasure in place while exploring the road ahead. So, on the dawn of this new day, we find a new idea. An unsual idea. A new approach. Staying together while being apart. And even in this they are successful. Most of the time when a group comes to this awareness they part ways. Buy no not our guys, they are coming together in music, in life and in their relationship with a new approach to concerts. A sharing of ideas and feelings and a sincere support for one another’s music and talent. An amazing feat that only three totally phenomenal guys could accomplish.
They have been together as long as they have been apart.They know only one life, for good or for bad, it’s the life they’ve shared for 15 years. The important thing is it’s been very good for them.
Is it risky? For some yes, but for them no. They’ve taken so many risks in their career and they always succeeded. Ignazio might say but there was “Eurovision.” To me Eurovision was a win. A success. If the rules had changed one year earlier instead of one year later, they would have won.
Anything good is worth fighting for. And fighters they are. Consider how they mulled over Sanremo to go or not to go. That’s who they are. They are risk takers, but they think everything through. They don’t need managers or producers they know how to handle everything. They consider every possibility and then move ahead when they find the right fit.
While they were on tour in South America I was touring South America and I listened to their concerts whenever I was able to get them on board the cruise ship. I was reading everything that everyone was posting and what I noticed was every night after their concerts and on their free days, they were in Ignazio’s room recording. I couldn’t understand why they were doing this while traveling from city to city and concert to concert. What were they recording? New songs? Maybe there was going to be a new album. If so, why not wait until you get home and record it in the studio. But they weren’t recording songs, they were recording sounds. New sounds! Their new sounds! A new way of presenting their voices to us. They took the songs we were familiar with, and they recorded them with their sound. We already know what the voices are about, but they wanted us to hear their personal sound. They were preparing for their new concerts! They wanted us to hear what they hear when they sing! They wanted us to feel what they feel when they sing! They took songs like Grenada, broke it into pieces and presented it in a new way! Classical, Soul and Pop! Suddenly a voice that we know and a song that we know becomes a new song with a new expression.
Right out the gate we have Piero our beautiful spinto tenor singing Granada as we know it as we are used to it but with just a little more feeling and a lot more voice!
Gianluca stuns us with his version of Granada. He brings back visions of Sinatra singing Granada. I’ve included Sinatra’s version here so you can understand what I’m saying. At point 1:00 in the video you can hear Sinatra sing what Gianluca is singing and understand what I’m saying.
Gianluca I know you admire Sinatra and that is well accepted and received but honestly, if Sinatra was alive he would admire you! He never had your range!
And then there is our beautiful lyrical tenor, Ignazio! Ignazio always lets us ride on his notes to ecstasy, but this is different. His voice has that extra punch. His voice is so smooth, so clear, so defined and his range is outrageous! He pierces us with each note and pulls us forward with a rhythm that evades definition! So natural! Such ease! A production in itself. Gianluca said “Ignazio is soulful. He can do anything!” So true! So true!
They’ve taken Bel Canto and turned it into a new sound so you can hear the songs we know and the words we know but with a fresh new approach. In their voices we feel, and we understand who they are and their new direction. They wanted to show us who they are individually. Not that we never heard them sing alone before, but they wanted us to feel the song in a new way.
What does it mean and where are they coming from with this new sound. It is three amazing men showing us they are more than three amazing men, with three phenomenal voices. They show us collectively and individually who they are with an amazing new sound.
I’m sure much of this new direction took shape during Covid when the guys had lots of time to think about their future and where their music would fit in it!
Let’s look at each guys new sound.
Which one of the three has stayed closest to his voice over the years. No doubt, it’s Piero because Piero always had a direction. It was always about his love of opera, and since Covid if anything good came out of it for Piero, it was the opportunity to study more. We find Piero ready to step on the stage of any opera house in the world.
Ignazio spent his time during Covid studying sound, how it works in a recording studio and all the elements of producing a song. This is how he was able to do the recording in his room during the South American Tour. His voice is a new sound in itself! He’s taking all that’s inside him, all that he feels and he’s laying it on the table for us to experience. He opens his heart to us in his music. His expression is from his heart, and he delivers a new sound that is even more phenomenal than before! Very soulful! The sincerity in his music was always there it’s just more apparent now that he has the freedom to express it in his own way!
For Gianluca he was finally able to take piano lessons. We all know that for Gianluca every day is about finding new music. During this time, he found his niche. He wanted to come closer to American music. Elvis and Sinatra. This was always something that was there for Gianluca but now he was really ready to move forward.
What do the guys have to say about all of this. Our Daniela translated the interview from SORRISI E CANZONI TV. In this article the guys talk about where they are and how they got here. I am not including the whole article.
How did the idea of these two evenings come about?
Ignazio: Our personal tastes go beyond what we sing. We are experiencing an evolution in our group.
Gianluca: Il Volo remains the priority, however the lineup of the two evenings has been designed in a coherent way to show who we are.
Piero is the tenor of the group, he studies opera and dreams of one day interpreting for it.
I, on the other hand, love American music like Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, John Mayer with his guitars, but also Italian songwriting like Fabrizio De André.
Ignazio has a soulful voice and can do anything.
You will sing both alone and with other artists. Can you give us some examples?
Gianluca: I will sing Geordie with Madame (Italian singer), because we both love De André, with Irama (Italian singer) La Cura by Battiato (Italian singer-songwriter) and with Annalisa (Italian singer) Shallow by Lady Gaga.
Piero: I will sing Miserere with Mario Biondi, and with Gianna Nannini Meravigliosa Creatura.
Ignazio: I will sing with Francesca Michielin (Italian singer). I know her artistically. She is very good at reaching people with her words. We will talk about love.
And then with Mario Biondi I will sing Natural Woman and Sei Bellissima, alone with the guitar. Ah, I will also duet with Orietta Berti! (long career Italian singer).”
Piero: And we will sing with Pooh (Italian group), we will almost be a soccer team!
Gianluca: We would like to say that we are three singers, not just three tenors. But obviously we will also re-propose our classics.
Piero: We will open the show with Granada, but in different versions: classical, soul and pop, us three, like our personalities.
The last time we met was October 2019, to celebrate the collection of THE BEST OF TEN YEARS. In these four years, three of which due to the pandemic, what has happened in your lives?
Piero: We have dedicated ourselves to ourselves. This stop has helped me a lot to clarify my ideas and -set myself up- for the future. I have deepened my studies of opera.
Gianluca: I rediscovered reading and studied the piano, as well as being with my family.
Ignazio: I too started studying, I fell in love with sound, with how a recording studio works, with how a song is produced. I spent time with my loved ones.
For years we have been in the midst of a storm of commitments, emotions and compromises. It was important to stop and understand what we wanted to do.
Gianluca: We are working on a new album. Then in October we will conclude the dates of the world tour that started in May 2022. After three years of standstill, we are back in a big way, without neglecting any continent. We have been everywhere: Australia, Japan, South America, USA, Europe and now we have added a date in Petra, Jordan. We have done more than 100 concerts. It is our longest tour ever. We had so much fun. We returned to the stage with a new awareness, enjoying every moment.
Piero: The public waited for our return for four years, they didn’t abandon us. This is a further confirmation of the people’s affection.
So, the guys have told us what their new direction is. Now, I must change direction and follow a new idea with three amazing guys who are always changing yet always remaining the same. Bel Canto will always be their MO but from here on in, they will also share their personal musical journey with us. Their unique voices will now be unique new sounds that will draw us in in a whole new way! Next week I will present the new concerts and the new sound Beyond Bel Canto.
For you listening pleasure….
The Concert at Verona Arena
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!
If you would like to share a story with me, please email: email@example.com
To read more Il Volo stories visit us at www.ilvoloflightcrw.com.
Gianluca is very different from Piero and Ignazio. He had a calm and peaceful childhood. He didn’t have the challenges that Ignazio had or the intense classical education that Piero had. No, Gianluca lived a very simple life. Perhaps that explains why Gianluca is a romantic. With him, everything is about passion! Like his passion for Abruzzo which he takes around the world. On tour he always speaks about Abruzzo. He loves his country and, he wants others to love it too! I agree with Gianluca, Abruzzo is an amazing place. My maternal grandparents were from Abruzzo!
Gianluca’s life began in the small town of Montepagano where he lived a simple life but, when he emerged, he began a journey that would take him around the world and through his amazing voice would leave his mark in every corner of that world.
Let’s listen to how Gianluca describes the town he grew up in:
To be precise, I grew up, in Montepagano, on a hill two hundred meters as the crow flies and ten minutes by road from the sea, and Roseto degli Abruzzi.
The accents are beautiful, the dialects are beautiful, but I can say that what I prefer is the Abruzzese? I am, very, proud to be from Abruzzo. I love everything about this region. And I like to bring Abruzzo around the world and keep it high.
I am right at the sea. I’m relaxing, I’m calm! There is a sea breeze and nothing else. It’s Thursday and I am practically alone on the beach. I’m fine, from God! I’m fine because I’m home.
When Gianluca goes home to Abruzzo, he feels like he is on vacation. Montepagano is a very beautiful town. It sits at the top of a hill facing the Adriatic Sea. It is like a picture-perfect postcard! It’s no wonder Gianluca is at peace here. Montepagano is Gianluca’s paradise.
If you ask Gianluca about this paradise and how he spent his childhood there he will tell you, “My life as a child seems so far away. I remember, very, little of my childhood! It’s like twenty years have passed but, only five have passed. I’m not like Ignazio I was born and raised in Montepagano. I was traveling only with dreams. What made me dream? Music naturally.”
And, so, we come to perhaps Gianluca’s greatest passion, Music! Or let’s say our greatest passion about Gianluca, his music!
As you know, Gianluca’s mother worked, so, he went to after-school session with the nuns. He had a teacher named Gabriella. One afternoon, while Gianluca was doing homework, he suddenly got up and started singing “Time to Say Goodbye.” The teacher was speechless. “What a voice you have, what a wonderful voice,” she told Gianluca. “But do you know Andrea Bocelli?” She could not believe how it was possible for such a small child to have such a voice and to know a singer of that kind. “Of course, I know him,” Gianluca said, “he’s my idol, my favorite singer,” Gianluca said this with a certain pride. “Only I do not have his CD yet.” “I’ll bring it to you tomorrow, I’ll gift it to you” was the teacher’s answer. “I was seven, maybe eight years old and thanks to Gabriella I was able to start listening to Andrea Bocelli as often as I wanted.”
Yes, this was Gianluca’s passion as a young boy to sing Bocelli songs. And he sang them all the time. But it was music itself that motived Gianluca. In an interview with the “Rosetana Star” Gianluca said: “Music for me is the oxygen of my life.”
And it wasn’t just Bocelli as Gianluca will tell you. “As I grew older, I became more passionate about singing, including the great American classics, first of all Frank Sinatra.”
So, let’s turn to the Voice! Sinatra was known as the Voice. But I think Sinatra would be in awe of Gianluca. Love you Frank but Gianluca’s got this one!
Gianluca is known as the Velvet Voice!
I don’t who coined the phrase but, that is right on. Let’s use our senses to understand what that means. Take a piece of velvet and hold it in your hand. Now take your other hand and gently pass your hand across the velvet. What do you feel? You feel a smooth even surface that is crisp with no breaks in it. The sensation is so good that you automatically go back and do it again. And every time it’s the same. It’s pleasing!
Now take Gianluca’s voice, let the notes pass into your ears, what do you hear? A crisp, smooth, even voice with no breaks in it. The note barely passes into your ear and, you are going back for the next note. It’s always pleasing!
Gianluca is a lyrical baritone. He is exceptional because he can sing from the lowest to the highest note in the baritone range. Most baritones are limited in range. Gianluca’s voice is huge. He has a very rich chest resonance which creates a feeling of depth and drama in his voice.
A baritone’s voice is very romantic, very pleasing to listen to and is always inviting. Most songs are written for baritones. Gianluca starts, almost, every song. Why? In order for a song to be received well you must draw your audience into it. Gianluca’s voice draws you in in a romantic way and you hang on to every note. He can mesmerize you with songs like “Mi Mancherai” where he reaches into the depth of his being and yours. His interpretation of “Surrender” is electrifying. But, when Gianluca sings, “She’s Always a Woman”, he takes your breath away. The highs, the lows, the emotion, the expression. His voice expands like nothing I ever heard before. He has total command of the song. You walk away with your senses lifted to another level.
So, let’s turn to how Gianluca got to where he is today! To do this I need to introduce you to the Zecchino d’oro .
Why the Zecchino d’oro or perhaps you’re saying what is the Zecchino d’oro?
I was first introduced to the Zecchino d’orolast November when an article came out saying the Zecchino d’oro will be postponed due to Covid 19. The presenters of the year would be Mara Venier and Carlo Conti.
When I read this article, I immediately thought of Gianluca. So, what is the Zecchino d’oro and what does it have to do with Gianluca?
The Zecchino d’oro is an Italian tradition. It is an event for kids, and it is dedicated to them and to all the adults who still feel like kids.
This show is presented every year between late November and the beginning of December.
In Italy there are magical days, when it starts to get cold, and children stay in their warm homes. It’s not Christmas, but the period that precedes it when the famous Zecchino d’oro TV show is broadcast. It has been broadcast every year, for decades. It was established in 1959 by Cino Tortorella who was the good presenter who introduced the children on stage, disguised as Mago Zurlì. He was so loved by all children.
The Zecchino d’oro is the festival of the little ones. In fact, if the Sanremo Festival is aimed at adult audiences and the songs are interpreted by adults, the Zecchino d’oro is made for children, with songs tailored for children.
The songs may seem like simple songs but, they are actually much more. Special attention is given to the songs’ texts. The themes are about tolerance and peace. And this is confirmed by the expression of the event: “In this contest, the winner is not the child who sings, but the song that is sung!”
Father Berardo Rossi, one of the founders, discovered by chance, a girl who used to teach the children of his parish and organize events. Mariele Ventre, who was 22 years old, had just graduated from the Verdi Conservatory in Milan and was on her way to a promising concert career. She said yes to Fr. Rossi’s proposal and the adventure began.
Mariele liked the name Zecchino because it refers to the gold coin in the field of miracles of Collodi’s Pinocchio and thus it was called Zecchino d’oro. She founded the Piccolo Coro two years later, an institution that she would direct passionately for thirty years, until the last day before she died on December 16, 1995. Upon her death the Piccolo Coro dell’Antoniano, was renamed Piccolo Coro for Mariele.
Zecchino d’oro, however, is not only music and entertainment, but it has also been carrying out voluntary initiatives by raising funds to build schools, hospitals, orphanages, with projects all over the world, to help the less fortunate live better lives.
In 2008, the Zecchino d’oro received an amazing recognition from UNESCO, becoming a world heritage for a culture of peace: the first TV show in the world to receive such a prestigious award.
This year the images were to be reassuring to Italy. The country had the strength to bet on good feelings and a strong idea of safeguarding children.
Though you may not know this show in America, we can relate to one of the characters, Topo Gigio, the puppet created by Maria Perego. Topo Gigio landed in America many years ago on the legendary Ed Sullivan Show. For those of you who are not old enough to remember Topo Gigio, let me say we waited every week for his appearance on the show. For us kids and the adults he became a household name. Seems hard to believe that this little mouse stole the hearts of the American people.
So where does Gianluca fit into all of this? If it wasn’t for the Piccolo Choir of Roses which was inspired by the Zecchino d’oro, Gianluca may not have been discovered.
Gianluca was a member of the Piccolo Choir of Roses which is one of the local branches of this choir. The Mago Zurlì, who was the presenter of the event when Gianluca was in the Choir, was Gianluca’s father, Ercole Ginoble.
But, let me let Gianluca tell you how this all came to be….
When I sing, I don’t forget instinct. What does that mean? As I said, I have never studied singing. I learned to “use” my voice only thanks to my musical ear. I listened to the music and, it transmits everything I know. And I especially thank the Little Choir of Roses.
When I was about eight or nine, all those who knew my voice gave me the same advice: go sing in a choir. In Roseto there was the Piccolo Choir of Roses directed by the master Susy Paola Rizzo. They sang the songs of the “Zecchino d’oro” or other famous songs with arrangements in that style, with music for children. The Mago Zurlì, that was the presenter of the event, was my father. He had been for a couple of seasons.
This is where I started. It was nice because we studied the songs throughout the winter season, not the technique of singing, the songs. It was different, because we did not study the notes and how to do them, rather we studied instinctively, following what the teacher said and what our ear heard.
Then, in the summer, we demonstrated our work in the Municipality of Roseto. We sang in the squares during the local festivals, in the lidos, in the bathing establishments, around the whole of Abruzzo, all these tiny villages.
During the performances with the choir, besides the repertoire of the Zecchino d’oro, we sang the songs of Bocelli: Misere, Il Mare Calmo Della Sera, La Voce Del SilenzIo.
Of course, the greatest achievement for Gianluca and the guys was winning Sanremo! We know that it was Gianluca who convinced the guys to go to Sanremo! Or rather Gianluca convinced Piero who convinced Ignazio. And, in the end, Gianluca sums up Sanremo and the events that follow in this way!
The truth is that I was right from the beginning and, no one has ever listened to me, ever. I believed it so much that, if you notice, maybe I’m the one with the least surprised look when Carlo Conti announces the winner. Then, of those moments, one remembers little, there is great confusion, emotion. It was a dream to be able to shout, “Thank you, Italy!” from that stage. I looked at Sanremo as a child, when there was Pippo Baudo, and I was there and have won because people were on our side and it was a dream, I repeat even if I have already said. The emotion was only when my grandfather told me almost in tears: ‘Who would have told me that in my life I would see Modugno win at the Festival and then I see you win.’
On Sunday evening, when I returned to Montepagano, I found th whole village in a party, not just my grandfather: my countrymen were waiting for me from the morning to celebrate. There really was everyone, including the mayor. And then, the journalists, the local TV and a crowd of people who we could not count.
Another of the beautiful things that came after San Remo was the chance to meet the children of the Agbe, the Association of Parents of the Emopatic Children, of Pescara.
It is a reality born in 2000 from the idea of a group of parents, in fact, with children from the hemopaths treated at the Santo Spirito hospital in the city. The purpose of the association is to give support in every way to the children and families during and after the period of treatment. An initiative that, for those like me and very sensitive to the problems of health of children, and really beautiful.
The thing that honors me a lot and that, inspired by my story with Ti Lascio Una Canzone, they thought to have the children dedicate to singing, so they organize a Christmas show every year that keeps them very busy and also a lot of fun. But at Agbe they would never have thought we would meet.
Instead, after the Festival I went to see them, all young patients from 4 to 15 years, and I invited them to our concert of Il Volo Live 2015 in Chieti because I knew that Piero and Ignazio would have been happy to meet them. And, so, it was: they came, they had fun and we spent time together taking pictures and signing autographs.
But Gianluca is about emotions too! And many things that happened after Sanremo were emotional for Gianluca! Like Gianluca receiving a prize for bringing Abruzzo around the world. Let’s listen to Gianluca talk about the emotion of winning this prize.
When I talk about emotions that arrived after Sanremo, I cannot forget what it meant to receive a prize like Abruzzese that gives prestige to its region in the world.
Every year on August 5th is celebrated the Day of Abruzzesi in the world, a day set up with a regional law to remember all the emigrants. On that day five ambassadors of Abruzzo are appointed in the world, that is, Abruzzesi who have come out of the regional boundaries for different reasons and give prestige to their region.
For example, they awarded a university lecturer, a cardiologist, the founder of a cultural association, an entrepreneur and a successful executive. The ceremony, which has a different location every year, was held in the Fortress of Civitalla del Tronto, a village that is a jewel of the province of Teramo, right on the border with the Marches.
I, however, am still in Abruzzo and therefore I cannot be appointed ambassador according to regional regulations, I was awarded with a beautiful statuette that replicates the warrior Capestrano, for having brought the name of my land around the world.
I cannot tell you what a feeling it is to receive from the regional Presidency the cultural symbol of my region. The original of the warrior stands in the National Archaeological Museum, more than two meters tall, of limestone, with a large disk helmet that looks like a hat. You see it for sure. And it is one of the things I’m most proud of.
In short, Sanremo was just a dream that brought us many different emotions.
Gianluca has a heart of gold! It’s always about helping others whether through his generosity or his love of his country! That’s just how Gianluca is. He has his hand in everything and reaches it out to those who need it!
But it seems I digressed!
So now, let me go back and sum up Gianluca’s musical career! Although Gianluca never studied music he did develop a musical ear and instinct and as a member of the Piccolo Choir of Roses and his performances around Abruzzo, he was discovered by Licia Giunco who brought Gianluca to Rome to audition for Ti Lascio Una Canzone. The rest of the story is history!
And as a result of this, Gianluca Shares His Amazing Voice with people all over the world!
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!
‘Amore’: Italian-American Singers In The 20th Century
Apparently, Dean Martin didn’t much like the song “That’s Amore,” but in 1953 it became one of his biggest hits. It’s a song that seems to capture a moment in pop history when nearly every hit was performed by an Italian-American singer. The story of “That’s Amore” and the songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and others is told in a new book called Amore. Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz recently spoke with the author, Mark Rotella, about Italian singers in 20th-century America.
“That’s Amore” came from a movie called The Caddy, starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis; it’s about an Italian man who plays a golf pro and is followed by a faithful caddy. In the movie, when the two return to Italy and are greeted by their Italian family, they break into this song. When we hear it today, it sounds like a caricature of Italian culture. But, Rotella says, it served as an introduction to Italian culture for many Americans.
“It was one of the more obvious ones,” he says. “There were Italian singers before, but this led to other kitschy songs, like Rosemary Clooney’s ‘Mambo Italiano,’ and so many other songs that came after that were kind of kitschy but were also really pop and kind of fun.”
Rotella’s book isn’t just about Italian-American singers. It’s also about a turning point in 20th-century America when Italian entertainers started to be seen as American entertainers. Rotella says that there was a Golden Age of entertainment that started around 1947.
“This is when second- and third-generation Americans of Italian decent were coming of age,” he says. “This is post-war; it was a time of optimism. This era was basically the end of the big band and the beginning of the solo voice, and this lasted through the ’50s, up until I’d say 1964, with The Beatles.”
This was happening during a period when there was a great deal of discrimination against Italians in America. For example, this excerpt was taken from a profile on Joe DiMaggio from Life Magazine in 1939.
“Although he learned Italian first, Joe now speaks English without an accent. … Instead of olive oil or smelly bear grease, he keeps his hair slicked with water. He never reeks of garlic and prefers chicken chow mein to spaghetti.”
These kinds of comments were acceptable in mainstream dialogue, and yet a few years later, Italian singers would dominate the pop charts.
“This is the time when so many singers were now seen on TV,” Rotella says. “They were good-looking. They had a certain sensibility, a certain attitude that was open and charming.”
Rotella says that nearly every singer he interviewed named Enrico Caruso as an influence. Caruso was the first pop artist to sell a million copies of his music, offering his recordings on flat discs for the RCA Victor Vitrolas of the time. Rotella says that this shaped the way music was sold for years to come.
“They sold so much, this really defined how music was recorded and on what medium,” Rotella says. “It was going to be Victor on the flat plastic records.”
One of the singers Rotella includes in his book is none other than the king of the golden age of Italian-American music, Frank Sinatra. Rotella calls Sinatra’s song “Fly Me to the Moon” a metaphor for all of the breakthroughs that Italian singers achieved.
“When you hear the song, it’s optimistic,” he says. “It’s kind of dreamy, forward-thinking, but it’s tough. He says, ‘fly me to the moon,’ but it’s almost as if he’s there already. This is coming at a time when music was going to change. It’s the tail-end of the success of the Rat Pack. It was at this time that almost total assimilation of Italians had happened. In ways, I feel like after this [song], there were so many Italians that followed him. Not necessarily performing Italian music; we wouldn’t necessarily know them as Italians today. This song of reaching the moon seemed to me to be every immigrant’s dream of assimilating.
(Note: videos were added to this article ~Marie)
Descendants from Sicilian village keep their heritage alive in America
Between 1880 and 1920 over four million Italians were recorded as entering the United States. About three-fourths of these immigrants went through the Ellis Island immigration station with the majority being males between the ages of 24 and 45.
The island of Sicily and the region around Naples, both in the south, accounted for over half the Italians who moved to the U.S. looking for a better life.
According to manifest documents from the ships, so many Sicilians reported ‘Sciacca in Agrigento’ as their home village that immigration inspectors used “ditto” marks to record this information.
Many of these Italians settled in Little Italy neighborhoods all over the country, the most famous being in New York.
Discrimination between Italians in Little Italy was rampant.
Being fiercely provincial and proud of their own regions, the Italians from Naples, Calabria and Bari looked down on Sicilians, particularly those from Sciacca.
Given their humble beginnings, their descendants were taught to be proud of their Sicilian heritage.
Baseball legend Mike Piazza’s father’s family comes from Sciacca, and though he doesn’t speak Italian, the former Mets catcher is fiercely proud of his roots.
“I feel a strong tie to Sicily, since my heritage is there. My grandfather Rosario came from Sciacca, to the United States and my father grew me up following the Italian tradition. I think it’s in our DNA to strive to work hard and persevere,” Piazza said.
“One thing that was present in me was my father’s distinct love of his Italian heritage and Sicilian ancestry.
I can’t tell you how many times my father would say “Amuni a monjare, beddu”, and “mezza mortu”.
He would also take a strong stand against negative Italian American stereotypes saying that they “don’t represent the real Italians”.
Piazza also said he travels to Sciacca regularly. “It’s something I have great pride in knowing how proud my father and grandfather would be if they could see me here.”
Musician Jon Bon Jovi is another who is descended from emigrants from Siacca. In 2013, Bongiovi Sr. gladly shared his family’s pasta sauces – the recipes for which originated in Sciacca and were passed down through three generations.
Cartoon artist, director and producer Joseph Barbera, who formed Hanna-Barbera with William Hanna, is another who is descended from emigrants from Sciacca. Both his parents were born in Sciacca and he grew up speaking Italian.
Alicia Keys is another who has found out about her large extended Italian family. Her great-grandfather Michiele was from Sciacca.
Mike Marino, most famous for his hilarious segment about an Italian president from New Jersey, is another who is descended from emigrants from Sciacca.
As his grandfather once said: “YOU MAY LEAVE SICILY – BUT SICILY NEVER LEAVES YOU.”
Four Presidents, a Mountain and an Italian Chief Carver: the Long Forgotten History of Luigi del Bianco
Everyone knows Mount Rushmore, with its iconic representations of four of the most important presidents of US history: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, F.D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. As a child, I remember being fascinated by their stoney, gigantic faces and I often wondered how someone could have made them look so perfect and lifelike; as you would expect from a 5 year old, I thought a single sculptor spent his entire life carving the mountain on his own, with his scalpel in one hand and a hammer in the other, failing to understand that a project of such a magnitude had very likely involved hundreds of people through a number of years.
Even if I had known that then, I certainly would not have been aware of the essential role of Italy in the creation of the Mount Rushmore Memorial, because its recognition came only in very recent times, when a previously unknown Friuli Venezia-Giulia migrant, Luigi del Bianco, was recognised as chief carver of the monument.
Bringing justice to Luigi
History tells us that, between the 4th of October 1927 and the 31st of October 1941, 400 people worked on the sculpting and carving of Mount Rushmore. They were led by Gutzon Borglum and his son, sculptors and artists of Danish descent.
Among those 400 workers, in 1935 made his appearance Luigi del Bianco, from Meduno, in the north eastern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, who had studied carving in Venice and Vienna before trying his luck on the other side of the ocean and emigrating to the United States. Del Bianco’s name became known among historians and specialists of Mount Rushmore when his own grandson, Lou del Bianco, and his late uncle Caesar, began a strenuous campaign to have the role of their own ancestor in the making of the Mount Rushmore Memorial recognised.
Because Caesar and Lou both believed Luigi had been more than a simple worker at the site, they set on a quest: demonstrating it to the world. It was Caesar, son of Luigi, who started the amazing adventure in the late 1980s, when Rex Allen Smith published “The Carving of Mount Rushmore:” here, the name of his father never appeared. Caesar was gutted.
More than 20 years later D.J. Gladstone, the author of the ultimate work on del Bianco, “Carving a Niche for Himself” (2014), would say that talking about Mount Rushmore without mentioning Luigi del Bianco was the equivalent of talking about the Yankees without mentioning Joe DiMaggio: but how much research, work and perseverance was behind such a statement. The research, work and perseverance of Caesar and his nephew Lou, who explored libraries, unearthed documents and campaigned for recognition, refusing to let their relative fall into oblivion.
After Caesar’s death in 2009, Lou took up his mission in full and it’s also thanks to his relentless efforts that Cameron Sholly, current director of the Midwest region for the National Park Services, accepted to reassess Luigi del Bianco’s role in the inception and creation of Mount Rushmore. Shelley came to the conclusion that del Bianco’s grandson was right: Luigi had been, indeed, the main carver at the site, the artist who gave to America’s timeless stone presidents their life-like features and immortal gaze.
Who was Luigi del Bianco?
Chief carver at Mount Rushmore, of course, but his life held much more than that. He was born in 1892 aboard a ship near Le Havre, in France, while his parents had been returning to Italy from the United States. The family, as said, settled in the North East of Italy and it’s there that 11 year old Luigi started studying carving and understood how talented he was. Still an adolescent, he had travelled to the US for the first time and settled with relatives in Vermont: there, he became known as a skilful carver. After returning to Italy to serve his country during the First World War, he was in Vermont once more and then settled in Port Chester, where his family still resides today.
While in Port Chester, del Bianco met Borglum, with whom he began to work: it was the beginning of the collaboration who was to bring him to South Dakota and to Mount Rushmore where, as chief carver, he became responsible of refining the presidents’ facial expressions. According to The Times, he spent a particularly long time sculpting Lincoln’s face and his eyes, whose pupils were made more vibrant by inserting wedges of granite in them. He worked at Mount Rushmore from 1935 to 1941, when he returned to Port Chester. Here he died in 1969, at the age of 78, because of silicosis, a disease caused, tragically, by the same thing that gave him so much joy in life: stone.
Watch for these winners on your PBS Channel. These dates are From Detroit PBS. Search or call your local station.
Celebrate Ol’ Blue Eyes’ 100th Birthday with Italian Favorites
On Saturday, Dec 12, we honor Sinatra’s 100th birthday with specialFrank Sinatra: The Voice of Our Timeat8pm ET. The night also features Italian-themed programming from Il Volo, Luciano Pavarotti, & Giada Valenti.
Also scheduled for Detroit PBS and hopefully soon in your area.
Il Volo: Buon Natale Saturday, 12/12 at 6:30pm ET. Il Volo perform holiday songs in this concert featuring Panis Angelicus;Jingle Bell Rock; Let It Snow; It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year medley; and more.
LynnK found this video from “Access Hollywood”
IL Volo: ‘Grande Amore’ Our Best Release Yet
December 6, 2015
Italian pop trio IL Volo tells Access why “Grande Amore,” is the best work they’ve ever recorded.
Here we are again with almost no news of Il Volo. We do know they are enjoying being home. Piero is doing the Disco scene. Ignazio seems to be here and there with his friends, it does look like he’s having a good time. We’re grateful this year that he is tweeting and sending photos, Last year we heard almost nothing from him during this time. Gianluca was in Rome for a day or so, Had his hair straightend and apparently did some shopping and was interviewed for a magazine article, otherwise he seems to be staying around home with his friends. His daily tweets are always welcome!
Here we go on another “Did You Know“. Remember, if you have any tidbits of your own, let us know!
DID YOU KNOW??
Gianluca was so shy as a child he looked at the floor or wall when he sang?
Piero sang at weddings when he was young, to help pay for his music lessons. His family was willing to pay, but he wanted to help pay too?
Ignazio used to bother the neighbors, playing his drums constantly in his room?
Here are some Did You Know’s on some other Italian singers.
Did you know that Jerry Vale was born Gennaro Luigi Vitaliano in the Bronx, NY? Did you know that he shined shoes in a barbershop in NYC for extra money? He sang while he worked and his boss was so taken with his singing that he paid for his music lessons?
Do you remember some of his hits? “Al de La”, “Arrivederci Roma” and my favorite “You don’t Know Me”? You can still hear and see him on YouTube. He pesently lives with his wife in California.
Did you know Frank Sinatra was born an only child in Hoboken, NJ? Did you know he was expelled from High School in 1938 for his rowdy behavior? Did you know his father was a lightweight boxer who fought under the name of Marty O’Brien?
It’s too hard to put all his hits here. My favorite has always been “My Way” written by PaulAnka!
Did you know that Mario Lanza was born Alfred Arnold Cocazza? He changed his name in 1942, his mother’s maiden name was Maria Lanza.
Some of his hits were “Drink Drink Drink” “I’ll Walk With God” and “Be My Love” He passed away at the young age of 38.
All of these great artists can still be seen and heard on YouTube.
Did you know that The Appian Way (Via Appia) was built by the Romans in the mid 4th century BC? It was the earliest and strategically the most important road in the ancient empire. It was used to transport military supplies and troops. At right is a portion of the Via Appia near Quarto Miglio.
Some news sent to us from Flight Crew member, Chris. Ignazio will be a guest singer at the concert of his friend Roberto Amade, a jazz musician on February 2nd in Marsala. Thank you, Chris for the heads up!!
Before you send me letters (lol) I will be covering my favorite singer, Perry Como in my next column!!
Thanks everyone for your feedback, Enjoy!
Come in and share the love of life, friends and Il Volo!