Tag Archives: L’Italo-Americano

c’era una volta….

Italia!  What a marvelous culture and so much older than my America.

In Italy they recognize, celebrate and preserve their national heritage and traditions with honor, pride and courage.

Here, published in L’italo-Americano, is one of those traditions.

~Marie

Sicily’s storytelling traditions

Mimmo Cuticchio performer of Il Cunto, a traditional form of Sicilian storytelling

Since the first days of language, humans have been passing on stories. From the sea shanties of Cornwall to the shadow puppetry of China, from the creation tales of Hula dancing to the drama of Caribbean calypso. Sicily is no different: its puppetry, dating back to Medieval times, is famous the world over for  telling tales of knights in battle. But there’s another story too, the tradition of cuntu, dating back to Greek theatre and based on both sung verse and spoken prose. To discover its compelling history we have to go back to the ancient world.

Many modern cultures and languages can trace their origins to ancient ancestors, typically reaching back across decades, centuries and even millennia. European languages from Spanish to Portuguese, Romanian to English, for example, all owe a large debt of gratitude to the ancient Romans. Vulgar Latin forms the basis for several languages spoken by a sizeable proportion of the world’s population, not least of course Italians inhabiting the beautiful Mediterranean peninsula and beyond.

Within some circles there is even a view that Sicilian, rather than being simply another dialect of Italian, was actually the first to have developed from ancient Latin. And certainly there are persuasive similarities that seem to suggest that words in use today evolved from Latin through Sicilian to the Tuscan that would go on to become the national language.

But whilst the language of this spectacular island obviously springs from ancient Roman roots, it also draws considerably upon the tongues of the many people who came as occupiers and conquerors, namely the Carthaginians, Arabs, French, Spanish and, most notably, the ancient Greeks.

Mimmo Cuticchio has reinvigorated this noble art through the improvisation of daily tales.

Evidence of the Hellenic Republic’s presence percolates throughout the island. From the sublime Doric temple filled landscape of southern Sicily, to the ancient theatre in Taormina on the eastern coast. Add in the language of poets and an alphabet that persisted through to the Middle Ages and it’ s easy to see how the Greek love of language and theatre evolved into the islanders’ unique storytelling tradition of cuntu.

The word cuntu is, simply enough, defined as an account, statement or novella. For locals its true cultural meaning, however, goes much deeper, conjuring up thoughts of fables, fairy tales and fantastic  anecdotes of chivalrous adventure. Sometimes puppets are used – they’re a significant part of Sicilian folklore – but for the most part cuntu is the ageless, almost extinct art of spoken word street storytelling.

Long before the age of cinema, television and social media, Sicilian cuntisti made their livelihoods breathing life into epic tales for the amusement of their audiences. But unlike classic theatre that demands a platform, stage or playhouse to host its sagas, cuntu and cuntisti need little more than a street corner, park or town square to accommodate their stories. The staging needs no painted scenery, no costumes, no smoke or mirrors and no props, because cuntu storytellers conjure everything in the minds of the audience with the pure and humble power of the spoken word.

Before they could weave their words, worlds and warriors into epic tales Sicilian cuntisti would study the art form as apprentices. Skills were passed down from father to son, specialist to student, often over the course of a youngster’s childhood or early teens, before they made their debut as adults. Pupils didn’t just need to learn the stories however, they needed to learn the art of delivery to convey every emotion from envy to desire, from betrayal to lust. They needed to learn the parts and the characters, the twists and turns they were to take and the nuances necessary to breathe life into each one, opening a  window into another world.

Cuntisti, crucially, also needed to learn to “feel” the breath of their characters, as well as that of their  audience. They told tales whilst others listened with baited breath. They used pauses and inhalations to inspire gasps and gulps, as they put flesh and bone to their characters. And they employed spoken words to develop a rhythm, driving the pace to simultaneously create a personal and collective vision. 

 It’s storytelling at its best. And what stories they told.

Classic cuntu accounts often drew on tales of saints, soldiers and bandits, especially the stories of the Paladins of France. Sometimes known as the 12 peers, the paladins were warriors of Charlemagne’s Dark Age court representing Christian valor against Saracen hoards. And although their exploits were the largely fictional creations of imaginative 8th century writers, they drew together elements of several theatrical and literary traditions to create chivalrous heroes and romantic leads that still play out in modern culture today.

Cuntisti would tell of Orlando, Charlemagne’s nephew and chief hero amongst the paladins. Or recount the exploits of Oliver, Orlando’s rival. They breathed life into Ganelon, the traitor who would later appear in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno. And each of the twelve men inspired stories of gallant skirmishes and victorious romance that still resonate today.

For the ordinary populace, the arrival of the cuntisti on the streets of their town was a special event. Cuntu kept legends alive, inspiring generation after generation with suspense, battle and redemption. And they were as important to Sicilian culture as Shakespeare was to the British and Dante was to Florentines.

Today, modern cuntu adaptations are reworking ancient stories weaving contemporary living material into Greek and Saracen legends to revive this almost extinct art form. Storytellers such as Alessio Di Modica, Enzo Mancuso and Mimmo Cuticchio have reinvigorated this noble art through the improvisation of daily tales. And now, this ancient yet modern talent is reaching a new audience via the virtual streets and piazze of YouTube and social media.

So as the days shorten, the nights draw in and thoughts turn to TV box sets or binge watching the latest Netflix series, remember there is another choice. The cuntisti of Sicily now stand on every street corner of the world via the wonder of the internet, and they have a long tradition of story-telling that will fascinate and entertain just as it has for centuries. The story starts as it always has, with the words that every child recognizes: c’era una volta….once upon a time.

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Italians in America? You Betcha!

Thank you Gina!

All articles from:

 

San Francisco’s Italian Consul General Looks Forward to the Year Ahead

In San Francisco fellow Italophiles, look forward to a year filled with the charm and culture that represents our native Italy. Photo by holbox

The year 2017 has begun con gusto and the San Francisco Bay Area’s Italian community, and fellow Italophiles, look forward to a year filled with the charm and culture that represents our native Italy.

On that note, Italian Consul General, Lorenzo Ortona is in his fifth month as Italy’s representative to the San Francisco Bay Area. In his statement of September 2016, Consul General Ortona expressed recognition of his important task and appreciation of the Bay Area Italian community by saying, “It has made a decisive contribution to the creation and growth of this marvelous city known and loved around the world.”

For the rest of the story ⇒ http://www.italoamericano.org/story/2017-2-14/san-francisco-italian-events2017

 


The art of making pizza to become part of the UNESCO Intangible Patrimony

 

The art of Naples’ pizza -making could become a patrimony of the world. Photo: http://www.foodtravelculture.com
Pizza finds a place on every country’s table and is topped with countless delicacies, each country creating its own – more or less – orthodox version of this quintessentially Italian food. Yet it remains Neapolitan in the  minds of all of us and having a pizza in Naples is certainly on the bucket list of more than a foodie. 
 

Neapolitan pizza, or “verace pizza Napoletana,” as it is known in Italy, has been a “specialità tradizionale garantita” (S.T.G., a guaranteed traditional specialty) since 2010: this means the European Union recognized that a true Neapolitan pizza can only be produced in a certain manner, in a certain area. Manner: with a dough as supple and simple as that of bread and only a handful of allowed toppings, like Sammarzano tomatoes, olive oil, basil and mozzarella (di bufala) or fiordilatte (cow mozzarella), to create the perfect Margherita. Sammarzanos, garlic, oregano and olive oil for the humble and flavorsome Marinara. Area: Naples.

The sweetest thing: cannolo siciliano and its amazing history

 

Cannoli siciliani have a huge identity-defining power: Italian bakeries all over the world make of their presence on the shelves a symbol of “italianità” and heritage associated with only a handful of other products. Photo by siculodoc
Cannolo siciliano: is there any other Italian dessert this popular in the world? Tiramisù may be one of its more glorious competitors, but cannolo making is an art that you can’t reproduced at home with the same simplicity. We can all make a good tiramisù in our own kitchen, but preparing cannoli right is far from an easy task. 
 
Cannoli siciliani have also a huge identity-defining power: Italian bakeries all over the world make of their presence on the shelves a symbol of “italianità” and heritage associated with only a handful of other products.

Italy’s Oscars: 14 Statuettes and Counting

Oscar nominee for “Best Documentary Feature” to Gianfranco Rosi’s Fire at sea and two Italian nominees for “Best Makeup and Hairstyling” to Alessandro Bertolazzi and Giorgio Gregorini. Design copyrights: L’Italo-Americano Newspaper

As usual, the 89th Academy Awards, aka “Oscars,” ceremony – annually presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) – took place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, February 26th. 

More unusual is the presence of Italian roots both in one of the event’s producers, Michael De Luca, and in the host of the evening, comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

For the rest of the story ⇒ http://www.italoamericano.org/story/2017-2-23/italy-oscars-winners

 

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