27 January 2020

27 January

NEW - Frank Nitti - mobster


Barber who became Al Capone’s henchman

The mobster who achieved notoriety as Frank Nitti was born Francesco Raffaele Nitto it is thought on this day in 1881, although some accounts put the year of his birth as 1886.  Nitti, who was raised in Brooklyn, New York, where he and Al Capone - his cousin - grew up, would eventually become Capone’s most trusted henchman in the Chicago mob he controlled.  After Capone was jailed for 11 years for tax evasion, Nitti was ostensibly in charge of operations.  Unlike many of the American Mafia bosses in the early part of the 20th century, Nitti was not a Sicilian.  His roots were in the heart of Camorra territory in the shadow of Vesuvius, his birthplace the town of Angri, 8km (5 miles) from nearby Pompei.  Angri was also the hometown of Capone’s parents.  Francesco’s father died while he was still a small child. His mother, Rosina, married again within a year to Francesco Dolengo, who emigrated to the United States in 1890.  Nitti, his mother and his sister, Giovannina, left Italy to join him in 1893, settling in Navy Street, Brooklyn.  He was enrolled in a local school but left at around age 13, taking a job as a pinsetter in a bowling alley before becoming a barber.  Read more…

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Giuseppe Verdi – composer


How Italy mourned the loss of a national symbol

Opera composer Giuseppe Verdi died on this day at the age of 87 in his suite at the Grand Hotel et de Milan in 1901.  The prolific composer who had dominated the world of opera for a large part of the 19th century was initially buried privately at Milan’s Cimitero Monumentale.  But a month later Verdi’s body was moved to its final resting place in the crypt of a rest home for retired musicians that he had helped establish in Milan.  An estimated crowd of 300,000 people are reported to have turned out to bid Verdi farewell and ‘Va, pensiero’, a chorus from his 1842 opera Nabucco, was performed by a choir conducted by Arturo Toscanini.  Verdi meant a great deal to the Italian people because his composition, ‘Va, pensiero’ had been the unofficial anthem for supporters of the Risorgimento movement, which had sought the unification of Italy.  In his early operas Verdi had demonstrated sympathy with the cause of the Risorgimento and people had come to associate him with the movement’s ideals.  But as he became older and more prosperous he had chosen to withdraw from public life and had established himself on a country estate just outside Busseto, the town of his birth, near Parma in Emilia-Romagna.  Read more...

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Trajan - Roman emperor


Military expansionist with progressive social policies

Marcus Ulpius Traianus succeeded to the role of Roman Emperor on this day in 98 AD.  The 13th ruler of the empire and known as Trajan, he presided over the greatest military expansion in Roman history, the consequence of which was that in terms of physical territory the empire was at its largest during his period in office.  Despite his taste for military campaigns - he conquered Dacia (the area now called Romania), Armenia, Mesopotamia, and the Sinai Peninsula - Trajan was seen as the second of the so-called Good Emperors to rule during the years known as Pax Romama, a long period of relative peace and stability.  He was credited with maintaining peace by working with rather than against the Senate and the ruling classes, introducing policies aimed at improving the welfare of citizens, and engaging in massive building projects that were to the benefit of ordinary Romans.  Marcus Ulpius Traianus was born in the Roman province of Baetica, which approximates to the area now known as Andalusia in southern Spain. His father was a provincial governor who then turned soldier, commanding a legion in the Roman war against Jews. Read more…

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Roberto Paci Dalò – composer and film maker


Music maker coined the definition ‘media dramaturgy’

The award-winning contemporary musician and composer Roberto Paci Dalò was born on this day in 1962 in Rimini.  Paci Dalò is the co-founder and director of the performing arts ensemble Giardini Pensili and has composed music for theatre, radio, television and film.  After completing musical, visual and architectural studies in Fiesole, Faenza and Ravenna, Paci Dalò focused on sound and design and their use in film, theatre and collaborative projects.  He has been a pioneer in the use of digital technologies and telecommunication systems in art and has been particularly interested in performing arts as a meeting point of languages.  Since 1985 he has written, composed and directed more than 30 groundbreaking music-theatre works which have been presented worldwide.  Paci Dalò has composed music for acoustical ensembles, electronics and voices and has produced radio works for the main European broadcasting corporations.  His films and videos have been regularly presented in international festivals.  Paci Dalò taught Media Dramaturgy at the University of Siena.  Read more…

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Giovanni Arpino – writer and novelist


Stories inspired classic Italian films

The writer Giovanni Arpino, whose novels lay behind the Italian movie classics Divorce, Italian Style and Profumo di donna – later remade in the United States as Scent of a Woman – was born on this day in 1927 in the Croatian city of Pula, then part of Italy.  His parents did not originate from Pula, which is near the tip of the Istrian peninsula about 120km (75 miles) south of Trieste. His father, Tomaso, was a Neapolitan, while his mother, Maddalena, hailed from Piedmont, but his father’s career in the Italian Army meant the family were rarely settled for long in one place.  In fact, they remained in Pula only a couple of months. As Giovanni was growing up, they lived in Novi Ligure, near Alessandria, in Saluzzo, south of Turin, and in Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna. His father imposed a strict regime on Giovanni and his two brothers, who were required to spend a lot of their time studying.  In fact, Giovanni was separated from his family for a while during the Second World War, when his mother returned to the Piedmontese town of Bra, not far from Saluzzo in the province of Cuneo, to deal with the estate of her father, who passed away in 1940.  Read more…


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