2 May 2020

2 May

Pietro Frua - car designer


Built business from a bombed-out factory

The car designer and coachbuilder Pietro Frua, who built some of Italy’s most beautiful cars without achieving the fame of the likes of Giovanni Bertone or Battista “Pinin” Farina, was born on this day in 1913 in Turin.  He is particularly remembered for his work with Maserati, for whom he designed the A6G and the Mistral among other models.  The son of a Fiat employee, Carlo Frua, Pietro was an apprentice draftsman with Fiat and from the age of 17 worked alongside Battista Farina for his brother, Giovanni Farina, who had a coachbuilding business in Turin. He became director of styling for Stabilimenti Farina at the age of just 22.  After being obliged to diversify during the war, when he designed electric ovens and children’s model cars among other things, Frua bought a bombed-out factory building in 1944, restored it to serviceable order and hired 15 workers to help him launch his own business.  The first car he designed in his own studio was the soft-top Fiat 1100C sports car in 1946.  Subsequent work for Peugeot and Renault came his way and in 1955 he was approached by Maserati for the first time.  Read more…

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Alessandro Scarlatti - composer


Prolific opera composer was ahead of his time

Baroque composer Alessandro Scarlatti was born on this day in 1660 in Palermo.  He is considered to be the founder of the Neapolitan School of opera, from which modern opera developed, and his two sons, Domenico and Pietro Filippo, also went on to become composers.  Scarlatti is believed to have been a pupil of Giacomo Carissimi in Rome. When his opera Gli equivoci nel sembiante was produced in the city he gained the support of Queen Christina of Sweden, an enthusiastic patron of the arts who had taken up residence there. He became her maestro di cappella and joined the Arcadian Academy she had founded.  Along with composers Bernardo Pasquini and Arcangelo Corelli, he regularly visited her home to perform music he had dedicated to her.  In 1684 Scarlatti became maestro di cappella to the royal family in Naples and produced a series of operas and music for state occasions for them.  Scarlatti also enjoyed the patronage of Ferdinando de' Medici and composed operas for his private theatre near Florence. He was also maestro di cappella for Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni who procured him a post at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.  Read more…

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Marco Pannella - campaigning politician


Radical voice who helped modernise Italian society

The Radical politician Marco Pannella, whose relentless campaigning on civil rights and other issues helped transform modern Italian society, was born on this day in 1930 in Teramo in Abruzzo.  Pannella’s party won only a 3.4 per cent share of vote in the most successful election he fought yet he forced referendums to be held on divorce, abortion, the abolition of nuclear power, the public funding of political parties and many other issues, many of which led to changes in the law.  He was so passionate about the causes for which he campaigned he regularly staged hunger strikes to demonstrate his commitment and to attract publicity.  In 1970, for example, he went 78 days without food, allowing himself to consume only vitamin pills and three cups of coffee per day, losing 27 kilos (60lb) in weight before parliament agreed to hold a debate over the divorce laws.  Pannella’s emotional speeches were legend, as were his broadcasts on Radio Radicale, the radio station he founded in 1976 as a vehicle for his own message, but also as a champion of free speech.  His parents named him Giacinto (Hyacinth) but he found the name embarrassing and went under the name of Marco instead.   Read more…


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