31 July 2020

31 July

Antonio Conte - football coach


Southern Italian roots of the former boss of Chelsea

Antonio Conte, the coach who led Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 and is now head coach of Inter Milan having previously managed Chelsea in the English Premier League, was born on this day in 1969 in Lecce, the Puglian city almost at the tip of the heel of Italy.  As a midfield player for Juventus, he won five Serie A titles and a Champions League. He also played in the European Championships and the World Cup for the Italy national team.  After returning to the Turin club as head coach, he won the Serie A title in each of his three seasons in charge before succeeding Cesare Prandelli as Italy's head coach.  Conte hails from a close-knit family in which his parents, Cosimino and Ada, imposed strict rules, although as a child Antonio was allowed to spend many hours playing football and tennis in the street with his brothers, Gianluca and Daniele.  He began to play organised football with Juventina Lecce, an amateur team coached by his father, but it was not long before US Lecce, the local professional club, recognised his potential and offered him an opportunity.   Juventina received compensation of 200,000 lire - the equivalent of about €300 or £250 in today's money - plus eight new footballs.  Read more…

_____________________________________________________________

Alessandro Algardi – sculptor


Baroque works of art were designed to illustrate papal power

Alessandro Algardi, whose Baroque sculptures grace many churches in Rome, was born on this day in 1598 in Bologna.  Algardi emerged as the principal rival of Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the field of portrait sculpture and although Bernini’s creations were known for their dynamic vitality and penetrating characterisation, Algardi’s works were appreciated for their sobriety and surface realism. Many of his smaller works of arts, such as marble busts and terracotta figures are now in collections and museums all over the world.  Algardi was born in Bologna, where he was apprenticed in the studio of Agostino Carracci from a young age.  He soon showed an aptitude for sculpture and his earliest known works, two statues of saints, were created for the Oratory of Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna.  After a short stay in Venice, he went to Rome in 1625 with an introduction from the Duke of Mantua to the late pope’s nephew, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, who employed him to restore ancient statues.  Although it was a time for great architectural initiatives in Rome, Algardi struggled for recognition at the start as Bernini was given most of the major sculptural commissions.  Read more…

_____________________________________________________________

Salvatore Maranzano - crime boss


Sicilian ‘Little Caesar’ who established New York’s Five Families

The criminal boss Salvatore Maranzano, who became the head of organised crime in New York City after the so-called Castellammarese War of 1930-31, was born on this day in 1886 in Castellammare del Golfo in Sicily.  Maranzano’s position as ‘capo di tutti capi’ - boss of all bosses - in the city lasted only a few months before he was killed, but during that time he came up with the idea of organising criminal activity in New York along the lines of the military chain of command established in ancient Rome by his hero, Julius Caesar.  His fascination with and deep knowledge of the Roman general and politician led to him being nicknamed 'Little Caesar' by his Mafia contemporaries in New York.  Installing himself and four other survivors of the Castellammarese War as bosses, he established the principle of replacing the unstructured gang rivalry in New York with five areas of strictly demarcated territory to be controlled by criminal networks known as the Five Families.  Originally the Maranzano, Profaci, Mangano, Luciano and Gagliano families, they are now known by different names - Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese to be precise - but are essentially based on the same structure.  Read more…



30 July 2020

30 July

Vittorio Erspamer - chemist


Professor who first identified the neurotransmitter serotonin

Vittorio Erspamer, the pharmacologist and chemist who first identified the neurotransmitter serotonin, was born on this day in 1909 in the small village of Val di Non in Malosco, a municipality of Trentino.  Serotonin, also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is found in the gastrointestinal tract, blood platelets and central nervous system of animals, including humans.  It is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. A generation of anti-depressant drugs, including Prozac, Seroxat, Zoloft and Celexa, have been developed with the aim of interfering with the action of serotonin in the body in a way that boosts such feelings.  The name serotonin was coined in the United States in 1948 after research doctors at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio discovered a vasoconstrictor substance - one that narrows blood vessels - in blood serum. Since it was a serum agent affecting vascular tone, they named it serotonin.  However, in 1952 it was shown that a substance identified by Dr Erspamer in 1935, which he named enteramine, was the same as serotonin.  Dr Erspamer made his discovery when he was working as assistant professor in anatomy and physiology at the University of Pavia.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Michelangelo Antonioni - film director


Enigmatic artist often remembered for 1966 movie Blowup

The movie director Michelangelo Antonioni, sometimes described as “the last great” of Italian cinema’s post-war golden era, died on this day in 2007 at his home in Rome.  Antonioni, who was 94 years old when he passed away, was a contemporary of Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti.  Remarkably, three of that trio’s most acclaimed works - Fellini’s La dolce vita, Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers and Antonioni’s L’avventura - appeared within a few months of one another.  Antonioni’s genius lay in the way he challenged traditional approaches to storytelling and drama and the way people viewed the world in general.  His characters were often intentionally vague, his most favoured themes being social alienation and bourgeois ennui, reflecting his view that life left many people emotionally adrift and unable to find their bearings.  His movies often had no strong plot in a conventional sense, were dotted with unfinished conversations and seemingly disconnected incidents. His style was seen as a rejection of neorealism, his films more a metaphor for human experience, rather than a record of it.  Read more…

______________________________________________________________

Naples earthquake of 1626


Devastating tremor and tsunami killed 70,000

The region around Naples, one of the most physically unstable areas of high population in the world with a long history of volcanic activity and earthquakes, suffered one of its more devastating events on this day in 1626.  An earthquake that it has been estimated would register around seven on the modern Richter scale struck the city and the surrounding area.  Its epicentre was about 50km out to sea, beyond the Bay of Naples and the island of Capri to the south, but the shock waves were strong enough to cause the collapse of many buildings in the city and the destruction of more than 30 small towns and villages.  A tsunami followed, in which according to some reports the sea receded by more than three kilometres (two miles) before rushing back with enormous force, towering waves engulfing the coastline.  In total, it is thought that approximately 70,000 people were killed by the quake itself and the tsunami.  Naples at the time was a thriving city, still under Spanish rule.  It had a population of around 300,000, which made it the largest port city in Europe and the second largest of all European cities apart from Paris.  Read more…



29 July 2020

29 July

Teresa Noce - activist and partisan


Anti-Fascist who became union leader and parliamentary deputy

Teresa Noce, who became one of the most important female campaigners for workers’ rights in 20th century Italy, was born on this day in 1900.  A trade union activist as young as 12 years old, Noce spent almost 20 years in exile after the Fascists outlawed her political activity, during which time she became involved with the labour movement and in Paris and subsequently led a French partisan unit under the code name Estella.  After she returned to Italy in 1945 she was elected to the Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies) as a member of the Italian Communist Party (PCI).  Working with the Unione Donne Italiane (Italian Women’s Union), she secured changes to the law to protect working mothers and provide paid maternity leave.  Born in one of the poorest districts of Turin, she and her older brother were brought up in a one-parent family after her father abandoned their mother while they were both young. Because of her mother’s poor income, they were seldom able to keep the same home more than a few weeks before being evicted for non-payment of rent.  Teresa was a bright girl who taught herself to read the newspapers.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Pope Urban VIII


Pontiff whose extravagance led to disgrace

The controversial Pope Urban VIII died on this day in 1644 in Rome.  Urban VIII – born Maffeo Barberini – was a significant patron of the arts, the sponsor of the brilliant sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, whose work had a major influence on the look of Rome.  But in his ambitions to strengthen and expand the Papal States, he overreached himself in a disastrous war against Odoardo Farnese, the Duke of Parma, and the expenses incurred in that and other conflicts, combined with extravagant spending on himself and his family, left the papacy seriously weakened.  Indeed, so unpopular was Urban VIII that after news spread of his death there was rioting in Rome and a bust of him on Capitoline Hill was destroyed by an angry mob.  His time in office was also notable for the conviction in 1633 for heresy of the physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei, who had promoted the supposition, put forward by the Polish scientist Nicolaus Copernicus, that the earth revolved around the sun, which was directly contrary to the orthodox Roman Catholic belief that the sun revolved around the earth.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Benito Mussolini  - Fascist leader


Future dictator inspired by his father's politics

Benito Mussolini, who would become Italy's notorious Fascist dictator during the 1920s, was born on this day in 1883 in a small town in Emilia-Romagna known then as Dovia di Predappio, about 17km south of the city of Forlì.  His father, Alessandro, worked as a blacksmith while his mother, Rosa was a devout Catholic schoolteacher.  Benito was the eldest of his parents' three children. He would later have a brother, Arnaldo, and a sister, Edvige.  It could be said that Alessandro's political leanings influenced his son from birth.  Benito was named after the Mexican reformist President, Benito Juárez, while his middle names - Andrea and Amilcare - were those of the Italian socialists Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani.  Working in his father's smithy as a boy growing up, Mussolini would listen to Alessandro's admiration for the protagonists of the Italian unification movement, such as the nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini, and the military leader Giuseppe Garibaldi. But he also heard him speak with approval about the socialist thinker Carlo Pisacane and anarchist revolutionaries such as Carlo Cafiero and Mikhail Bakunin.  Read more…

____________________________________________________________

Agostino Depretis – politician


Premier stayed in power by creating coalitions

One of the longest serving Prime Ministers in the history of Italy, Agostino Depretis, died on this day in 1887 in Stradella in the Lombardy region.  He had been the founder and main proponent of trasformismo, a method of making a flexible centrist coalition that isolated the extremists on the right and the left.  Depretis served as Prime Minister three times between 1876 and his death.  He was born in 1813 in Mezzana Corti, a hamlet that is now part of Cava Manara, a comune in the province of Pavia.  After graduating from law school in Pavia, Depretis ran his family’s estate.  In 1848, the year of revolutions in Europe, he was elected as a member of the first parliament in Piedmont.  He consistently opposed Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, the Prime Minister of Piedmont Sardinia.  A disciple of the pro-unification activist Giuseppe Mazzini, Depretis was nearly captured by the Austrians while smuggling arms into Milan, but he did not take part in the 1853 uprising planned by Mazzini in Milan. It is thought he predicted it would fail.  Depretis briefly served as Governor of Brescia in Lombardy after Cavour’s resignation in 1859.  Read more…



28 July 2020

28 July

NEW
- Vittorio Valletta - industrialist


Agnelli lieutenant who turned Fiat into an auto giant

The industrialist Vittorio Valletta, whose diplomatic and deal-making skills helped him turn Fiat into the beacon of Italy’s postwar recovery, was born on this day in 1883 in Sampierdarena, a port suburb of Genoa famous for shipbuilding.  He joined Fiat in 1921, quickly rising to the top and became effectively the right-hand man to founder and president Giovanni Agnelli, as CEO practically steering the company single-handed through the turmoil of the Second World War.  After Agnelli’s death in 1945 he became president and remained in control of the company until 1966, when he finally handed over to Gianni Agnelli, the founder’s grandson, at the age of 83. Under his leadership, Fiat grew to such a position of dominance in postwar Italy that at one stage 80 per cent of cars bought in Italy were made by Fiat. The company’s factories employed almost 100,000 people, fulfilling Giovanni’s ambition, which he handed to Valletta almost on his deathbed, to "make Fiat greater, giving more working opportunities to the people, and producing cheaper and better cars".  Valletta also pulled off one of the greatest business coups of the postwar years when he secured a contract with the government of Russia to produce 600,000 cars per year.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Riccardo Muti - conductor


Celebrated maestro shows no sign of slowing down

The brilliant conductor and musical director Riccardo Muti was born on this day in 1941 in Naples.  Since 2010, Muti has been conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra while retaining his directorship of the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra, a training ensemble for talent from Italian and other European music schools, based in Ravenna and Piacenza, which he founded in 2005.  Previously, Muti held posts at the Maggio Musicale in Florence, the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan and the Salzburg Whitsun Festival.  He was named principal conductor and music director for the Maggio Musicale when he was only 28 and stayed there 12 years.  He was at La Scala for 19 years from 1986 to 2005, his tenure ending amid rancour following a conflict with the theatre's general manager, Carlo Fontana.  Muti spent his childhood years largely in the Puglian port city of Molfetta, near Bari. He entered the world in Naples, he says, at the insistence of his mother, Gilda, herself a Neapolitan, who travelled across the peninsula by train in the later stages of each of her five pregnancies in order that her children would also grow up as Neapolitans.  Read more…

____________________________________________________________

Luigi Musso - racing driver


Wealthy Roman who found expectations hard to bear

Luigi Musso, who for a period of his life was Italy’s top racing driver, was born on this day in 1924 in Rome.  Musso competed six times for the world drivers’ championship, three times for Maserati and three times for Ferrari. He finished third in the 1957 season, driving for Ferrari.  His solitary Formula One Grand Prix victory came in 1956 in Argentina, although he had to content himself with a half-share of the points after being forced to hand over his car to Juan Fangio, the local hero and Ferrari team leader, after 29 of the 98 laps, when Fangio’s car failed.  Sadly, two years later he was killed in an accident at the French Grand Prix in Reims, which his girlfriend, Fiamma Breschi, blamed on the ferocity of his rivalry with his fellow Ferrari drivers Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins.  Born into a wealthy Roman family – his father was a diplomat – Musso grew up in a luxurious palazzo off the Via Veneto. He acquired his love of cars from his brothers, who were also racing drivers.  He began to compete in 1950 in a car he bought himself, a 750cc Giannini sports car. He made an inauspicious start, his first race ending when he left the track and collided with a statue of the national hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi.  Read more…

_________________________________________________________

San Marino’s liberation from Fascism


The day the people demonstrated against their government

San Marino residents celebrate the anniversary of their liberation from Fascism on this day every year.  The Sammarinese Fascist Party had been founded in 1922 by Giuliano Gozi, a veteran of the First World War who came from a rich and powerful family.  The party was modelled on the Fascist party of Italy and used violence and intimidation against its opponents.  Gozi took the roles of both foreign minister and interior minister, which gave him control over the military and the police. He continued to serve as foreign minister, leading the cabinet, until 1943.  In 1923 Gozi was elected as San Marino’s Captain Regent. The Fascists retained this post for 20 years as they banned all other political parties, although some independent politicians continued to serve in the Grand and General Council of the Republic.  But in the early 1940s a group of Socialists started up a clandestine anti-fascist movement and the opposition to the Fascist regime grew stronger in the republic.  On July 28, 1943 the Socialists held a successful political demonstration against Fascism and as a result new elections were called.  Read more…



Vittorio Valletta - industrialist

Agnelli lieutenant who turned Fiat into an auto giant


Vittorio Valletta worked for Fiat for 45 years, 27 as CEO
Vittorio Valletta worked for Fiat
for 45 years, 27 as CEO
The industrialist Vittorio Valletta, whose diplomatic and deal-making skills helped him turn Fiat into the beacon of Italy’s postwar recovery, was born on this day in 1883 in Sampierdarena, a port suburb of Genoa famous for shipbuilding.

He joined Fiat in 1921, quickly rising to the top and became effectively the right-hand man to founder and president Giovanni Agnelli, as CEO practically steering the company single-handed through the turmoil of the Second World War.

After Agnelli’s death in 1945 he became president and remained in control of the company until 1966, when he finally handed over to Gianni Agnelli, the founder’s grandson, at the age of 83.

Under his leadership, Fiat grew to such a position of dominance in postwar Italy that at one stage 80 per cent of cars bought in Italy were made by Fiat. The company’s factories employed almost 100,000 people, fulfilling Giovanni’s ambition, which he handed to Valletta almost on his deathbed, to "make Fiat greater, giving more working opportunities to the people, and producing cheaper and better cars".

Valletta also pulled off one of the greatest business coups of the postwar years when he secured a contract with the government of Russia to produce 600,000 cars per year at a factory in the Volga region.

The son of a railway official originally from Brindisi, Valletta moved with his family to Turin while he was a boy. He graduated in economics from a college that is now part of the University of Turin and might have settled for the life of an accountant had his military service as a pilot not steered him into the aviation industry.

The classic Fiat 500 was Italy's  people's car in the 1950s
The classic Fiat 500 was Italy's 
people's car in the 1950s
He was recruited by an organisation charged with co-ordinating the aeronautical industries in assisting military aviation. After the First World War, one of the many contacts he had made asked him to run an aeroplane parts business, which subsequently transitioned into Autocostruzioni Chiribiri, a small car manufacturer.

Valletta joined Fiat in 1921 during a period in which Italian industry was having to deal with an unstable political climate in which the occupation of factories by socialist and communist workers’ collectives was common. The rise of Mussolini’s Fascists further complicated the company’s ability to pursue friction-free trade.

After Agnelli’s son Edoardo was killed in a plane crash, Valletta was appointed CEO in 1928. He spent much of the next decade travelling back and forth between Turin and Rome, trying to stay on the right side of Mussolini, who had a long-standing animosity towards Fiat and Agnelli.

The German invasion of Italy in 1943 put Fiat in a difficult position. They had made vehicles and machinery for the Italian army and were expected to continue to do so for the Nazis. Failure to do so would have led Agnelli and Valletta and others to risk arrest, the seizure of their factories and perhaps even execution.

Fiat's founder, Giovanni Agnelli, saw Valletta as his right-hand man
Fiat's founder, Giovanni Agnelli,
saw Valletta as his right-hand man
Yet Valletta was a patriot, prepared to risk his own safety by deliberating creating excuses for slow production of equipment and armaments, while secretly giving financial help to the Resistance.

Despite this, when the war ended, the trade unions and political parties on the left accused Valletta of collaboration and reported him to the National Liberation Committee, who removed him from his position as head of Fiat. However, the intervention of the Christian Democrat prime minister, Alcide De Gasperi, who had persuaded communist leader Palmiro Togliati that Italy’s workforce needed a successful Fiat, led the Committee to reconsider and he was reinstated.

Agnelli died in December 1945, which brought another crisis for the Fiat board over succession. Gianni, who was heir to the empire after the death of Edoardo, was only 24 and had no experience of running a business. It was with his blessing - and vote as a board member - that Valletta, forever known as The Professor on account of his academic background, was made president.

Rebuilding the business was a herculean task, not least because so many of Fiat’s factories had been flattened in bombing raids. But Valletta put funds granted through the Marshall Plan for Europe’s postwar recovery to good use, even persuading further investment from the sceptical United States on the basis that a powerful Italian economy would help check the growth of communism the Americans feared.

Fiat’s big winners under Valletta’s guidance were the four-door Fiat 600 and its two-door brother, the 500, two massive sellers introduced in the 1950s in place of the popular but dated Topolino of the 1930s.

Gianni Agnelli took the reins at Fiat in 1966 as Valletta retired
Gianni Agnelli took the reins at
Fiat in 1966 as Valletta retired
The company expanded in other directions, too, mass-producing tractors to mobilise the growth of agriculture, and further strengthening the West’s bulwark against the Soviets by supplying the Italian military with its first jet plane, the G-80 fighter aircraft.

The cosiness of Valletta’s relationship with the United States did not stop him pursuing his long-held ambition of breaking into the Russian market, however, and in May 1966 his diplomatic and negotiating skills resulted in an historic agreement being reached with the Soviet leader Leonid Breshnev for Fiat to develop a factory and produce a version of the Fiat 124 sedan under the name Zhiguli - later, Lada - beating competition from the French company, Renault.

It was The Professor’s last act as Fiat supremo. By then, plans were already in place for him to step down and for Gianni Agnelli to take charge, at the age of 43, alongside chief executive Gaudenzio Bono.

Valletta was made a senator for life later in the same year, described by the Italian President, Giuseppe Saragat, as "the first Fiat worker, and one of the great men who most contributed to the Italian economic miracle and to the welfare of the country".

Valletta died only a few months later, in August 1967, having suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while on holiday at his summer villa in Pietrasanta, a town slightly inland of the coast of northern Tuscany.

In recognition of the accord fostered by Valletta, Gianni Agnelli was joined by the Russian ambassador to Italy in placing a laurel wreath sent by the Russian president, Aleksej Kosygin, on his tomb at the Monumental Cemetery of Turin.

Sampierdarena is now an industrial suburb of  the Italian port city of Genoa
Sampierdarena is now an industrial suburb of 
the Italian port city of Genoa
Travel tip:

Sampierdarena was historically a fishing village, named after the church of San Pietro d'Arena.  During the Italian Renaissance it became a residential area, with great palaces being built such as the Palazzo Imperiale Scassi, designed by Domenico and Giovanni Ponzello according to the style of Galeazzo Alessi.  After the coming of the railways (1854) it became one of the great industrial centres of Italy, known particularly for shipbuilding and armaments. In 1926, Sampierdarena was absorbed into the greater Genoa area. Today it is part of the city’s Municipio II (Centro Ovest) zone.

The Piazza del Duomo is the main square in Pietrasanta, a town 32km (20miles) north of Pisa
The Piazza del Duomo is the main square in
Pietrasanta, a town 32km (20miles) north of Pisa
Travel tip:

Pietrasanta, which has Roman origins, was founded in 1255 around the  "Rocca di Sala" fortress of the Lombards by Luca Guiscardo da Pietrasanta, from whom it got its name. At different times belonging to Genoa and Lucca, it came under Medici control in 1484 before being seized by Charles VIII of France in 1494.  Pope Leo X, a member of the Medici family, gave Pietrasanta back to his family.  The town declined during the 17th and 18th centuries, partly due to malaria. In 1841, Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany promoted several reconstruction projects, including the reopening of once-famous quarries.  The seaside resort of Marina di Pietrasanta is 3km (1.9 miles) away.

Also on this day:






 


 









27 July 2020

27 July

Mario Del Monaco - tenor


Singer became famous for his interpretations of Otello

Opera singer Mario Del Monaco, who was renowned for the amazing power of his voice, was born on this day in 1915 in Florence.  His family were musical and as a child he studied the violin but he developed a passion for singing as well.  He studied at the Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro, where he first met and sang with the soprano Renata Tebaldi, who was to partner him regularly later in his career.  Del Monaco made a big impact with his debut performance as Lieutenant Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly in Milan in 1940.  He became popular with the audience at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in the 1950s, making many appearances in dramatic Verdi roles.  He was one of the four Italian tenors at their peak in the 1950s and 1960s, sharing the limelight with Giuseppe Di Stefano, Carlo Bergonzi and Franco Corelli.  Del Monaco became famous for his interpretation of the title role in Verdi’s Otello, which, it is estimated, he sang hundreds of times.  He started making recordings for HMV in 1948 in Milan and was later partnered by Renata Tebaldi in a series of Verdi and Puccini operas recorded for Decca.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Giosuè Carducci – poet and Nobel Prize winner


Writer used his poetry as a vehicle for his political views 

Giosuè Carducci, the first Italian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, was born on this day in 1835 in Tuscany.  Christened Giosuè Alessandro Giuseppe Carducci, he lived with his parents in the small village of Valdicastello in the province of Lucca.  His father, a doctor, was an advocate of the unification of Italy and was involved with the Carbonari, a network of secret revolutionary groups. Because of his politics, the family was forced to move several times during Carducci’s childhood, eventually settling in Florence.  During his time in college, Carducci became fascinated with the restrained style of Greek and Roman literature and his work as an adult often used the classical meters of such Latin poets as Horace and Virgil. He published his first collection of poems, Rime, in 1857.  He married Elvira Menicucci in 1859 and they had four children.  Carducci taught Greek at a high school in Pistoia and was then appointed as an Italian professor at the University of Bologna.  Carducci was a popular lecturer and a fierce critic of literature and society. He was an atheist, whose political views were vehemently hostile to Christianity.  Read more…

____________________________________________________________

Adolfo Celi – actor and director


Successful career of a Sicilian who was typecast as a baddy

An actor who specialised in playing the role of the villain in films, Adolfo Celi was born on this day in 1922 in Curcuraci, a hamlet in the province of Messina in Sicily.  Celi was already prominent in Italian cinema, but he became internationally famous for his portrayal of Emilio Largo, James Bond’s adversary with the eye patch, in the 1965 film Thunderball.  He had made his film debut after the Second World War in A Yank in Rome (Un americano in vacanza), in 1946.  In the 1950s he moved to Brazil, where he co-founded the Teatro Brasiliero de Comedia.  He was successful as a stage actor in Brazil and Argentina and also directed three films.  Celi’s big break came when he played the villain in Philippe de Broca’s That Man from Rio. Afterwards he was cast as the camp commandant in the escape drama, Von Ryan’s Express, in which Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard played prisoners of war.  After appearing in Thunderball, Celi was offered scores of big parts as a villain.  He later made a spoof of Thunderball in the film, OK Connery, in which he played opposite Sean Connery’s brother, Neil.  Read more…



26 July 2020

26 July

Pope Paul II


Flamboyant pope who helped make books available to ordinary people

Pietro Barbo, who became Pope Paul II, died on this day in 1471 in Rome at the age of 54.  He is remembered for enjoying dressing up in sumptuous, ecclesiastical finery and having a papal tiara made for himself, which was studded with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, topaz, large pearls and many other precious gems.  Barbo was born in Venice and was a nephew of Pope Eugenius IV through his mother and a member of the noble Barbo family through his father.  He adopted a spiritual career after his uncle was elected as pope and made rapid progress. He became a cardinal in 1440 and promised that if he was elected pope one day he would buy each cardinal a villa to escape the summer heat. He then became archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica.  It was reported that Pope Pius II suggested he should have been called Maria Pietissima (Our Lady of Pity) as he would use tears to help him obtain things he wanted. Some historians have suggested the nickname may have been an allusion to his enjoyment of dressing up or, possibly, to his lack of masculinity.  Barbo was elected to succeed Pope Pius II in the first ballot of the papal conclave of 1464.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Constantino Brumidi - painter


Rome-born artist responsible for murals in US Capitol Building

Constantino Brumidi, an artist whose work provides the backcloth to the daily business of government in the United States Capitol Building in Washington, was born on this day in 1805 in Rome.  Brumidi’s major work is the allegorical fresco The Apotheosis of Washington, painted in 1865, which covers the interior of the dome in the Rotunda.  Encircling the base of the dome, below the windows, is the Frieze of American History, in which Brumidi painted scenes depicting significant events of American history, although the second half of the work, which he began in 1878, had to be completed by another painter, Filippo Costaggini, as Brumidi died in 1880.  Previously, between 1855 and about 1870, Brumidi had decorated the walls of eight important rooms in the Capitol Building, including the Hall of the House of Representatives, the Senate Library and the President’s Room.  His Liberty and Union paintings are mounted near the ceiling of the White House entrance hall and the first-floor corridors of the Senate part of the Capitol Building are known as the Brumidi Corridors.  Brumidi arrived in the United States in 1852, having spent 13 months in jail in Rome.  Read more… 

____________________________________________________________

Francesco Cossiga - Italy's 8th President


Political career overshadowed by Moro murder

Former Italian President Francesco Cossiga was born on this day in 1928 in the Sardinian city of Sassari.  Cossiga, a Christian Democrat who had briefly served as Prime Minister under his predecessor, Sandro Pertini, held the office for seven years from 1985 to 1992. He was the eighth President of the Republic.  His presidency was unexceptional until the last two years, when he gained a reputation for controversial comments about the Italian political system and former colleagues.  It was during this time that another heavyweight of the Italian political scene, Giulio Andreotti, revealed the existence during the Cold War years of Gladio, a clandestine network sponsored by the American secret services and NATO that was set up amid fears that Italy would fall into the hands of Communists, either through military invasion from the East or, within Italy, via the ballot box.  Cossiga, said to have been obsessed with espionage, admitted to having been involved with the creation of Gladio in the years immediately following the end of the Second World War.  This led to renewed speculation surrounding the kidnap and murder of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro in 1978.  Read more… 



25 July 2020

25 July

Alfredo Casella – composer


Musician credited with reviving popularity of Vivaldi

Pianist and conductor Alfredo Casella, a prolific composer of early 20th century neoclassical music, was born on this day in 1883 in Turin.  Casella is credited as being the person responsible for the resurrection of Antonio Vivaldi’s work, following a 'Vivaldi Week' that he organised in 1939.  Casella was born into a musical family. His grandfather had been first cello in the San Carlo Theatre in Lisbon and he later became a soloist at the Royal Chapel in Turin.  His father, Carlo, and his brothers, Cesare and Gioacchino, were professional cellists. His mother, Maria, was a pianist and she gave the young Alfredo his first piano lessons. Their home was in Via Cavour, where it is marked with a plaque.  Casella entered the Conservatoire de Paris in 1896 to study piano under Louis Diemer and to study composition under Gabriel Fauré.  Ravel was one of his fellow students and Casella also got to know Debussy, Stravinsky, Mahler and Strauss while he was in Paris.  He admired Debussy, but he was also influenced by Strauss and Mahler when he wrote his first symphony in 1905.  Read more…

____________________________________________________________

Carlo Bergonzi – operatic tenor


Singer whose style was called the epitome of Italian vocal art

Carlo Bergonzi, one of the great Italian opera singers of the 20th century, died on this day in 2014 in Milan.  He specialised in singing roles from the operas of Giuseppe Verdi, helping to revive some of the composer’s lesser-known works.  Between the 1950s and 1980s he sang more than 300 times with the Metropolitan Opera of New York and the New York Times, in its obituary, described his voice as ‘an instrument of velvety beauty and nearly unrivalled subtlety’.  Bergonzi was born in Polesine Parmense near Parma in Emilia-Romagna in 1924. He claimed to have seen his first opera, Verdi’s Il Trovatore, at the age of six.  He sang in his local church and soon began to appear in children’s roles in operas in Busseto, a town near where he lived.  He left school at the age of 11 and started to work in the same cheese factory as his father in Parma.  At the age of 16 he began vocal studies as a baritone at the Arrigo Boito Conservatory in Parma.  During World War II, Bergonzi became involved in anti-Fascist activities and was sent to a German prisoner of war camp. After two years he was freed by the Russians and walked 106km (66 miles) to reach an American camp.  Read more…

_____________________________________________________________

Battle of Molinella


First time artillery played a major part in warfare

An important battle in Italy’s history was fought on this day in 1467 at Molinella, near Bologna.  On one side were infantry and cavalry representing Venice and on the other side there was an army serving Florence.  It was the first battle in Italy in which artillery and firearms were used extensively, the main weapons being cannons fired by gunpowder that could launch heavy stone or metal balls.  The barrels were 10 to 12 feet in length and had to be cleaned following each discharge, a process that took up to two hours.  Leading the 14,000 soldiers fighting for Venice was the Bergamo condottiero Bartolomeo Colleoni. He was working jointly with Ercole I d’Este from Ferrara and noblemen from Pesaro and Forlì. Another condottiero, Federico da Montefeltro, led the army of 13,000 soldiers serving Florence in an alliance with Galeazzo Maria Sforza, ruler of the Duchy of Milan, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Giovanni II Bentivoglio, the ruler of Bologna.  Condottieri were professional military leaders hired by the Italian city-states to lead armies on their behalf.  The fighting took place between the villages of Riccardina and Molinella and so the event is also sometimes referred to as the Battle of Riccardina.  Read more…

_____________________________________________________________

Agostino Steffani – composer


Baroque musician and cleric who features in modern literature

A priest and diplomat as well as a singer and composer, Agostino Steffani was born on this day in 1654 in Castelfranco Veneto near Venice.  Details of his life and works have recently been brought to the attention of readers of contemporary crime novels because they were used by the American novelist, Donna Leon, as background for her 2012 mystery The Jewels of Paradise.  Steffani was admitted as a chorister at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice while he was still young and in 1667 the beauty of his voice attracted the attention of Count Georg Ignaz von Tattenbach, who took him to Munich.  Ferdinand Maria, Elector of Bavaria, paid for Steffani’s education and granted him a salary, in return for his singing.  In 1673 Steffani was sent to study in Rome, where he composed six motets. The original manuscripts for these are now in a museum in Cambridge.  On his return to Munich Steffani was appointed court organist. He was also ordained a priest and given the title of Abbate of Lepsing. His first opera, Marco Aurelia, was written for the carnival and produced at Munich in 1681. The only manuscript score of it known to exist is in the Royal Library at Buckingham Palace.  Read more…



24 July 2020

24 July

Eugene de Blaas - painter


Austro-Italian famous for Venetian beauties

Eugene de Blaas, a painter whose animated depictions of day-to-day life among ordinary Venetians - especially young Venetian women - were his most popular works, was born on this day in 1843 in Albano Laziale, just outside Rome.  Sometimes known as Eugenio Blaas, or Eugene von Blaas, he was of Austrian parentage. His father, Karl, also a painter, was a teacher at the Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts) in Rome. His brother, Julius, likewise born in Albano, was also a painter.  In 1856, the family moved to Venice after his father was offered a similar position at the Venetian Academy. At that time, Venice attracted artists from all over Europe and the young De Blaas grew up in a social circle that was largely populated by painters and poets.  Like his father, he became interested in the school known as Academic Classicism, a style which seeks to adhere to the principles of Romanticism and Neoclassicism.  He exhibited at the Venice Academy when he was only 17 years old.  Religious painting was still in demand and one of his earliest important commissions, in 1863, was an altarpiece for the parish church of San Valentino di Merano.  Read more…

_____________________________________________________________

Giuseppe Di Stefano – tenor


Singer from Sicily who made sweet music with Callas

The opera singer Giuseppe Di Stefano, whose beautiful voice led people to refer to him as ‘the true successor to Beniamino Gigli’, was born on this day in 1921 in Motta Sant’Anastasia, a town near Catania in Sicily.  Di Stefano also became known for his many performances and recordings with the soprano, Maria Callas, with whom he had a brief romance.  The only son of a carabinieri officer, who later became a cobbler, and his dressmaker wife, Di Stefano was educated at a Jesuit seminary and for a short while contemplated becoming a priest.  But after serving in the Italian army he took singing lessons from the Swiss tenor, Hugues Cuenod. Di Stefano made his operatic debut in Reggio Emilia in 1946 when he was in his mid-20s, singing the role of Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon. The following year he made his debut at La Scala in Milan in the same role.  Di Stefano made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1948 as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto. After his performance in Manon a month later, a journalist wrote in Musical America that Di Stefano had ‘the rich velvety sound we have seldom heard since the days of Gigli.’  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Victor Emmanuel of Sardinia


The first king to be called Victor Emmanuel

The King of Sardinia between 1802 and 1821, Victor Emmanuel I was born on this day in 1759 in the Royal Palace in Turin.  He was the second son of King Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia and was known from birth as the Duke of Aosta.  When the King died in 1796, Victor Emmanuel’s older brother succeeded as King Charles Emmanuel IV of Sardinia.  Within two years the royal family was forced to leave Turin because their territory in the north was occupied by French troops.  After his wife died, Charles Emmanuel abdicated the throne in favour of his brother, Victor Emmanuel, because he had no heir.  The Duke of Aosta became Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia in June 1802 and ruled from Cagliari for the next 12 years until he was able to return to Turin.  During his reign he formed the Carabinieri, which is still one of the primary forces of law and order in Italy.  On the death of his older brother in 1819, he became the heir general of the Jacobite succession as Victor Emmanuel I of England, Scotland and Ireland, but he never made any public claims to the British throne.  He abdicated in favour of his brother, Charles Felix, in 1821 and died three years later at the Castle of Moncalieri in Turin.  Read more…



23 July 2020

23 July

NEW - Licia Albanese – soprano


Butterfly had a long career

Operatic soprano Licia Albanese, whose portrayal of Verdi and Puccini heroines delighted audiences all over the world during the last century, was born on this day in 1909 in Bari in the region of Puglia.  She made her operatic debut unexpectedly in 1934 at the Teatro Lirico in Milan during a performance of Madama Butterfly. Albanese was understudying the title role and when the soprano became ill during Act One, she was hustled on to the stage to take over in Act Two.  She was a great success and during the next 40 years sang more than 300 performances in the role of Cio-Cio-San, the geisha who is better known as Madama Butterfly.  Her connection with the opera began early when she was studying with the singer, Giuseppina Baldassare-Tedeschi, who was a contemporary of the composer, Giacomo Puccini, and had been the greatest Butterfly of her day.  Albanese went on to appear at La Scala, Covent Garden and many other European houses, also winning praise for her portrayals of Mimi, Violetta and Manon Lescaut.  She was fortunate to have as tenor partners, singers of the calibre of Tito Schipa, Beniamino Gigli and Giacomo Lauri-Volpi.  Read more…

____________________________________________________________

Damiano Damiani – screenwriter and director


Film maker behind the hit Mafia drama series La piovra

Damiano Damiani, who directed the famous Italian television series La piovra, which was about the Mafia and its involvement in Italian politics, was born on this day in 1922 in Pasiano di Pordenone in Friuli.  Damiani also made a number of Mafia-themed films and he was particularly acclaimed for his 1966 film, A Bullet for the General, starring Gian Maria Volontè, which came at the beginning of the golden age of Italian westerns.  Damiani studied at the Accademia di Brera in Milan and made his debut in 1947 with the documentary, La banda d’affari. After working as a screenwriter, he directed his first feature film, Il rossetto, in 1960.  His 1962 film, Arturo’s Island, won the Golden Shell at the San Sebastian International film festival.  During the 1960s, Damiani was praised by the critics and his films were box office successes.  A Bullet for the General is regarded as one of the first, and one of the most notable, political, spaghetti westerns. Its theme was the radicalisation of bandits and other criminals into revolutionaries.  Damiani’s 1968 film, Il giorno della civetta - The Day of the Owl - starring Claudia Cardinale, Franco Nero and Lee J Cobb, started a series of films that blended social criticism with spectacular plots.  Read more…

____________________________________________________________

Francesco Cilea – opera composer


Calabrian remembered for beautiful aria Lamento di Federico 

Composer Francesco Cilea was born on this day in 1866 in Palmi near Reggio di Calabria.  He is particularly admired for two of his operas, L’Arlesiana and Adriana Lecouvreur.  Cilea loved music from an early age. It is said that when he was just four years old he heard music from Vincenzo Bellini’s opera, Norma, and was moved by it.  When he became old enough, he was sent to study music in Naples and at the end of his course of study there he submitted an opera he had written, Gina, as part of his final examination. When this was performed for the first time it attracted the attention of a music publisher who arranged for it to be performed again.  Cilea was then commissioned to produce a three-act opera, meant to be along the lines of Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, by the same publisher.  The resulting work, La Tilda, was performed in several Italian theatres, but the orchestral score has been lost, which has prevented it from enjoying a modern revival.  In 1897, Cilea’s third opera, L’Arlesiana was premiered at the Teatro Lirico in Milan.  In the cast was the young Enrico Caruso, who performed, to great acclaim, the famous Lamento di Federico, often known by its opening line, È la solita storia del pastore.  Read more…

____________________________________________________________

Sergio Mattarella – President of Italy


Anti-Mafia former Christian Democrat is Italy's 12th President

The first Sicilian to become President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, was born on this day in 1941 in Palermo.  Mattarella went into politics after the assassination of his brother, Piersanti, by the Mafia in 1980. His brother had been killed while holding the position of President of the Regional Government of Sicily.  Their father, Bernardo Mattarella, was an anti-Fascist, who with other prominent Catholic politicians helped found the Christian Democrat (Democrazia Cristiana) party. They dominated the Italian political scene for almost 50 years, with Bernardo serving as a minister several times. Piersanti Mattarella was also a Christian Democrat politician.  Sergio Mattarella graduated in Law from the Sapienza University of Rome and  a few years later started teaching parliamentary procedure at the University of Palermo.  His parliamentary career began in 1983 when he was elected a member of the Chamber of Deputies in a left-leaning faction of the DC that had supported an agreement with the Italian Communist Party led by Enrico Berlinguer. The following year he was entrusted with cleansing the Sicilian faction of the party from Mafia control.  Read more…



Licia Albanese – soprano

Butterfly had a long career


Licia Albanese in her signature role as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly
Licia Albanese in her signature role
as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly
Operatic soprano Licia Albanese, whose portrayal of Verdi and Puccini heroines delighted audiences all over the world during the last century, was born on this day in 1909 in Bari in the region of Puglia.

She made her operatic debut unexpectedly in 1934 at the Teatro Lirico in Milan during a performance of Madama Butterfly. Albanese was understudying the title role and when the soprano became ill during Act One, she was hustled on to the stage to take over in Act Two.

She was a great success and during the next 40 years sang more than 300 performances in the role of Cio-Cio-San, the geisha who is better known as Madama Butterfly.

Her connection with the opera began early when she was studying with the singer, Giuseppina Baldassare-Tedeschi, who was a contemporary of the composer, Giacomo Puccini, and had been the greatest Butterfly of her day.

Albanese went on to appear at La Scala, Covent Garden and many other European houses, also winning praise for her portrayals of Mimi, Violetta and Manon Lescaut.

She was fortunate to have as tenor partners, singers of the calibre of Tito Schipa, Beniamino Gigli and Giacomo Lauri-Volpi.

Albanese made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1940 as Madama Butterfly and was an instant success. She remained at the Met for 26 seasons and also became a regular performer at the San Francisco Opera, although after the 1941 Pearl Harbour attack, performances of Madama Butterfly were banned until the end of World War II.

Licia Albanese pictured with the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti in 1973
Licia Albanese pictured with the great
tenor Luciano Pavarotti in 1973
In 1945 Albanese married the stockbroker Joseph Gimma, who also came from Bari.

The singer was invited by Arturo Toscanini to join his broadcast concerts with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1946 and, in 1959, she sang with the New York Philharmonic during the Italian Night broadcasts from a stadium in New York City.

Albanese appeared in the first live telecast from the Met in Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello. She was among the first generation of opera singers to have been recorded and to become available to watch on video and hear on CD. 
 
Albanese sang in La Traviata at the Met and the San Francisco Opera more than any other singer in the history of either of the companies and her career spanned seven decades.

Although she had a distinctive lirico spinto voice that was highly praised and was also said to have had wonderful acting ability, she was overshadowed by her contemporary, Maria Callas.

She became chairman of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, founded in 1974 to assist young singers and she conducted master classes all over the world.

She became a US citizen in 1945 and was presented with the National Medal of Honor for the Arts in 1995 by US President Bill Clinton.

Albanese died in 2014, at the age of 105, at her home in Manhattan. She was survived by her son Joseph, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The Torre Pelosa, the 16th century watchtower in the heart of Torre a Mare
The Torre Pelosa, the 16th century watchtower
in the heart of Torre a Mare
Travel tip:

Licia Albanese was born in Torre Pelosa, part of Noicattaro, which later became Torre a Mare, a quarter of Bari in Puglia, which looks out over the Adriatic Sea. A former fishermen’s village, Torre a Mare attracts plenty of visitors in the summer months, when its beaches, bars and restaurants are popular. Narrow streets lined with pastel houses lead to the main square, at the centre of which is the 16th-century Torre Pelosa watchtower. The district also has a 12th century church built in Romanesque style with a belltower.

The inside of Milan's Teatro Lirico during its heyday in the 1930s
The inside of Milan's Teatro Lirico during its
heyday in the 1930s
Travel tip:

As an understudy, Licia Albanese was rushed on to the stage of the Teatro Lirico in Milan to take over the main female role in Madama Butterfly in 1934. The theatre was built towards the end of the 18th century at the same time as La Scala, after fire had destroyed Milan’s only theatre. It was originally known as Teatro alla Cannobiana and was intended for the use of the general public,c while La Scala was meant to be patronised by a more aristocratic audience. Teatro Lirico had to close in 1998 because of financial difficulties. It has since undergone extensive renovation but its reopening has been repeatedly delayed.



22 July 2020

22 July

Palermo falls to the Allies


Capture of Sicilian capital triggered ousting of Mussolini

One of the most significant developments of the Second World War in Italy occurred on this day in 1943 when Allied forces captured the Sicilian capital, Palermo.  A battle took place between General George S Patton’s Seventh Army and some German and Italian divisions but it was not a prolonged affair.  The Sicilians themselves by then had little appetite to fight in a losing cause on behalf of the Germans and the invading soldiers were greeted by many citizens as liberators.  It was not a decisive victory for the Allies but it had a symbolic value, signifying the fall of Sicily only 12 days after Allied forces had crossed the Mediterranean from bases in North Africa and landed at Pachina and Gela on the south coast of the island.  In fact, the Americans and the British were still meeting German resistance around Catania and Messina in the northeastern corner of the island, although it would be only a matter of time before their resistance ceased.  When news reached Rome that Palermo had fallen, the Fascist Grand Council, who had for some time given only uneasy support to Mussolini, knew that something had to be done to limit the damage of what now looked like an inevitable defeat for the Axis powers in Italy.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

Gorni Kramer - jazz musician


Multi-talented composer of more than 1,000 songs

The songwriter, musician and band leader Gorni Kramer was born on this day in 1913 in the village of Rivarolo Mantovano, near Mantua.  An accomplished accordion and double bass player, Kramer later became a record producer, arranger and television writer.  His embrace of the jazz and swing genres developed in spite of them being banned from being played on Italian state radio during the Fascist era.  He was a prolific composer thought to have written more than 1,000 songs during a career that spanned 60 years.  Kramer’s non-Italian sounding name led to a popular misconception that he was born in another country, yet it was his real name - reversed.  He was born Francesco Kramer Gorni, so named because his father was a fan of the American cycling world champion Frank Kramer.  It was from his father that Gorni inherited his passion for music, having played the accordion in his father’s band.  Gorni studied double bass at the Conservatory in Parma and obtained his diploma in 1930. He began to work as a musician for dance bands, then in 1933, aged 20, formed his own jazz group.  Read more…

____________________________________________________________

Indro Montanelli – journalist


Veteran writer who cast a critical eye on Italian politics and society

A writer and journalist regarded as one of the greatest of 20th century Italy, Indro Montanelli, died on this day in 2001 in Milan.  The previous year he had been named as one of 50 World Press Freedom Heroes by the International Press Institute.  Montanelli had been a witness to many of the major events of the 20th century. He was in Danzig when Hitler rejected the ultimatum from Britain and France in September 1939. He was in the streets of Budapest in 1956 when Soviet tanks rolled in and he was shot in the legs by Red Brigades terrorists on an Italian street in 1977.  Montanelli was born Indro Alessandro Raffaello Scizogene Montanelli in 1909 at Fucecchio near Florence.  He studied for a law degree at the University of Florence in the early 1920s and began his journalistic career by writing for the Fascist newspaper, Il Selvaggio.  He then worked as a crime reporter for Paris Soir before serving as a volunteer with Italian troops in the Eritrean Battalion in Ethiopia - Abyssinia as it was then - where he wrote war reports which later formed the basis for the first of his 40 books.  It was a book that honestly conveyed what Montanelli had seen, some of which caused him to change his mind about Benito Mussolini, the Fascist leader.  Read more…

___________________________________________________________

St Lawrence of Brindisi


Talented linguist who converted Jews and Protestants

St Lawrence of Brindisi was born Giulio Cesare Russo on this day in 1559 in Brindisi.  He became a Roman Catholic priest and joined the Capuchin friars, taking the name Brother Lawrence.  He was made St Lawrence in 1881, remembered for his bravery leading an army against the Turks armed only with a crucifix.  Lawrence was born into a family of Venetian merchants and was sent to Venice to be educated. He joined the Capuchin order in Verona when he was 16 and received tuition in theology, philosophy and foreign languages from the University of Padua. He progressed to be able to speak many European and Semitic languages fluently.  Pope Clement VIII gave Lawrence the task of converting Jews living in Rome to Catholicism because of his excellent command of Hebrew. Lawrence also established Capuchin monasteries in Germany and Austria and brought many Protestants back to Catholicism.  While serving as the imperial chaplain to the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolph II, he led an army against the Ottoman Turks threatening to conquer Hungary armed only with a crucifix and many people attributed the subsequent victory to his leadership.  Read more…