10 December 2021

10 December

NEWGiuseppe Dossena - painter

Modern impressionist who funded his art with restoration projects

The painter Emilio Giuseppe Dossena was born on this day in 1903 in the small town of Cavenago d’Adda, about 48km (30 miles) southeast of Milan, in Lombardy.  Known more often simply as Giuseppe Dossena, he showed a talent for sculpture during his early years but preferred painting and soon began to produce outstanding landscapes in a neo-impressionist style.  With a young family to support, however, he had to find ways to supplement his income and eventually found regular work restoring and decorating villas and castles for a string of rich or aristocratic clients.  In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dossena spent a number of years living in the United States, where he was employed as a restorer of priceless artworks owned by institutions ranging from the Metropolitan Museum of New York to the Playboy Club.  As a child, he grew up in difficult circumstances, not helped by the death of his father when he was only 12 years old, which meant he had to give up school along with the older of his two brothers and find a job that would help support his mother and the three other members of the family.  Read more…


Giuseppe 'Peppino' Prisco - lawyer and football administrator

Vice-president who became Inter Milan icon

The lawyer and football administrator Giuseppe Prisco, who served as a senior figure in the running of the Internazionale football club in Milan for more than half a century, was born on this day in 1921.  Universally known as Peppino, he managed to combine a career in legal practice with a passion for Inter that he would share so publicly he became a symbol of the club whose name was chanted on the terraces.  Born in Milan into a family with its roots in Torre Annunziata, near Naples, he was said to have fallen in love with the nerazzurri at seven years old in 1929, when he witnessed his first derby against AC Milan at Inter’s old stadium, the Campo Virgilio Fossati, between Via Goldoni and Piazza Novelli to the east of the city centre.  His career as a lawyer did not begin until after he had served with the Alpini - the mountain troops of the Italian Army - on the Russian front in the Second World War. He was only 18 when he joined up but reached the rank of lieutenant in the “L’Aquila” battalion of the 9th Alpine Regiment, and as one of only three officers from 53 to return alive from the Russian front was awarded a Silver Medal for Military Valour by the Italian government.  Read more…


Luigi Pirandello - playwright, poet and novelist

Brilliant writing was born out of ‘chaos’

Sicilian writer Luigi Pirandello died on this day in Rome in 1936.  Famous for his play Six Characters in Search of an Author (Sei Personaggi in Cerca d’Autore), Pirandello was also a prolific writer of novels, short stories and poetry, some of which were written in his native Sicilian dialect.  His plays are often seen as the forerunners of the Theatre of the Absurd dramas of Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco.  Pirandello’s contribution to the theatre was recognised in 1934 when he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature.  Pirandello was literally born in chaos. The name of the village near Agrigento in Sicily where his mother gave birth to him in 1867 is Caos, the Italian word for ‘chaos’, or in Sicilian, u Càvusu.  He was educated at home and had written his first play by the time he was 12. When his family moved to Palermo, he completed his school education and, after a spell working with his father in the sulphur industry, he registered at the University of Palermo.  He later moved to Rome to complete his studies, which gave him the chance to go to the theatre regularly, and he also studied for a while in Bonn.  Read more…


Amedeo Nazzari - movie star

Sardinian actor seen as the Errol Flynn of Italian cinema

The prolific actor Amedeo Nazzari, who made more than 90 movies and was once one of Italian cinema's biggest box office names, was born on this day in 1907 in Cagliari.  Likened in his prime to the Australian-American star Errol Flynn, with whom he had physical similarities and the same screen presence, Nazzari enjoyed a career spanning five decades.  One of his first major successes, in the title role of the 1938 drama Luciano Serra, Pilot, in which he played a First World War veteran, established him as Italy's leading male star in 1930s and he maintained his popularity in the 40s and 50s.  He is remembered also for his appearance in Federico Fellini's Nights of Cabiria, which won the 1957 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film.  Towards the end of his career, he featured in Henri Verneuil's 1969 Mafia caper The Sicilian Clan, for which the score was composed by Ennio Morricone.  His last big screen appearance came in 1976 in A Matter of Time, an Italian-American musical fantasy directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring his daughter, Liza Minnelli.  Nazzari was born Amedeo Carlo Leone Buffa, the son of a pasta manufacturer.  Read more…


Errico Petrella – opera composer

Sicilian whose popularity drew scorn from rivals

The largely forgotten opera composer Errico Petrella, whose popularity in Italy in the 1850s and 1860s was second only to operatic giant Giuseppe Verdi, was born on this day in 1813 in Palermo.  He composed 25 works, mainly comedic or melodramatic in nature, and had a run of successes in the 1850s, when three of  his productions were premiered at Teatro alla Scala in Milan.  However, Petrella attracted the scorn of both Verdi and another contemporary, the German composer Richard Wagner, both of whose careers coincided exactly with Petrella’s, even down to having been born in the same year.  When Il Duca di Scilla had its first performance at La Scala in March 1859, a year on from his hugely successful Jone, which also premiered at the Milan theatre, Wagner’s criticism could have hardly been more unflattering.  Asked his opinion of the work, Wagner said: “It is an unbelievably worthless and incompetent operatic effort by a modern composer whose name I have forgotten.”  Some years earlier, admittedly before Petrella had enjoyed much success at all, Verdi had been similarly scathing in his assessment of the 1951 opera Le Precauzioni.  Read more…


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