1 October 2023

1 October

- Sylvano Bussotti – classical composer, opera director and writer

The productive life of a Renaissance man with many strings to his bow

The multi-talented Sylvano Bussotti, a leading composer who was part of Italy’s avant-garde movement, was born on this day in 1931 in Florence.  Bussotti was also a painter, set and costume designer, opera director and writer. His operas and ballets were performed at the most prestigious theatres in Italy and abroad and he served as artistic director of La Fenice in Venice, the Puccini festival in Tuscany and the music section of the Venice Biennale.  Before he was five years old, Bussotti was learning to play the violin and he soon became a prodigy. He was also introduced to painting early in his life by his older brother and uncle.  At the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory in Florence, he studied harmony and counterpoint and learnt the piano, but he was unable to complete his studies and receive any official qualifications because of the start of World War II.  However, Bussotti continued to study composition on his own and, from 1958, he took private composition lessons with Max Deutsch in Paris.  Bussotti embarked on what has been described as an important editorial relationship with music publishers Casa Ricordi in 1956.  Read more…


Attilio Pavesi - Olympic cycling champion

Rider from Emilia-Romagna won Italy's first road racing gold 

Attilio Pavesi, the first winner of an individual Olympic gold medal in Italian cycling history, was born on this day in 1910 in the small town of Caorso in Emilia-Romagna.  At the Los Angeles Olympics of 1932, Pavesi won the individual road race and picked up a second gold medal as a member of the Italian quartet that won the team classification in the same race.  Italy had already won gold medals for the team pursuit in track cycling - indeed, they won that title for the fourth time in a row in 1932 - but had not enjoyed success on the road before Pavesi's triumph.  Pavesi, the last of 11 children born to Angelo, a poultry farmer, and his wife Maria, was a natural all-round sportsman, excelling at running, long jump, swimming, diving, gymnastics and football as he grew up.  He was such a strong swimmer he once saved a boy from drowning in a local river by pulling him to the bank by his hair.  His interest in cycling developed after he left school at the age of 10 to take a job in a workshop, learning how to repair all modes of transport from bicycles to tractors.  He joined a cycling team and won a number of trophies and continued to compete during his national service.  Read more…


Leonello d’Este - Marquis of Ferrara

Ruler who spent money on the arts and education

Leonello d’Este, who is remembered as a dedicated patron of the arts, literature and culture, died on this day in 1450 in Ferrara.  Leonello was Marquis of Ferrara and Duke of Modena and Reggio Emilia from 1441 to 1450.  An illegitimate son of Niccolo III d’Este, Leonello was favoured by his father as his successor ahead of his legitimate children.  As he was well educated and popular with the common people, he was considered by his father to be the most suitable heir.  During his rule over Ferrara, Leonello transformed the city and reformed the University of Ferrara, actions which influenced the political and artistic achievements of his successors.  Leonello was tutored by Guarino Veronese, who instructed him on the traits of a desirable ruler and how to govern. Veronese was later appointed as a professor at the University of Ferrara.  Because of his strong academic background, Leonello made economic, political and cultural changes to Ferrara as soon as he took over. He was responsible for the building of the first hospital in Ferrara.  Artists such as Pisanello, Bellini, Mantegna and Della Francesca worked for him in Ferrara.  Read more…


Walter Mazzarri - football coach

Former Watford manager with outstanding record in Italy

The football coach Walter Mazzarri, whose disappointing spell in English football as Watford manager contrasts with a fine record as a coach in his native Italy, was born on this day in 1961 in San Vincenzo, a resort on the coast of Tuscany.  Mazzarri won promotion to Serie A with his local club Livorno and kept tiny Calabrian team Reggina in Serie A against the odds for three consecutive seasons, on the last occasion despite an 11-point deduction for involvement in an alleged match-fixing scandal.  He subsequently had two seasons as coach of Sampdoria, qualifying for the UEFA Cup by finishing sixth in the first of those campaigns and then reaching the final of the Coppa Italia with a team that included the potent attacking duo Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini.  After that he returned to Napoli, where he had previously been assistant to Renzo Ulivieri, to be appointed head coach in 2009, guiding the azzurri to sixth place - their best Serie A finish for 25 years - to qualify for the Europa League in his first season in charge, and doing even better in his second season, when Napoli were third, their highest placing since the golden days of the late 1980s.  Read more…


Book of the Day: Italian Opera Since 1945, by Raymond Fearn

First published in 1988. Italy, the birthplace of opera in the late 16th century, has in recent decades seen remarkable and vital musical growth, with composers as diverse as Luciano Berio and Nino Rota, Luigi Nono and Sylvano Bussotti, Giacomo Manzoni, Bruno Maderna and Salvatore Sciarrino. The musical theatre has figured prominently in the work of Italian composers during this period, ranging from operas conceived in a traditional mode to works of a music theatre variety, and in style from popular to avant-garde. In Italian Opera Since 1945, Raymond Fearn surveys this Italian musico-theatrical phenomenon in the period since the Second World War, examining a wide range of works such as Nono's Intolleranza and Al gran sole carico d'amore, Berio's Passaggio and Un re in ascolto, Manzoni's Atomtod and La sentenza and Castiglioni's Oberon and The King's Masque, and places these developments within a cultural and theatrical context.

Raymond Fearn is a former Professor of Music at Keele University in Staffordshire, England. He also wrote the first English work dealing in detail with the life and musical influences of the Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola.

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