15 May 2024

15 May

- Battle of Calatafimi

The Expedition of the Thousand gets off to a good start

Garibaldi won his first victory during his invasion of Sicily on this day in 1860 at Calatafimi near Trapani.  His army of Redshirts beat a larger number of Neapolitan troops representing The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, who had been sent from Palermo to block the roads to the Sicilian capital. Four days before the battle, Garibaldi’s ‘Thousand,’ known as I Mille in Italian, had landed at Marsala and set off on a direct route to Palermo.  A Neapolitan Brigadier General, Francesco Landi, was sent to intercept Garibaldi and his volunteer troops before they could get to Palermo.  Landi deployed 2,700 men, as well as cannons and horse artillery, on a terraced hill called Pianto dei Romani, forcing Garibaldi into having to attack them uphill to get past them and continue with his journey. The Neapolitan troops were better armed than Garibaldi’s men and had modern rifles, but the Redshirts made a series of determined bayonet charges, causing the Neapolitans to have to move back to the terraces above to avoid their opponents getting too close with their weapons.  The Neapolitans were pushed back to the top of the hill and Garibaldi’s men captured one of their cannons.  Read more…


Anna Maria Alberghetti - singer and actress

Child prodigy who rejected Hollywood to become Broadway star

The actress and operatic singer Anna Maria Alberghetti was born on this day in 1936 in the Adriatic resort of Pesaro.  She moved with her family to the United States in her teens and became a Broadway star, winning a Tony Award in 1962 as best actress in a musical for her performance in Bob Merrill’s Carnival, directed by Gower Champion.  Alberghetti was a child prodigy with music in her blood. Her father was an accomplished musician, an opera singer and concertmaster of the Rome Opera Company, who also played the cello. Her mother was a pianist.  They influenced the direction in which her talent developed and by the age of six she was singing with symphony orchestras with her father as her vocal instructor.  After success touring Europe, Anna Maria was invited to perform in the United States and made her debut at Carnegie Hall in New York at the age of 14. Given the state of Italy after the Second World War, the idea of settling permanently in America became too attractive for the family to resist.   At that time, Anna Maria’s focus was on a career as an opera singer but the American cinema industry was obsessed with European actresses.  Read more…


Debut of Italy’s national football team

Illustrious history began with victory over France

The first official international football match involving Italy took place on this day in 1910 in Milan.  Officially formed four months earlier, the Azzurri made their debut at the Arena Civica in Milan, beating France 6-2 in front of a crowd said to number 4,000 spectators.  The match was refereed by Henry Goodley, an Englishman.  The team’s first goal was scored after 13 minutes by Pietro Lana, a forward with the AC Milan club, who went on to score a hat-trick, including a penalty kick.  In a team dominated by Milan-based players, the other goals were scored by Internazionale’s Virgilio Fossati, Giuseppe Rizzi of the Ausonia-Milano club and Enrico Debernardi, who played for Torino. Fossati, tragically, was killed six years later while fighting for the Italian Army in World War One.  Organised football had begun in Italy in 1898 with the founding of the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio - the Italian Football Federation - who arranged the first national championship, won by Genoa.  The FIGC was primarily concerned with domestic football and it was the newspaper La Stampa, a daily journal published in Turin, who first mooted the idea of a team to represent the nation.  Read more…


Pippo Barzizza - band leader

Musician was an Italian pioneer of jazz and swing

The musician and bandleader Giuseppe ‘Pippo’ Barzizza, who helped popularise jazz and swing music in Italy during a long and successful career, was born on this day in 1902 in Genoa.  Barzizza was active in music for eight decades but was probably at the peak of his popularity in the 1930s and 40s, when he led the Blue Star and Cetra orchestras.  He continued to be a major figure in popular music until the 1960s and thereafter regularly came out of retirement to show that his talents had not waned.  He died at his home in Sanremo in 1994, just a few weeks before his 93rd birthday.  As well as arranging the music of others, Barzizza wrote more than 200 songs of his own in his lifetime, and helped advance the careers of such singers as Alberto Rabagliati, Otello Boccaccini, Norma Bruni, Maria Jottini and Silvana Fioresi among others.  In addition to his skills as a writer, conductor and orchestra leader, Barzizza was an accomplished player of a range of instruments, including violin, piano, saxophone, banjo and accordion.  A child prodigy on the violin, Barzizza was able to play a Mozart symphony almost before he could read.  Read more…


Salvatore Fisichella - operatic tenor

Singer was called the most outstanding interpreter of Bellini of his day

Opera singer Salvatore Fisichella, who won international acclaim for his interpretations of the leading roles in Bellini’s operas, was born on this day in 1943 in Catania in Sicily.  Recognised for the ease and vocal brilliance of his singing, Fisichella has specialised in performing in bel canto operas, especially those of Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini.  He began singing when he was a small child at family parties. He was taught music at the local seminary and from the age of ten sang solos during church services.  After leaving the seminary, Fisichella attended a secondary school that had a science-based curriculum and then studied to become a surveyor.  Once he had qualified as a surveyor, he had little time for singing, but one day he was invited to the wedding of one of his clients. Fisichella had drawn up the plans for the couple’s new home, but on the day of the wedding he found himself filling in for the tenor, who had been scheduled to perform but whose arrival was delayed.  The bride, who had specifically requested Ave Maria, was so upset she threatened to postpone the wedding. Read more… 


Claudio Monteverdi – composer

Baroque musician who gave us the first real opera

The composer and musician Claudio Monteverdi was baptised on this day in 1567 in Cremona in Lombardy.  Children were baptised soon after their birth in the 16th century so it is likely Monteverdi was born on 15 May or just before.  He was to become the most important developer of a new genre, the opera, and bring a more modern touch to church music.  Monteverdi studied under the maestro di cappella at the cathedral in Cremona and published several books of religious and secular music while still in his teens.  He managed to secure a position as a viola player at Vincenzo Gonzaga’s court in Mantua where he came into contact with some of the top musicians of the time. He went on to become master of music there in 1601.  It was his first opera, L’Orfeo, written for the Gonzaga court, that really established him as a composer.  In the early 17th century, the intermedio, the music played between the acts of a play, was evolving into the form of a complete musical drama, or opera. Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo was the first fully developed example of this and is the earliest opera still being regularly staged.  Read more…


Book of the Day: Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero, by Lucy Riall

Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian revolutionary leader and popular hero, was among the best-known figures of the 19th century. This book seeks to examine his life and the making of his cult, to assess its impact, and understand its surprising success. For 30 years Garibaldi was involved in every combative event in Italy. His greatest moment came in 1860, when he defended a revolution in Sicily and provoked the collapse of the Bourbon monarchy, the overthrow of papal power in central Italy, and the creation of the Italian nation state. It made him a global icon, representing strength, bravery, manliness, saintliness, and a spirit of adventure. Handsome, flamboyant, and sexually attractive, he was worshipped in life and became a cult figure after his death in 1882. Lucy Riall shows that the emerging cult of Garibaldi was initially conceived by revolutionaries intent on overthrowing the status quo, that it was also the result of a collaborative effort involving writers, artists, actors, and publishers, and that it became genuinely and enduringly popular among a broad public. Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero demonstrates that Garibaldi played an integral part in fashioning and promoting himself as a new kind of “charismatic” political hero. It analyses the way the Garibaldi myth has been harnessed both to legitimise and to challenge national political structures. And it identifies elements of Garibaldi’s political style appropriated by political leaders around the world, including Mussolini and Che Guevara.

Lucy Riall is an Irish historian. She was a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London, and is currently a professor in the Department of History and Civilisation at the European University Institute in Florence. Her publications include The Italian Risorgimento: State, Society and National Unification and Sicily and the Unification of Italy: Liberal Policy and Local Power (1859-66).

Buy from Amazon


No comments:

Post a Comment