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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
The Observer

A night of Italian music and culture at DPAC

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Meg Hammond | The Observer
Meg Hammond | The Observer


Last Friday, the Center for Italian studies hosted its annual Italian Community Concert in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Singers included Notre Dame faculty and students, who came together to perform an array of fantastic Italian music for a sold-out crowd.

The Center for Italian Studies, in conjunction with the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the department of Romance languages and literatures, has sponsored this concert each spring since 2016. Every year, the event is framed around a different theme or artist.

This year’s theme was “Diversitàlia: Italian Cities and their Soundscapes.” The two-set performance took audience members on a tour of various Italian cities, celebrating each one’s rich history and distinct culture. Every song was introduced by an accompanying voiceover or a professor to provide context to the mix of famous traditional, pop, rock and folk music performed. 

Escaping the thundering storm outside, concertgoers huddled into a buzzing and cozy Leighton Concert Hall. The show kicked off with a lively performance of Dean Martin’s “On an Evening in Roma” by Notre Dame graduate Sean Leyes. Professor Lesley Marcantonio, the concert’s producer and a favorite in the Italian department, then came on stage to give a brief introduction to the rest of the concert.

“Let’s use this evening’s experience to demonstrate that we can freely choose to live together, a nourishing moment of our shared intentions,” she said. “Together in one place, experiencing one moment in time, breathing one moment of this music, we immerse ourselves in the Italian passion for spectacle, for beauty and for music.”

With this intention set, audience members were truly immersed for the rest of the show. A screen above the stage projected pictures of the featured cities and song lyrics so that viewers could sing along, adding to the warm and engaging atmosphere.

Returning performers included singers Patrick Vivirito, Colin McCarthy and Marcantonio herself, who were accompanied by musicians Anthony Monta, Joseph Rosenberg, Tom Guinan, Benjamin Nelson, Sean Raming and Rachel Keynton. 

English professor Anthony Mota’s introduction to the city of Geneva included an anecdote about his grandfather; likewise, Italian professor Alessia Blad introduced the city of Milan, drawing on her pride for the city she grew up in and that she said she feels shaped her. These personal introductions to the songs emphasized the strong connections to Italy alive and well at Notre Dame.

Highlights of the show included both serene, belting songs along with spirited performances and little skits.

Italian professor Vivirito’s performance of “Riccione” had the audience clapping along, while a show-stopping performance of “Frosinone” by Mitch Speer and a comical skit of “Ho Visto Un Re” added levity and laughter to the night. 

A dance number by Sarah Kanczuzewski, Marisa Lantigua, Diana Perynska and Teresa Tompkins gave the audience a taste of a typical summer night in the city of Puglia, where tourists and locals come together in the Piazza at night to dance La Taranta.

Two powerful solos closed both acts of the show. Graduate student Joseph Oparamankuie ended act one with an impressive opera performance of “Firenze Sogna,” and Holy Cross student Tompkins closed act two with a moving performance of “Maledetta Primavera.” After an insistent chant for an encore from the crowd, the show ended with a sneak peek of next year’s concert, which will celebrate iconic female voices of Italy. 

Anyone involved with Notre Dame’s Italian department will tell you how special a place it is. Professor Alessia Blad acknowledged the value of their work.

“While learning a new language, you are set to gain the priceless ability to see the world from a different perspective, while becoming part of a global community that encourages mutual respect and tolerance” she said.

This annual concert is a must-see for anyone looking to learn more about other cultures and celebrate wonderful talent, all while having fun doing it. “Bravissimi!” to the performers, and make sure to experience this wonderful night next spring.