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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

Panethiere Italian Concert Web Graphic Color

Women take ‘center stage’ at annual Italian concert

Annual Italian concert at DPAC celebrates Italian women.

Last Friday, the Center for Italian Studies, in conjunction with the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures, the College of Arts and Letters and others, hosted its annual spring concert in the Leighton Concert Hall of the Debartolo Performing Arts Center. The Italian concert has become a beloved tradition for the students and faculty of Italian at Notre Dame and beyond. Each year, a theme is chosen to connect and center the songs. This year, the theme was “UNICA: Italian Women Center Stage.”

Attendees were given a program with the setlist and explanations of the context and significance of each of the songs, as well as a list of suggested further listening at the end with albums by the artists featured in the concert. The programs, along with a slideshow projected above the performers, helped audience members who may not have been fluent in Italian understand and appreciate the themes and meanings of the songs.

The concert opened with “Nessuno” by the Italian icon Mina, sung by Anne Leone of Syracuse University. Two songs with similar spunk and rock-and-roll sensibilities followed: “La bambola” by Patty Pravo, sung by Lesley Marcantonio of Notre Dame, and “No,” another Mina song, sung by Teresa McNulty of Holy Cross College.

Professor Lesley Marcantonio, the producer of the concert as well as a performer, provided an introduction to the theme of the concert and how the first three songs fit into it. They all featured a woman’s “no,” something that embodied the spirit of rebellion in the postwar period they came from. She also explained how the long standing fame of female leads in Italian culture — Dante’s Beatrice, Petrarch’s Laura and of course the Madonna — gave the modern women of Italy a space to step into. 

The next song expanded the theme of the concert as it moved from songs sung by women to songs about women with “Chiedo scusa se parlo di Maria” by Giorgio Gaber, sung by Anthony Monta of Holy Cross College. The lighthearted skit that preceded this performance of the song pointed to a highlight of the concert: The performers are there because they love Italy and Italian music. It was clear to the audience that they were having just as much fun as we were. 

A sobering moment in the performance was the dedication of “Sempre” by Gabriella Ferri to Tiziana Serafini, a beloved professor in the Italian department who passed away in August

A highlight of the second act was “Il cielo d’Irlanda,” an Italian tribute to Ireland that is particularly fitting for Notre Dame. It featured members of Notre Dame’s céilí band as well as Irish dancing. “Jill’s Theme” from the soundtrack of “Once Upon a Time in the West” was a notable part of the second act as well, accompanied by Professor Marcatonio’s explanation of the fusion of female tropes that makes the character Jill McBain so interesting. The concert closed with “Insieme,” dedicated to the not-yet-born children of two of the singers. 

Overall, it’s easy to see why this concert consistently sells out. The concert is filled with incredibly talented performers doing something they love. It gives students of Italian a chance to engage with what they’re studying outside of class, but it’s also something that anyone can enjoy, regardless of their background in Italian or lack thereof.