CULTURE

Apollo, Piovani and Berlusconi

The only foreign artist commissioned by the Cultural Olympiad to create an original piece of work, Nicola Piovani, in return demanded Delos. As the Oscar-winning composer unveils «The Island of Light» cantata on the sacred island this Saturday, he will be accompanied by a 15-instrument orchestra, two of his favorite singers, Israeli Noa and Italian Pino Ingrosso, and a Greek narrator, actor Nikitas Tsakiroglou. A Manos Hadjidakis disciple and Silvio Berlusconi critic, Piovani spoke to Kathimerini prior to Saturday’s premiere. Were you surprised by the Cultural Olympiad’s proposal? I was absolutely taken by Delos. When the organizers took me there to visit the excavations, in splendid daylight, I had no doubts left and decided to write a cantata which would begin precisely there – marking Apollo’s birth on the island. Was it your idea to perform it on the island? Delos has always been part of the myth. It is the Island of Light, where light was born. Three millennia on, scientists such as Einstein have spent many sleepless nights trying to uncover even small parts of the mystery that is the speed of light. Did you compose the cantata before or after visiting the island? Clearly after. All the musical ideas were born after this visit – following that sun-kissed day. The work refers to the myth of Apollo. But which one, given that there are numerous myths surrounding Apollo? The cantata does not narrate the myth of Apollo. It is inspired by some of his moments, mainly those narrated by Homer: Leto’s difficult labor when she gave birth to him, for instance. At one point it develops the intense feeling of light and the fear of losing it: Byron’s «Darkness,» light as described in the poetry of Elytis and Seferis, or even the blackout in the metro as described by poet Vincenzo Cerami. The cantata features a narrator, two singers and a 15-member orchestra. Can you elaborate? «The Island of Light» is loosely structured. It is dominated by a female voice which opens the piece, interpreting a new version of the ancient «Epittafio di Sicilio» and ending with the Hymn to the Sun – both these musical fractions of antiquity are rampant with the mysterious magic of archaeological research. For the narrator, we depend on Cerami’s verses. The text will be in modern Greek on Delos and in Italian when we present it in Italy; it will be translated each time it’s presented in another country. The interpreters Why did you choose to work with Pino Ingrosso and Noa? I believe that Noa has one of the world’s most beautiful voices at this moment. Pino Ingrosso’s voice is hard to define and I’ve been working with it for more than 12 years. Besides the Delos premiere, where are you planning to present the work? For the time being, and as always, I can only think of the first time – perhaps in order to exorcise it! Did your life and work change after winning the Oscar for original score in Roberto Benigni’s «La Vita E Bella?» I get more phone calls than I used to. Are you more involved in cinema or have you gone back to the theater, which you consider to be your natural environment? I’m still very much involved in film. Following «The Island of Light,» I will be working on the new Paolo and Vittorio Taviani film, among other projects. At the same time I’m offering myself the luxury of getting increasingly involved in the theater. I’m also planning to work with Concerto Fotogramma again. This is a production which has traveled to many countries and one I would like to bring to Greece. What do you think of Greek artists such as Elli Paspala, Mario Frangoulis, Costas Thomaidis and Calliope Vetta, who have, over the years, recorded a number of your songs? Whenever I listen to some of my pieces interpreted by Greek singers I’m always very moved; I just wish Manos Hadjidakis could listen to them. Six years ago, during an interview for Kathimerini, I bombarded you with questions about your encounter, apprenticeship and friendship with Manos Hadjidakis. Every Greek journalist asks you about this. Would you be surprised if no one asked you about it anymore? I wouldn’t be surprised, but it would be unpleasant. Manos Hadjidakis was a fundamental part of the way my music evolved and I like to repeat it every single time. What is your view on contemporary Greece? I think it’s best to express your views about those things you know very well. Are Italians and Greeks similar? And where would you say they differ? At this very moment the great difference is that the Greeks are not going through the «Berlusconi Era.» What does the «Berlusconi Era» mean to Italy? I would rather bypass the whole thing: Sometimes I think I’m going to wake up one day and discover that it was just a dream, or rather a nightmare… Whatever happened to good old Italian songs? What happened to the nice European songs we were so used to? Quite simply, the arrival of American colonial culture: As we all know, colonialists export the worse part of their culture and keep the best for themselves. Great and noble aspects of American culture remain within its borders, while the confusion over the aesthetic principles of the so-called «turbo-capitalism» is based on a secret linguistic propaganda that flattens everything. Italy is one of the first guinea pigs in this process of cultural «MacDonaldization.»