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Friday, December 20, 2013

Italian Christmas carol- Tu scendi dalle stelle

Italians do not have the rich Christmas carol tradition of English-speaking folks, but Tu scendi dalle stelle is known throughout Italy and justly popular. The 18th century song was historically performed with the zampogna, the Italian bagpipes. Here are some versions.



Luciano Pavarotti:




Renata Scotto:




Andrea Bocelli:


Sunday, November 17, 2013

William Weaver has died



William Weaver has died in Rhinebeck, New York, aged 90, as reported in the New York Times. Weaver was a distinguished translator from Italian into English, who, like so many translators, fell into the job. But in his case (it is not always so) he acquitted himself admirably, bringing new distinction and recognition to the often thankless work of the professional translator.

The Princeton-educated Virginian learned Italian informally after the war, and knew many figures from the robust cultural scene in Italy at that time. After living in Naples and Rome, he resided in Tuscany for many years, like so many cultivated English-speakers, then and now. He translated widely in modern Italian literature- to enumerate his translations is a sort of survey course in the subject. He was also an opera lover who translated librettos and wrote about opera. In later years, he taught translation at Bard College, and loved teaching. A life well-lived, I would say.

For more about the life and work of this interesting man, read this long article in The Paris Review.

For those of you who are curious about the craft of the literary translator, and may have been inclined to neglect it, see this piece in which he describes the process of translating the inimitable Carlo Emilio Gadda.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bertolli makes desserts! Who knew?

We all know Bertolli 'cause of their olive oil and savory stuff. But desserts?

Well, I was in my supermarket last week and espied an enticing package: New! Bertolli tiramisu!


Was it good? Yes it was; you may think they wimped out and didn't go the authentic route, with the alcohol- well, they did. The ingredients include Marsala wine. So there. And you can taste it, too. The only thing is that the portions were small for me, so I partook of both little packages. What can I say. They have produced other probably bodacious desserts, which I will be reviewing on this site. These are cappuccino, chocolate and limoncello goodies. Nom nom nom.
Rest assured that I have no relation with Bertolli, and there is no conflict of interest in my post. This is objectively yummy, but on the small side.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Guido Barilla- no gay families in our advertising

Guido Barilla, Chairman of the excessively widespread Barilla industries, has volunteered the information that his pasta and cookie ads will never feature gay families. Of course, heterosexual, traditional families are still the norm in advertising, and gay groups hadn't contested his advertising, but he saw fit to bring out that at Barilla they would exclude representations of gay families. Not only that, but if gays didn't like this, they could go eat some other pasta. Is that a threat or a promise, Guido?

When this, not unpredictably, pissed off the Italian gay community, which has made massive strides in the last decade or so, Barilla apologized and said he only meant that he wished to emphasize the central role of women in the family, by which he evidently means married women with husband and children, with the wife serving up steaming bowls of pasta for lunch, and giving the kids Mulino Bianco snacks for merenda. At this point, he pissed me off as a heterosexual female. Preparing and offering food is one of the great pleasures of life, and is an expression of friendship and love. For everyone. Italy is taking a reactionary turn, it is involved in a backlash, that I really, really don't like.

I haven't eaten Barilla pasta in ages, and I now intend to boycott Barilla Group as a whole: "Barilla, Mulino Bianco, Voiello, Pavesi, Gran Cereale, Pan di Stelle, Wasa, Harry's (France and Russia), Accademia Barilla, Misko (Greece), Filiz (Turley), Yemina and Vesta (Mexico)."  And to paraphrase that gay father of two, Sir Elton John, "it's no sacrifice, no sacrifice, no sacrifice, at all."

Qu'ils mangent de la brioche! Just not Barilla Group.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Jimmy Fontana, Il Mondo





Yesterday singer Jimmy Fontana died at age 78. He had some big hits in Italy in the 60's, the best of which was Il mondo, written in part by Fontana, with the arrangement of the ubiquitous Ennio Morricone.

No, stanotte amore
non ho più pensato a te,
ho aperto gli occhi
per guardare intorno a me
e intorno a me
girava il mondo come sempre.

Gira, il mondo gira
nello spazio senza fine
con gli amori appena nati,
con gli amori già finiti
con la gioia e col dolore
della gente come me.

Oh mondo, soltanto adesso,
io ti guardo
nel tuo silenzio io mi perdo
e sono niente accanto a te.

Il mondo,
non si é fermato mai un momento,
la notte insegue sempre il giorno,
ed il giorno verrà.

Here is my translation.

No, tonight, my love, I haven't thought of you anymore, I opened my eyes to look around me, and around me the world was turning, as always. Turning, the world is turning in endless space, with love that has just been born, with love that has already died, with the joy and the pain of people like me. Oh world, I'm only seeing you now, I'm losing myself in your silence and I am nothing next to you. The world, it has never stopped one moment, night always chases day, and daylight will come ...