January 31, 2013

The Great Cocozza

The Tragically Short Life of Mario Lanza
Mario Lanza
By Niccolò Graffio
“My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends- It gives a lovely light!” — Edna St. Vincent Millay: First Fig, (1920)
My clearest memories growing up of my father was of him being a workaholic.  He had spent the first 17 years of his life living in Italy helping his mother and older brothers try to eke out a living on the family farm.  His father immigrated to America and found work with the railroads. As happened to many of our people, he spent most of his time here while sending money back to help the family. In addition, he saved up his money to help pay for the passage of his sons to follow him.  
You see, while all this was going on, Benito Mussolini was busy pursuing his dreams of building a “fourth shore” (i.e. establish a second Roman Empire under his command).  Towards this end he allied himself with Adolf Hitler, another winner, and together they ignited another European conflagration. Continue reading

January 30, 2013

Raimondo di Sangro

Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero
The Prince of Alchemists
By Niccolò Graffio
“All scientific men were formerly accused of practicing magic. And no wonder, for each said to himself: ‘I have carried human intelligence as far as it will go, and yet so-and-so has gone further than I. Ergo, he has taken to Sorcery.’” – C.L. de Montesquieu: Persian Letters, CXLV, 1721
In Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s epic play Faust, the protagonist, Heinrich Faust, sells his soul to the Devil (Mephistopheles) in exchange for infinite knowledge and worldly pleasures. Faust, a scholar who was a member of the aristocracy, made the infernal deal due to his despairing belief in the vanity of scientific, humanitarian and religious learning.
Goethe’s character was fictional, though many believe he was an aggregate of several historical personages. The play, considered to be one of the greatest works of German literature, is taken by many to be an allegory for man’s insatiable and never ending quest for knowledge. Continue reading

January 28, 2013

Announcing Brooklyn's 126th Annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and San Paolino Di Nola

The 2013 Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and San Paolino Di Nola will be held from Wednesday July 10th 'till Sunday July 21st.

Located at
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
275 North 8th Street 
Brooklyn, NY 11211

(718) 384-0223

Live Entertainment • Food • Rides

Event dates:

• Wednesday July 10th — Opening Night and coronation mass, followed by candlelight procession
• Thursday July 11th — First Children's Giglio lift
• Sunday July 14th — Giglio Sunday
• Tuesday July 16th — Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, procession throughout the parish neighborhood
• Wednesday July 17th — Night Lift (rain date: Thursday July 18th)
• Friday July 18th — Second Children's Giglio Lift  
• Sunday July 21st — Old Timers Day

Also see:

Announcing the 120th Annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Melrose Park, Illinois

Photo courtesy of olmcshrine.org
July 11th–14th, 2013

The Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
1101 N. 23rd Ave.
Melrose Park, Illinois  60160

For more info visit http://olmcshrine.org/

Event dates: 
• Sunday, June 23rd — Incoronation Anniversary Mass
• Friday, July 5th — Novena Begins
• Thursday, July 11th — Street Festival Begins
• Sunday, July 14th — Feast Day
• Tuesday, July 16th — Liturgical Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

For more information on the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, please contact us at (708) 344-4140 or email us at olmcshrinemp@gmail.com

January 26, 2013

Arturo DiModica and His Charging Bull

Bronze Cavallo on display in 2013 at Casa Belvedere, Staten Island
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli

Since beginning this exercise in ethnic self-awareness I've intermittently written about New York City's public monuments by Sicilian Americans, specifically the works of Anthony de Francisci and Pietro Montana. However, no discussion of Sicilian-American sculptors would be complete without mentioning Arturo DiModica and his world famous Charging Bull

Arturo DiModica was born on January 26, 1941 in Vittoria, a small city in the province of Ragusa, Sicily. Showing signs of artistic ability at an early age, his parents Giuseppe and Angela supported his creative endeavors. When he was 19, DiModica left for Florence to study and refine his skills at the Academia Del Nudo Libero. After just two years he opened his own studio, quickly making a name for himself among critics and collectors alike. He worked primarily in bronze, but also with the highly valued Carrara marble, prized for its use in sculpture since antiquity.

In 1973 DiModica came to America to broaden his artistic horizons. He opened a workshop on Grand Street in SoHo, meeting with almost immediate success. Winning awards and accolades from the New York art community, his works are highly prized. He purchased property on Crosby Street in 1978 and built his current studio, where some of his most beloved pieces, including Cavallo, a feisty bronze horse, were created.
Resurrection on display in 2010 at the Italian American Museum
DiModica and his family spend time between New York and Sicily, where he's currently working on a monumental project called the Horses of Ippari. Rumored to be two towering stallions, the rearing horses will form an arch spanning the Ippari River near Ragusa. When completed, it is said the work will be the largest statue in Europe.
Miniature stainless steel version of Cavallo 
on display in 2010 at the Italian American Museum
DiModica, of course, is most famous for his Charging Bull, an eighteen foot long bronze behemoth, weighing almost three and a half tons. Inspired by the Stock Market crash of '87, DiModica's statue was meant to symbolize America's vitality and financial recovery. Costing $360,000 of his own money to create, the artist famously installed the statue without permission in front of the New York Stock Exchange late at night on December 15, 1989. Using a flatbed truck and a small crane, DiModica and crew secretly dropped off the statue under the giant Stock Exchange Christmas tree. I know security was more lax back then, but how they did it without being noticed is a mystery. That morning New Yorkers were greeted with a big surprise.
Tourists queue up for a photo with the iconic statue. 
Since the Occupy Wall Street disturbances, Charging Bull 
has been cordoned off and under police surveillance.
Unhappy with the "unauthorized" display on public property, the Stock Exchange had the statue impounded. On December 20th, amid public outcry for its return (and after DiModica paid the $5,000 fine) the City decided to "temporarily" move Charging Bull to the nearby Bowling Green section of Lower Manhattan (at the intersections of Broadway and Morris Street). It's been there ever since.
Stainless steel version of Charging Bull, 
on display in 2013 at Casa Belvedere, Staten Island 
Today, Charging Bull is one of the Big Apple's most recognizable tourist attractions. It diurnally attracts large crowds of onlookers from around the globe and (believe it or not) is said to draw more tourists than either the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building. Variations of the bull have since been installed in Shanghai (2010) and Amsterdam (2012).
Tourist poses behind the bull
Curiously, a big part of the statue's allure is its alleged ability to bestow luck. While taking photos, I noticed there was just as long a line at the rear of the statue as the front. People were nestling their heads between the animals cheeks while others fondled its privates. The spectacle reminded me a little of the festive crowds at "Juliet's House" in Verona, lining up to grope the star-crossed lover's right breast because superstition claims by doing so the statue will help them find true love.
Statue of Juliet, Verona
I know its considered good luck in some cultures, after all the ancient cuornuciello (coral horn talisman often confused for a pepper) is said to be a stylized bull's penis, but when I asked a few people why they did it they said it was just for fun. Perhaps they were too embarrassed to tell the truth or too polite to tell me to mind my own business. Whatever the reason, they did look like they were enjoying themselves. 

Strangely enough, so did the bull. 
Charging Bull

January 24, 2013

Announcing NYC's 124th Annual Feast of Saint Rocco

Viva Saint Rocco! 
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
Sunday, August 18, 2013
St. Joseph's Church
5 Monroe Street, New York, NY
(212) 267-8376

Sponsored by

Come celebrate 124 years of faith in glorious St. Rocco, helper of the sick and Saint of Miracles.

12:00 pm High Mass in honor of St Rocco
1:30 pm Procession of St. Rocco through the streets of Little Italy
2:00 pm Sale of coffee and light refreshments in church basement
5:30 pm St. Rocco returns to the Church
6:00 pm Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Veneration of the relic of St. Rocco
6:30 pm Entertainment and refreshments available, raffle drawing

* All schedules and activities are subject to change, so please check with organizers for any updates.

For more info visit www.stroccosociety.com

Also see:

January 20, 2013

The Great Restorer: Charles of Bourbon

Charles of Bourbon, Napoli
b. January 20, 1716 – d. December 14, 1788 
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
By Giovanni di Napoli
"Go forth and win: the most beautiful crown in Italy awaits you." – Elizabeth Farnese to her son Charles of Bourbon
Charles of Bourbon was born on January 20, 1716 in Madrid. He was the eldest child of King Philip V of Spain and his second wife, Elizabeth Farnese. Through conquest and diplomacy the monarchs acquired the ducal crowns of Tuscany and Parma for the young Prince. Not content with these titles, the ambitious royals believed the Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies to be a more fitting prize for their son and plotted to wrest the Regno from the Austrian Empire.

At the age of eighteen Charles descended from his ducal dominions to invade the viceroyalty and conquer the "the most beautiful crown in Italy" for his own. At the helm of his army, which was composed of sixteen thousand infantry and five thousand cavalry, was the illustrious General Captain José Carrillo de Albornoz, the Count of Montemar. They had the support of the Spanish navy. 

When the Bourbon forces crossed the frontier they met with minimal resistance as the Austrians yielded in rapid succession. Charles entered Naples on May 10, 1734. Awaiting reinforcements from Austria, the imperial viceroy, Giulio Visconti, retreated with the bulk of his forces to Puglia. However, because the Austrians were tied up in Lombardy fighting against the French and Sardinians in the War of Polish Succession (1733-1735) the expected help never arrived. Upon hearing the news of the advancing Bourbons the viceroy wasted no time and set sail for Vienna. Continue reading

January 19, 2013

A Most Illustrious Corpse

Judge Paolo Borsellino Remembered
Judge Paolo Borsellino
By Niccolò Graffio
“Times of heroism are generally times of terror.” – R.W. Emerson: Heroism, 1841
Paolo Borsellino was born in Piazza Magione, a middle-class neighborhood in the heart of the city of Palermo, Sicily on January 19, 1940. His parents, both pharmacists, were supporters of the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini and its exploits in Africa. This was a factor in his decision to study recent history as well as his later political orientation.
Growing up, he befriended a fellow soul who, like himself, would one day become a legend in the Italian judiciary: Giovanni Falcone. Years later, Falcone would once recall how he and Borsellino would spend their youth in Palermo’s popular Albergheria quarter playing ping-pong with other young men who grew up to become Mafia capos. Continue reading

January 17, 2013

Feast of Sant'Antonio Abate

Viva Sant'Antuono!
By Giovanni di Napoli

January 17th is the Feast Day of Sant'Antonio Abate, also known as Saint Anthony the Great, one of the founders of Christian monasticism. He is regarded as the patron Saint of livestock, fire and contagious diseases, particularly skin maladies (e.g. shingles) and ergotism, a toxic condition caused by eating grains contaminated with ergot fungus. Also known as St. Anthony's Fire, ergotism causes gangrene in the extremities and drives its victims mad, symptoms previously associated with demonic possession.

In Southern Italy huge wooden pyres called the Bonfires of Saint Anthony (not to be confused with St. Anthony's Fire) are burned on the eve of his festival in public squares throughout the night. The purification ritual, which is meant to ward off evil spirits, also signifies the coming end of winter and the anticipation of spring. Local wines and delicacies are enjoyed, as well as fireworks, processions, music and other festivities.

Sant'Antonio's iconography includes the Tau Cross and the Holy Scriptures with flames shooting from the pages. The fire represents his gift to man (like Prometheus before him, Sant'Antonio stole fire for humanity). It also signifies the hardships he endured during his time as a hermit. Demons continuously harassed and tormented the Saint, who resisted their wicked temptations with prayer. 

The pig and bell are his attributes as well, though I've read conflicting theories as to why. Some say wild pigs are associated with the Devil, while others claim the animal symbolizes his ability to heal the sick. Supposedly medieval apothecaries used pig lard to treat St. Anthony's Fire. The Antonites, a monastic order devoted to the Saint and caring for the sick, were founded in the Middle Ages (c.1100) by a French nobleman whose ailing son was miraculously cured by the Saint's Relics. The Hospitallers of St. Anthony supported its charities by raising swine. Bells, traditionally used to frighten demons, were put around animals' necks for protection.

Naturally there are many miracles and stories attributed to Sant'Antonio, but one of the more fantastic tales involves a pig. According to legend, the Saint descended to the Gates of Hell and used an unusually troublesome and elusive piglet to distract the infernal denizens. While his squealing familiar created a diversion, Sant'Antonio hid smoldering embers inside his T-shaped staff and smuggled them back to earth to provide fire for mankind. Alternate versions say the Saint distracted the demons while the pig ran off with a firebrand.

In celebration I'm posting a Prayer to St. Anthony the Abbot.(1) The accompanying photos of Sant'Antuono were taken at the 2011 Feast of Sant'Antonio Abate in Astoria, Queens.

Prayer to St. Anthony the Abbot

Photos by New York Scugnizzo
O father of monks
and all who would give themselves
completely to the Lord,
you who have been so obedient
to the word of God,
to His call
to sell everything,
to renounce all possessions
and follow Him –
how we need your prayers
this day,
when love for material things
possesses our very bodies
and souls,
when prayer and penance
seem things of the distant past.
Make present to us
the blessed call of the Lord,
the renunciation of the world,
that we too might find
the riches of Heaven
you knew so well.
Pray we give up all for God.

(1) Prayer reprinted from Prayers to the Saints by James Kurt, Author House, 2007, p. 8

January 13, 2013

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino Announce North American Tour Dates

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino
Photo courtesy of Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino
"CGS was a whirlwind" -- THE NEW YORK TIMES

"Their intense and precise arrangements are utterly beguiling and trance-inducing" -- THE NEW YORKER

"The best concert I've seen recently is Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino. The band is remarkable..." -- MARC RIBOT

Italy's leading ensemble on the world music circuit, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, opens 2013 with the announcement of their North American concert return.  Hailing from the Puglia region, the seven piece band and dancer are the number one exponents in a new wave of young performers re-inventing Southern Italy's Pizzica Taranta music and dance traditions for today's global audience.  CGS introduced North American audiences to the power of Taranta for the first time in 2011.  The group's critically acclaimed debut tour led to a pair of high profile invitations for appearances at the 2012 editions of globalFEST and Womex, the international music market's two top showcase events.  

Opening in New York City, on Friday, February 1, 2013 at Pace University's Schimmel Center for the Arts, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino will perform a set drawn from their new album "Pizzica Indiavolata" which entered the World Music Charts Europe at #2 in December 2012 and features guest appearances by Malian kora virtuoso Ballaké Sissoko and pan-European singer-songwriter Piers Faccini.  CGS' Winter tour winds through performing arts centers and clubs in 11 US and Canadian cities on the East Coast and in the Midwest, finishing on Sunday, February 17, 2013 at Navy Pier in Chicago.  In mid-March 2013 Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino will take an American Spring Break confirming their first appearance at the famed SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX.

For tour dates visit canzonieregrecanicosalentino.net

January 11, 2013

Princeton's La Festa di San Sebastiano, Patron Saint of Pettoranello

Saint Sebastian by Mattia Preti
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia)
Saturday, January 26, 2013 

Sportsmen's Club
8 Founders Lane, Princeton NJ
Admission: $35
Mass will be celebrated at 5:30 PM at St. Paul's Church located on Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ, followed by a dinner/dance at 7:30 PM. 

Featuring entertainment by TN-Tertainment, LLC - John Rossi, DJ. Please call for further information.

Contact: Ellie Pinelli 609-921-7911

January 8, 2013

Epiphany Party at Cacio e Vino

Vincenzo reads Tomie dePaola's The Legend of Old Befana
(Photos by New York Scugnizzo)
By Giovanni di Napoli

Last night I met up with members of New York City's Sicilian Food, Wine and Travel Group for their first ever Befana/Epiphany Party. We gathered at Cacio e Vino (80 2nd Ave), one of NYC's finer Sicilian restaurants, for a delicious meal and fantastic night on the town. As might be expected, the establishment is a frequent haunt for the group, as well as individual members. We always have a wonderful dining experience there; the food and service are excellent.

After lengthy greetings everyone finally settled in (we nearly filled the entire dining room). Our selfless and hard working organizer Vincent Titone welcomed us by reading Tomie dePaola's The Legend of Old Befana (Harcourt Children's Books), a delightful version of the Befana tale, which helped set the tone for our festive evening. 
First course: Sfincione and stuffed eggplant rolls
Following the toast our feast began. Owner and pastry chef Giusto did a wonderful job putting together a menu for our party. For starters we were treated to some stuffed eggplant rolls and classic Sicilian sfincione, a delicious doughy focaccia topped with onions and tomatoes, with salad on the side. This was soon followed by two delectable pasta dishes: Spaghetti "alla trapanese" with fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and almonds, and Aneletti "alla palermitana" with beef ragu, peas, eggplant, basil and pecorino cheese. For me, this dish is the quintessential Palermitan comfort food. For our entrée we were served tasty breaded pork skewers and baccala fish balls. Our contorni were roasted potatoes and spinach. Of course, no meal would be complete without dessert: piping hot demitasse and Giusto's incredible pistachio encrusted cannoli.
Second course: Aneletti “alla palermitana” and Spaghetti "alla trapanese”
As the party started to wind down and people began to leave, some of us exchanged gifts. I was pleasantly surprised with a copy of Henry Barbera's Medieval Sicily: The First Absolute State (Legas). I'm an avid fan of medieval history, so Barbera's book looks like it's going to be an interesting read. Old Befana was very thoughtful and generous this year.
Entrée: Pork skewers, baccala fish balls, roasted potatoes and spinach
As always, I was excited to catch-up with some old friends and happy to make some new ones. Everyone was warm and friendly. As the first meetup of the New Year it was the perfect way to celebrate our faith, culture and friendship. Grazie mille Vincent and all members of the Sicilian Food, Wine and Travel Group for another fantastic evening. I'm looking forward to our next bash together.
Cannoli for dessert
Also see:

January 6, 2013

La Befana and the Feast of the Epiphany

Bathasar, Melchior and Caspar
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
By Giovanni di Napoli

January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany, a solemn celebration of the revelation of Christ to the Magi, thus symbolizing His physical manifestation to mankind. Originating in the Eastern Church, Epiphany comes from the Greek epihania, meaning, "to show forth." While in the West the Adoration of the Magi is the principal focus of the celebration, the Epiphany is actually a commemoration of three events that reveal Christ's divinity: The visitation of the Magi, His baptism and the first miracle at the wedding in Cana.  

In Italy, the Epiphany is popularly celebrated with la Befana, a benevolent witch who rewards good little boys and girls with presents, typically fruit, nuts and candy; naughty children get ash and coal. Despite the obvious similarities, she is often erroneously referred to as the "Italian Santa Claus." Traditionally in Southern Italy Christmas was a much more reserved holiday, Saint Nicholas would bring gifts on his Feast Day (December 6th). Santa Claus, or Babbao Natale (Father Christmas) as he is called, is a recent importation. La Befana (a corruption of epihania) is a much older tradition (some claim she has pre-Christian roots). Whatever her origins, she is distinctly Italian (but not without some regional differences) and a quaint embellishment to the Epiphany celebration.

According to legend, while following the star to Bethlehem, the Three Wise Men came across an old crone doing her housework. She welcomed them into her modest home and treated them very hospitably. In gratitude the Magi invited her to join their caravan and partake in their quest of the newborn Messiah. She politely declined and they continued on their journey without her. Realizing her mistake she had a change of heart, but it was too late; she was unable to find them or the manger. To this day la Befana wanders the earth on her magical broomstick (or flying donkey, depending on whose telling the tale) leaving her gifts in hopes of finding the Christ Child.

In commemoration I'm posting an Epiphany Prayer.(*) The accompanying photo of the Magi was taken outside the historic Shrine Church of Saint Anthony of Padua (154 Sullivan Street) in NYC. 

Epiphany Prayer

Jesus, Light of the World,
at Epiphany, we celebrate Your
revelation to the world—Your majesty,
in the visit of the Magi, Your mission, 
in Your baptism in the Jordan, 
Your ministry and miraculous powers, 
at the marriage feast of Cana.

This new year, may we ever more faithfully seek You, 
worship You and walk by your light,
so that we may help bring Your Love
and life to all people and Your Kingdom to earth. Amen

(*) Reprinted from a prayer card

January 4, 2013

'From Italy to America' Exhibit at Greenwich Historical Society

The Fountain Place in Bitonto, Puglia by Anthony Riccio
From March 1 to June 30, 2013

Greenwich Historical Society
Bush-Holley Historic Site
39 Strickland Road, Cos Cob, CT 06807
Click here for more info

This show celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Italian-American community in Greenwich. It includes historic images, objects, memorabilia and documents unearthed from the attics and family coffers of town residents, gathered through a series of events held throughout town at which the public was invited to share family stories and treasures.

The exhibition will also feature video interviews with local residents who will recount memories of the events, traditions and individuals (many whose relatives came as laborers to help build the town’s great estates) that shaped life in the early Italian-American neighborhoods and that later came to influence the larger community. The video segments will be produced by TimeStories, a video biography production company founded by Emmy Award-winning creative director Peter Savigny.

Also on view, a complementary exhibition of 26 black and white photographs by Anthony Riccio drawn from his show From Italy to America, originally organized by the Bellarmine Museum of Art (Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut).

Reprinted from greenwichhistory.org

Also see:

January 3, 2013

Ciao Entertainment Announces its 18th Annual Spring Italian Dinner Show

Starring the Exciting Jimmy Alleva and funnyman Marcoantonio. This show is a fundraiser for St. Anthony of Padua Parish in the historic section of Brier Hill. Show will be at the Georgetown (5945 South Ave., Youngstown, Ohio), Sunday, March 3rd. Doors open at 4:00pm. For tickets call 339-757-2779

January 2, 2013

New Books for 2013

Some new and forthcoming titles that may be of interest to our readers. All are available at Amazon.com

Mattia Preti: The Triumphant Manner by Keith Sciberras

Publisher: Midsea Books
Publication Date: December 31, 2012
Hardback: $183.45
Language: English
Pages: 496

Timaeus of Tauromenium and Hellenistic Historiograhy by Christopher A. Baron

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication Date: January 31, 2013
Hardback: $92.78
Language: English
Pages: 320

Paolo De Matteis: Neapolitan Painting and Cultural History in Baroque Europe by Livio Pestilli

Publisher: Ashgate Pub Co.
Publication Date: February 29, 2013
Hardback: $124.95
Language: English
Pages: 368

Factions, Friends and Feasts: Anthropological Perspectives on the Mediterranean by Jeremy Boissevain

Publisher: Berghahn Books
Publication Date: March, 2013
Hardback: $87.07
Language: English
Pages: 320

Under the Volcano: Revolution in a Sicilian Town by Lucy Riall

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication Date: March 15, 2013
Hardback: $50.06
Language: English
Pages: 272

Pleasure by Gabriele D'Annunzio (Translated by Lara Gochin Raffaelli)

Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Paperback: $11.56
Language: English
Pages: 320

Gabriele D'Annunzio: Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War by Lucy Hughes-Hallett

Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: August 20, 2013
Hardback: $23.10
Language: English
Pages: 576

Click here to see more books