February 27, 2017

Primi al Cinema: Live Accompaniment Screening of Assunta Spina (1915)

Francesca Bertini in Assunta Spina
March 3, 2017 @ 6:00 PM

Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò
New York University
24 West 12th Street
New York, NY 10011

This screening is part of Primi al Cinema, a new Casa Italiana series dedicated to debut films, American and New York premieres and other cinematographic novelties from and about Italy.

Assunta Spina (1915)
Silent, Italy, 71 min.

Directed by Francesca Bertini, Gustavo Serena
Based on the novel by Salvatore di Giacomo
Starring Francesca Bertini and Gustavo Serena

With Live Musical Accompaniment
Presenting the World Premiere of an original new score composed by John T. La Barbera

Performed by:
John T. La Barbera, guitar and mandolin
Susan Aquila, violin
Wilson Montuori, guitar

Based on Salvatore Di Giacomo’s novel, Assunta Spina was filmed on location in Naples in 1914 and was produced and released by Caesar Film in 1915 in Italy. It features the queen of Italian silent screen Francesca Bertini, who is credited with directing the film together with her co-star, Gustavo Serena. As soon as the film opens with Assunta, played by Bertini against the background of the Bay of Naples, an operatic tale of love and sacrifice unfolds and we meet a strong working class woman in turn of the century Naples. Faced with the harsh realities of violence, jealousy and corruption she preserves her dignity while struggling to survive. Bertini’s performance set a new standard for Italian cinema. Filmed on location in Naples.

La Barbera ‘s score, arranged for violin, mandolin and guitar, creates an intimate atmosphere by keeping an accompaniment of emotions found in the melodic themes of the characters in a leitmotif style to highlight the melodramatic and picturesque style of the film. As the film captures glimpses of life on the streets of Naples, references to popular traditional music can be seen in the background shots. From dancing the polka accompanied by serenading musicians to pastoral shepherds playing bagpipes for Christmas, he presents a glimpse into this period by using the rhythms of tarantella, polka, tango, waltzes, and pastoral serenades, to enhance the realism surrounding the circumstances of Assunta’s tragic and passionate story.