May 31, 2009

Fun in the Sun: 2009 NYC Battle of Bitonto Commemoration

Apollo smiled this sunny Sunday afternoon on the sons and daughters of the South as we celebrated the 275th anniversary of the Battle of Bitanto in solidarity with our kinfolk in Bitonto, Puglia. The first ever commemoration of its kind in New York City favorably recalled the May 25th, 1734 military victory of Charles of Bourbon over the Austrian Hapsburgs. The Bourbon’s triumph led to the end of centuries of foreign rule and the restoration of the independent and sovereign Southern Italian nation.

What started off as a friendly competition soon turned into a serious competitive contest as the gathered combatants at Bill Brown Memorial Playground (Brooklyn, NY) vied for bocce ball supremacy. After a slow start, team Ausonia came on strong and went home with the coveted laurel of victory and all-important bragging-rights.

Attendees received buttons and T-shirts emblazoned with the Regno delle Due Sicilie coat of arms. A copy of Jean Raspail’s prophetic classic, The Camp of the Saints was raffled off to help raise money for the victims of the earthquake in L’Aquila, Abruzzo. We are proud to announce that several hundred dollars were raised in the effort. Il Regno remains dedicated to the preservation of our culture and our heritage.

May 25, 2009

Remember Bitonto!

Charles of Bourbon, Palazzo Reale, Napoli
May 25th marks the anniversary of the Battle of Bitonto (1734), the key engagement between the Spanish Bourbons and Austrian Hapsburgs over the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies during the War of the Polish Succession (1733-1738).  The battle and its aftermath (the Treaty of Vienna) brought Austrian rule in Southern Italy to an end and won "the most beautiful crown in Italy" for Charles of Bourbon, the eldest child of King Philip V of Spain and his second wife, Elizabeth Farnese.
Under the command of Captain General José Carrillo de Albornoz, the Count of Montemar, the Bourbon forces defeated the Austrians (who had ruled Naples since 1707 and Sicily from 1720) on the field of battle near Bitonto in Puglia. 
The Duke of Montemar, 
José Carrillo de Albornoz
For his part, Count José Carrillo de Albornoz was made a Duke. A towering obelisk was constructed in the town square in his honor and to commemorate the victory.
After 230 years of provincial servitude to Spain and Austria, Charles of Bourbon, "The great restorer of the kingdom," made the Regno an independent and sovereign state once again. The Bourbon dynasty ruled the Southern Kingdom for 126 years until 1860, when Victor Emanuel II of Savoy conquered and annexed it to the nascent Kingdom of Italy.

May 22, 2009

Around the Web: The Pro-Bourbon Counterrevolution

Francesco II di Borbone
Since the very first days of Garibaldi’s dictatorship and for the subsequent years, the rapid conquest of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies by the Piedmont army - occurred, as we said above, with the indirect but concrete support of France and Great Britain - incited a general rising of the populations of the Kingdom in favor of Francis II. Tenths of thousands of people rose up in arms all over the continental regions (just as sixty years before, at the time of anti-Jacobin risings and the Sanfedist epic deeds of Cardinal Ruffo), and caused an insurrection that raised difficulties for the Garibaldian troops first and then for the Piedmont army and government in the first years after the unification.

Books of history and the Risorgimento "Vulgate" that shaped the collective historical opinion of the Italians on those events, have always presented this popular rising in a reductive way from the point of view of both quality and chronology and they have always branded it with the wrong and deceptive name of Bourbon "Brigandage". 

Today, many scholars have demonstrated that this phenomenon must receive a completely different interpretation (the first historian who carried out a serious study on this matter was the Marxist historian Franco Molfese, followed by other historians such as Alianello, Zitara, Albonico, Leoni, Del Boca, Martucci and many others), and they have done it by relating the terrible massacres and violence, the terror and poverty that struck the people of southern Italy. It was a great lawful and religious popular rising against the unification, and the Turin government repressed it with methods that were in no way inferior to those that would be used in the XX century… (And had been already experimented in the Vandee by Robespierre and other Jacobin leaders). The social motive played a role in it, as well as real brigands, but this cannot become the explanation of a civil war that lasted for five years (even ten years, if we consider its aftermaths) and saw the involvement of tenths of thousands of men and women in arms against an army and a government that they considered as "invaders". The real deep cause of this violent, undaunted and spontaneous popular counterrevolution must be found in the loyalty of the southern people to the dynasty who had been dethroned in a violent and sneaky way, against the very will of these southern people, as they showed with their resistance against Piedmont and Garibaldian invaders.

We list here below the main historical and conceptual elements that mark the anti-unification rising: 

• The word "brigandage" is just an ideological confusion of the social and the political aspects of this phenomenon, confusion started by Robespierre in France during the Vandean counterrevolution (he called the aristocrats, the clergy, middle-class people and farmers who rebelled against his Terror "brigands"), and continued over time during these risings and mainly during the anti-unification risings in southern Italy;

• The rebellion, in reality, had an extraordinary size and started in August 1860, immediately after the landing of Garibaldi’s troops: in total, at the apex of the war, there were 350 brigand groups and involved tenths of thousands of people, of which 20,000 to 70,000 died; the Kingdom of Italy had to send up to 120,000 soldiers to southern Italy to put down the guerrilla;

• In spring 1861 the uprising spread like wildfire all over the former Bourbon Kingdom; in August General Enrico Cialdini was sent to Naples with full powers: one of the most merciless military repressions recorded by history started at that moment: massacres, destructions of towns and rebel villages, executions and fires, pillages and instigation to delation, forced residence (for the first time in the history of Italy), destruction of farm-houses end elimination of livestock to ruin completely rebel farmers;

• Special attention was paid to psychological war, and the proclamations issued contained terrible threats (regularly implemented) and the photos of rebels slaughtered with their families, etc., to frighten the "accomplices", i.e. those who helped the rebels;

• Then there was the proclamation of the martial law in 1862: the whole Kingdom (including Sicily for no clear reason) was put under martial law;

• In 1863 a Parliamentary Investigating Committee on Brigandage was established (Massari), upon request of left-wing parties – that reported the horrible massacres perpetrated with the authorization of the Government. However, the left-wing parties requested the establishment of this Committee only to discredit the right-wing parties and deliver southern Italy to Garibaldi; at first, right wing parties opposed this Committee, then they manipulated it and put the blame for the "Brigandage" upon Francis II and Pious IX;

• The Pica Law was a consequence of the Committee and the highest expression of a bloodthirsty repression;

• "Brigandage" and repression continued until 1870 (with a new peak in 1868), and their overall data are appalling;

• In fact, the armed resistance had also a "civil" character: parliamentary opposition was organized, the magistracy held protests since its glorious and centuries-old traditions had been cancelled, civil servants carried out a passive resistance and refused to take over administrative tasks, the population expressed its displeasure and did not go to vote when elections were held or refused the conscription, many people emigrated, underground press saw a great diffusion and the best freelance journalists in the Kingdom - among which Gacinto de’ Sivo - argued polemically against the situation;

• The cream of European legitimist aristocracy took part in the resistance: Earl Henri de Cathelineau (a descendant of the hero of Vendee), the Prussian Baron Theodore Klitsche de La Grange, the Saxon Earl Edwin of Kalckreuth (shot in 1862), the Belgian Marquis Alfred Trazégnies de Namour (shot in 1861), Earl Emile-Théodule de Christen, the Catalans José Borges (called the "anti-Garibaldi") and Rafael Tristany, etc.;

• Of course, the deepest motivations were religious ones: the population hated liberals and "gentlemen" because since the time of Napoleon they had oppressed and held religion in contempt by profaning churches and relics; the presence of friars and priests is a constant in popular representations of the guerrilla, and the flags used always portrayed religious subjects; also the Jesuit magazine "La Civiltà Cattolica" always expressed its liking for the rebellion.

The Beginning of the Rebellion and its Repression

When on 6 September 1860 Francis left Naples, and on 8 September he called for the armed resistance, 50,000 men responded.

On 19 September at Roccaromana and on 21 September at Caiazzo farmers rose up and went to help the Bourbon troops against the Garibaldian troops. On 23 September the first brigade of 4 battalions - each with 6 companies - was formed with both soldiers and farmers, under the lead of Colonel Teodor Klitsche de Lagrange, who received his orders by the minister of the police Calà Ulloa: restore the lawful governments, confiscate the coffers of the municipalities and send them to Gaeta (where in the meanwhile Francis II and Maria Sofia had taken refuge with all their most loyal forces) and protect churches and priests. The same orders were given also to generals Scotti-Douglas and von Meckel, with the aim of fostering a general uprising in Terra di Lavoro. 

The operation had a resounding success: in a few weeks, all the northern provinces of the Kingdom rose up, first against the Garibaldian troops, then against the Savoy troops and the “Italian” army; after that, in the subsequent months, and for years, all the kingdom rose up, whereas the military strongholds of Civitella del Tronto, Messina and Gaeta showed an heroic resistance. The ruthless repression began in October 1860. General Villamarina asked Farini to proclaim martial law, whereas the day after Cialdini arrived and by a proclamation began the executions. On 23 October, Fanti issued a proclamation that gave competence to special war tribunals for brigandage crimes; on 2 November, the governor of Teramo and Pinelli proclaimed martial law in those territories and immediate execution for those who would be found armed. As for Pinelli, in the territories of L’Aquila he had already started to execute also those who were just suspected to help brigands or who insulted by words or actions the Savoy or their flag. General Della Rocca ordered that in Sora and Avezzano territories prisoners would immediately be executed because prisons were already overcrowded. In Turin there was a great and widespread concern and so in July 1861 Cialdini was appointed as Lieutenant governor and took both military and civil powers. At the end of August, there were already 40,000 soldiers in southern Italy; in October there were 91 battalions, 37 of which in Naples; by December 50,000 men had risen up. 

The rebels would reach the figure of 120,000 men in the subsequent years!

But on 9 October Ricasoli, who did not like Cialdini, deposed him and gave his position to Lamarmora, who continued his ruthless repression by enforcing a strict martial law. The counterrevolution, however, was more active than ever (Molfese mentions the names of tenths and tenths of armed groups and leaders) and the repression became more ruthless than ever. In Capitanata, Mazé de la Roche did not find any problem in setting fire to houses and barns and in arresting people just because they were found out of a town. The terror exceeded all boundaries. Hundreds of people were shot every day. Molfese mentions tenths of clashes and slaughters of brigands and populace. A striking picture appears from all that: the guerrilla was widespread all over southern Italy, with tenths of leaders, the populace had risen up in tenths of territories and the rebels were thousands and thousands from Abruzzo to Calabria, every place was revolting. Even the Hungarian divisions were used against the rebels. A description of every event and place is useless here: the entire former-Kingdom had rose up.

On this topic, Molfese wrote (p. 229-230): 

«As concerns the "cafoni" and farmers in general, the army adopted a terrorist repression. In this sector, the behavior was clear since the very beginning of the southern campaign and the "cafoni" (peasants) found armed or suspected to support the brigands were executed on the spot. Retaliations, fires, vandalic actions and pillages were largely practiced. The repression of brigandage was a real dark page and a sad training for the young Italian army. Between 1861 and 1862, some local commanders (…) issued Draconic proclamations enforcing execution for any infringement to the many prohibitions that, in addition, were paralyzing the economic and social life of the provinces. But this repression, over which the "love for one’s country" has drawn a veil, accomplished also excessive actions that nothing had to do with terrorist repression. Mass imprisonments, carried out even in seriously doubtful circumstances, and the imprisonment of the relatives of the suspects were the general rule applied since the beginning (…) even more serious actions, such as the slaughtering of prisoners, were not unusual…»

Fifteen years later, Settembrini called the army «the iron wire that has stitched Italy and keeps it together.»

In 1863 the government took a resolutive decision: on 3-4-5 May 1863, in a secret meeting, the Chamber listened to the report of an Investigating Committee sent to the war territories, while the National Guards surrounded Palazzo Carignano. We know only those parts of this report that were subsequently published, after six passages of the original text had been censored and lost forever. Even the deputies were not allowed to see the documents. The government counteroffensive was immediate, simple and radical: on 15 August the Pica Law against brigandage came into force and remained in force until 31 December 1865 (it was extended also to Sicily with no real motivation): the entire southern Italy was declared "under brigandage" (with the exception of Teramo, Reggio Calabria, Naples, Bari, Terra d'Otranto) and therefore under martial law; military war tribunals where established almost everywhere, «framing the provinces of the former Bourbon kingdom into a network of Draconic repression»; the military tribunals could judge the members of armed groups even only upon a suspicion (the famous "Law on Suspicions" of Jacobin memory), and sanction armed resistance with execution (life imprisonment in case of extenuating circumstances), whereas the abettors (the so-called "accomplices") were convicted to hard labor for all their lives. Moreover, the government could sentence forced residence for suspects, idlers, vagabonds and Camorrists and - most of all - it could establish armed corps of volunteers to repress "brigandage".

Years later, P.S. Mancini recalled the work of military tribunals and said that he would be silent on this matter not to be forced to «reveal things that would horrify all Europe». Molfese wrote that «people who voluntarily responded, under age young people not captured in a battle, individuals who could not be punished for brigandage but only for common crimes and perhaps had been also charged of brigandage by the Carabineers in their reports were condemned to capital punishment and executed. The wives of brigands were sentenced life imprisonment as first-level accomplices. Girls under 12, daughters of brigands were sentenced 10 or 15 years. A source of many horrors was the power to order the imprisonment of accomplices granted by circular n. 29 of August 1863 to all "military authorities"». Between August 1863 and the end of 1864, 3,613 trials were held for 5,224 people. Between April and June 1863, the Carabineers arrested 6,564 people, and this before the coming into force of the Pica Law that marked an outstanding wave of arrests. Records report 12,000 people arrested and deported under the Pica Law only.

Of course, all this gave its results. The population, frightened and driven to despair, began to calm down and the leaders of the gangs were isolated or killed. After 1864, in the regions of Benevento, Salerno, Naples, in Terra di Lavoro and in the region of L’Aquila the rebellion was still alive. It continued until 1870 in the regions of L’Aquila, Terra di Lavoro, Salerno, Lagonegro, Calabria and Abruzzo; moreover, between 1866 and 1868, to coincide with the war against Austria and Garibaldi’s expedition against Rome, the “brigandage” dangerously reappeared, especially in the Pontifical State, but these were only the last fires, completely extinguished by the taking of Rome by the Piedmont army.

Roberto Martucci, in his important works, attempted an interesting overall calculation of the entire counterrevolutionary phenomenon and came to the conclusion that the number of people from southern Italy who died (either on the battlefield or executed) varies from «a minimum of 20,075 and a maximum of 73,875 people executed and killed in several ways. This means a figure largely exceeding the total number of casualties in all risings and wars of the Risorgimento from 1820 to 1870.» 

As concerns the tone of the proclamations that terrorized the population, O' Clery did a very useful thing and summarized their general common content: 

«It appears from these proclamations that the measures adopted to suppress the so-called "brigandage" were: 1) execution, with or without a trial, of all people found armed; 2) pillage of rebel cities and towns; 3) imprisonment, without trial or charge, of suspects and "relatives of brigands"; 4) treatment as accomplices of brigands - and therefore execution or imprisonment - for all those who: a) possessed weapons without a license; b) worked without permission in the fields in some areas; c) took to the fields more food than what was necessary for a meal; d) kept food stocks in the huts; e) shoed horses and possessed or transported horseshoes without license; 5) destruction of huts in the woods, obligation to wall up all isolated cottages, removal of men and livestock from small farms to put them in places controlled by the army; 6) indictment of all neutral behaviors and treatment of neutral people as friends and accomplices of brigands; 7) severe censorship of the press.»

The Problem of Prisoners

As concerns prisoners, as Martucci wrote, there were about 50,000 Bourbon prisoners and more than 18,000 papal prisoners among officers and soldiers. 10,000 Neapolitan soldiers were imprisoned in the fortresses of Ponza and Ischia, to be a prey to typhus, cholera, louses and dysentery. Foreign prisoners were immediately released, as well as those belonging to very important families. But not all of them: Farini, when he was lieutenant-governor of Naples, considered all prisoners, even Bourbon generals, as rebels without a country and this even before the fall of Gaeta! 

Then the deportations to the North began: tenths of thousands of men were deported to the freezing alpine prisons where they starved and were forced to live in the filth.

Martucci quoted some passages from a letter written by a witness above all suspicion, Lamarmora, who on 18 November 1860, after a visit to Milan prisons, wrote to Cavour:

«He found 1,600 Bourbon soldiers in describable conditions, "all covered by scabies and worms, many of them suffering from eye disease or venereal diseases"; to his utmost surprise, this "herd of swine", "these scoundrels", "these dregs" refused to join the Sardinian troops; prisoners "claimed their right to go home because they did not want to make a new oath since they had sworn loyalty to Francis II". General La Marmora, however, avoided to say whether those soldiers so sick had been treated by Piedmont military doctors, and he did not say why that stinky crowd of miserable people had not received new clothes.»

It is even reported that at Fenestrelle glasses were removed from windows to make these people suffer even more from cold and convince them to join the new army, but they did not give up.

At the end of October 1861, only in the concentration camp of S. Maurizio nearby Turin there were 12.447 former Bourbon soldiers and according to La Civiltà Cattolica other 12,000 soldiers were imprisoned in other prisons. On 30 June 1861, 52,000 men failed to report for military service.

Even Great Britain started to worry about that. The British consul in Naples - who had always taken side with the Risorgimento - Bonham, said that in the Neapolitan prisons there were at least 20,000 prisoners (but others gave the figure of 80,000), kept there in dreadful barbaric conditions, in the filth and hunger, and many people had to wait years for a trial: a parliamentary discussion was held in London, Lord Seymour and Sir Winston Barron were sent to verify the truth of these statements and they confirmed all reports made to the British Parliament.

Under the Rattazzi government, the minister of foreign affairs, Giacomo Durando, started negotiations with Portugal to establish convict prisons in Asian colonies and in Mozambique, under the pretext of starting a national colonization process; but it came to nothing because France opposed it. 

The same protagonists of the Risorgimento, from Mazzini to Ferrari, from Settembrini to d’Azeglio, strongly condemned what was happening: they expressed very severe opinions against the repressive policy adopted in the south of Italy.

Just to give you an example, we report the opinion of a man who cannot certainly be defined as a friend of the Bourbon. Napoleon III wrote General Fleury: 

«I remonstrated in writing with Turin; the details I came to know are such as to think they will alienate all honest people from the Italian cause [then he related some events he came to know, such as the execution for those found with "too much" bread with them and concluded] the Bourbon have never done anything similar. Napoleon»

May 16, 2009

Rievocazione della Battaglia di Bitonto

Historical recreation of the Battle of Bitonto

Previous celebrations.
Photos from Referendum per un Nuovo Regno delle Due Sicilie Indipendente

Puglia, May 31, 2009 — Southern Italian patriots will gather in Piazza Aldo Moro e Piazza Cavour in Bitonto to celebrate the Duke of Montemar's victory over the Austrians on May 25, 1734. The Bourbon triumph gave dominion of the Kingdom of Naples to Carl III.

For more information visit Referendum per un Nuovo Regno delle Due Sicilie Indipendente on facebook.

Referendum per un Nuovo Regno delle Due Sicilie Indipendente

The main aim of this group is spreading the historical truth about Italy's unity.

Nowadays a new monarchy is implausible, but there's the need of giving back the history and honor to the dead of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

One hundred and fifty years ago the Kingdom of Piemonte was the most indebted Kingdom of Europe. Its money had no appreciable value. On the contrary, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was one of the best economic powers in the World; the Bank of Napoli had an enormous gold reserve. The real cause of Italy's unification had been the wealth of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in Southern Italy.

After unification, the Southern people suffered from a taxation that was heavier than the one applied to Northerners. The ex-citizens of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies who fought against the new Italian nation were called "briganti" (brigands), and because the new nation didn't care about the basic needs of the Southern people it created the first cell of the mafia.

The South suffered and its businesses were driven into bankruptcy. Examples of the anti-economic actions against the South can be seen in the dismantling of important industries such as the iron factories of Mongiana and the naval dockyards of Torre Annunziata. The South's resources, technologies and manpower were relocated to the North and Lombardia.

There was brash outsourcing of Southern public contracts to Northern businesses. These were paid for with the tax politics of Prime Minister Cavour.

Northern Italy robbed our glory, our wealth and our history. It has only been 150 years! We can regain our honor. We can be reborn because we are the sons of the sea and Hellenic culture. We are the descendants of the glorious Kingdom of the Two Sicilies!

Kosovo has 2 million inhabitants and reached the goal of independence. Why can't we do the same?

From the ashes of our glorious Kingdom we reclaim our rightful place in history.

Lets honor the partisans who were deported and butchered by the Piemontese army. Honor the Southern dead, victims of genocide. Let the living remember the dead.
"...But my native land will continue its existence in me, I will still protect it regardless. Now I ask you to help me in this. Find the hidden truths and give them a real light, spread to those who ignore them. Pray for me, the Neapolitan bishop Ettore di Meglio who was 'brigante' and emigrant."
The few who know bow.

A Reminder: Battle of Bitonto Commemoration

Sun. May 31, 2009 (12 p.m. - 4 p.m. weather permitting)
Bill Brown Memorial Playground Bocce Court
Bedford Ave. & Avenue Y, Bklyn.

On May 25, 1734 the Spanish forces of Carlos de Bourbon defeated the Austrian Hapsburgs on the field of battle near Bitonto, Puglia. The victory is significant to us because it represents a key moment in the founding of our independent southern nation. After centuries of foreign dominance the Bourbons restored the sovereignty of the ancient Regno delle Due Sicilie.

In solidarity with our paesani back home, we will be organizing the first ever Battle of Bitonto celebration in New York City.

The intimate gathering will be an opportunity for members of the diaspora community (and friends) to shoot-the-breeze, play bocce and enjoy some sunshine. A raffle will be held to help raise money for the victims of the earthquake in L'Aquila, Abruzzo. Il Regno  remains dedicated to the preservation of our culture and our heritage.

Mythical Naples: Parthenope

La leggenda delle sirene by Edoardo Dalbono (Napoli 1841-1915)
The city of Naples’ origins are rooted in the myth of the Siren Parthenope ("virgin"). According to legend, her failure to seduce the hero Odysseus and his shipmates as they sailed passed the Sorrento peninsula drove the jilted temptress to suicide. Her body washed up on the shore of nearby Megaride, a tiny island in the Bay of Naples. The locals respectfully interred her remains in Mount Echia, now the hill of Pizzofalcone.
The Sirens, it is said, were three sisters, Ligeia ("bright voiced"), Leucosia ("white goddess") and Parthenope. They were the offspring of the river deity Achelous and companions of Persephone, daughter of the goddess Demeter. When Hades, lord of the underworld, abducted Persephone Demeter transformed the maidens into winged creatures, half bird and half human, to help search for her missing daughter.

Terra cotta statuette of a
siren from Canosa di Puglia
(ca. 340-300 BC)
In other tales, they unwisely challenged the Muses to a singing contest and lost. To punish the sisters the Muses plucked out their feathers and wore them as headdresses to remind them of their impudence. Bitter, the Sirens haunted the coastal regions of Campania, luring passing sailors to their destruction with their irresistible song. Later, they were portrayed as mermaids.

As early as the ninth century BC (almost 3,000 years ago) Greeks from Rhodes or Cumae settled the area and founded the town of Parthenope in her honor. The colony prospered and eventually merged with nearby Neapolis (New City). The metropolis grew into one of the more important settlements in Magna Graecia (Greater Greece), known today as Napoli. To this day many Neapolitans proudly refer to themselves as Parthenopeans.

See Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey and Ovid’s Metamorphoses

May 10, 2009

Commemorazione S.M. Ferdinando II Re di Napoli e delle Due Sicilie

In Honour of H.M. Ferdinand II King of Naples and Two Sicilies

Dear friends, 
For the 150th aniversary of the death of His Majesty Ferdinand II King of Naples and Two Sicilies, we have the pleasure to invite you all for a Requiem Mass in his honor.

• Saturday, May 23, 2009
04.00 PM Changing of the Guard and Honor Picket at the Royal Palace of Naples 

06.00 PM
Requiem Mass 
San Ferdinando di Palazzo Church, Naples

Palermo, Jan. 12, 1810 - Caserta, May 22, 1859

Contact info:

May 7, 2009

Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Self Portrait
b. Dec. 7, 1598 – d. Nov. 28, 1680
I know Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Father Pietro Bernini was Florentine and the artist did his greatest work in Rome, but his mother Angelica Galante was Neapolitan and he was born in Naples, so that makes him partially ours. Besides, I have no doubt that if Bernini turned out to be a villain of some sort, instead of one of the world's great artists, he would have been labelled a Southerner.

The Hellenistic sculpture of ancient Greece and Rome obviously influenced the young artist, as can be seen in his Amalthea with the infant Zeus and a Faun (1609). Other examples of Classical influence is evident in his Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius (c.1619), The abduction of Persephone (1621-22) and Apollo and Daphne (1622-25).

Considered the greatest Baroque sculptor, Bernini was also an accomplished painter and architect. His masterpieces include the heroic David (1623-24), the Ecstacy of St Theresa (1645-52) and the piazza and colonnades of St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

May 2, 2009

Sacred Concerts: The Life of Alessandro Scarlatti, The “Grandfather” of Classical Music

Alessandro Scarlatti
By Niccolò Graffio
“Let every man praise the bridge that crosses him over.” –English proverb
Alessandro Scarlatti was born on May 2, 1660 in either Palermo or Trapani, Sicily, at that time part of the Kingdom of Sicily. Nothing is known of his early musical education. In 1672 he was sent to live with a relative in Rome.  It is generally believed by modern scholars that while there he was schooled by the composer Giacomo Cassini. It is also believed by many that he must have had contact with teachers from Northern Italy, since his early works show influence by Alessandro Stradella and Giovanni Legrenzi.

In April, 1678 Scarlatti married Antonia Anzalone, who bore him ten children (including his son and musical successor Domenico).  Sadly, only half would reach adulthood.  At the age of 19 he produced his first opera, Gli Equivoci nel Sembiante.  The success of this gained him the patronage of Queen Christina of Sweden, who was living at the time in Rome following her abdication and conversion to Catholicism.

In February of 1684 he became the maestro di cappella to the Viceroy of Naples.  It is believed this largely came about due to the influence of one of his sisters, an opera singer who was the mistress of an influential nobleman.  Ironically, it was gossip about both his sisters’ scandalous behavior that forced him to leave Rome for Naples in the first place!  He remained in that official capacity for 18 years.  An avid workaholic (no doubt due to his impoverished childhood), during his tenure in Naples he produced a long series of operas as well as other music for state occasions.

By 1702 foreign intrigues forced him to leave Naples, not to return until the end of the Spanish domination of that city in 1708.   During the interim he enjoyed first the patronage of Fernando de’ Medici in Florence and subsequently Cardinal Ottoboni in Rome.  It was during this period he composed his “magnum opus”: Mitridate Eupatore (1707) in Venice.

As a result of his diminishing popularity in Naples, in 1717 he relocated to Rome, where he wrote some of his finest operas including: Telemaco (1718), Marco Attilio Regolo (1719) and La Griselda (1721).

In addition to being a composer, Scarlatti was active as a teacher.  His fame was such that the German composers Johann Joachim Quantz and Johann Adolphe Hasse (among others) actively sought him out.  Sadly, the great composer was not to have the buona morte he so richly deserved.  After 1725 his output declined while his financial hardships increased.  He died in Naples on October 24, 1725, saddled with debt.

Scarlatti’s significance in the history of music cannot be underestimated.  In addition to composing 115 operas, 20 oratorios, over 40 motets and 10 masses, he is known to have written almost 700 cantatas.  It is in these pieces for solo voices that we see the composer’s true genius!  They represent the most intellectual style of their period.

Musicologists consider Scarlatti to be an important link between the Baroque period of music and what was to come.  He is considered the founder of the Neapolitan school of opera.  On his tombstone he is called musices instaurator maximus, a fitting epitaph for the man who was instrumental in ushering in the greatest age of music that mankind has ever known or ever will know: the Classical Period in Western Music!