Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero told Qorvis‘ Focus Washington that Americans have responded enthusiastically to 2013: Year of Italian Culture in the United States, a nationwide program by the government of Italy showcasing Italian culture in the broadest sense.
“We want to showcase the best Italy has to offer in the area of culture,” the ambassador told Focus Washington host Chuck Conconi, “and frankly, it’s a great series of events—more than 200 events all over the US, 50 American cities, 80 [locations] between museums, universities, opera houses… So it’s a great event.”
Ambassador Bisognieri says that Italy is taking a broad approach to culture.
“Obviously it contains the great Italian heritage of culture and art: You know, music, painting, and sculptures, and opera,” he says. “And that’s great, it’s a great historic heritage; but also, in addition to that, we want to showcase the Italy of today, the Italyof tomorrow. So technology, design, and all of that, research and science. So, as you would see, there are many, many events devoted specifically to this area of the innovation and creativity that Italy brings.”
Americans have responded enthusiastically in cities from Seattle to Ft. Worth and Los Angeles to Miami.
“We are really receiving an incredibly positive response from the general public; the number of people who attend these exhibitions is spectacular,” the ambassador said. “You will recall we inaugurated here in Washington, D.C., the opening event of the whole year, which was in December, at the National Gallery. We brought a Michelangelo statue of all things. That was an immensely popular event with huge crowds attending, and the same applied to Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston, and Miamiand so on and so forth. So the response from the general public has been great.”
Italy is not just showcasing its culture; it is making a significant cultural contribution to scities all over the United States, includingFort Worth, Seattle, San Antonio, Charlotte, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Oklahoma City as well as traditional cultural centers such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston.
The contributions range from exhibitions of works by Michelangelo and Caravaggio to an exhibition of works by contemporary artists like Giorgio de Chirico, which was at the Phillips Collection in Washington from April to June. Famed conductor Riccardo Muti recently conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a Verdi concert. Pianist Maurizio Pollini performed at Virginia’s Strathmore a couple of months ago. Chicago also enjoyed staging of plays by Eduardo de Filippo.
“We are very much committed to this,” he says.
Robotics, Aeronautics, and Space
And then there is technology. Italy’s humanistic tradition is so strong, its footprint in art, architecture, literature and classics so huge, that we sometimes forget the engineering feats of ancient Rome. The great builders of the Renaissance, including Michelangelo, Bernini, and Brunelleschi, were engineers as well as artists, often breaking new ground in architecture and inventing new machinery to build the cathedrals and palaces they designed. That tradition in Italian engineering has continued, as well as a strong scientific tradition. That is also a part of Italian culture.
“We have a very solid and very technologically state-of-the-art industrial base in our country,” says Ambassador Bisognieri. “We have a very solid trade relationship with the US. We have growing trade both ways. Of course we export Italian food and wine and fashion, but also a great share of those exports are industrial products, industrial machinery, aerospace components. Let me give you another example: Nearly 20% of the Boeing 787 is manufactured in Italy in, by Alenia in the south of Italy, and is shipped all the way to Everett in Washington state.”
Italy is also at the forefront of robotics, particularly robotic surgery, and has long provided technology for space exploration.
“A few months ago, we celebrated at the embassy the 50th anniversary of the collaboration between NASA and Italy,” says Ambassador Bisogniero. “Italy has a very strong space collaboration with the US, more than other European countries. A huge component of the International Space Station, which is orbiting as we speak, is manufactured by Alenia Spazio in northern Italy.”
At that event, Ambassador Bisogiero presented Italian astronaut Major Luca Parmitano a specially-made embroidered patch featuring the logo of the Year of Italian Culture in the United States.
“So he’s now, as we speak, orbiting on the International Space Station. He’ll be staying there for six months, and, on his space suit, he has the patch of the logo of the Year of Italian Culture,” says Ambassador Bisogniero. “So, as we speak, the logo of2013: The Year of Italian Culture is orbiting in space.”
“I thought every year was the year of Italian culture.”
Why 2013? Why has the Italian government chosen this year to bring so many culturala resources to the United States?
“It wasn’t in relationship to a specific date or a specific objective,” says the ambassador. “2013 happens to be the 200thanniversary of [the birth of] Giuseppe Verdi, it happens to be the 500th anniversary of the publishing of The Prince by Machiavelli, a book which is very popular in this particular city. It happens to be the 700th anniversary of Giovanni Boccaccio, and I could go on and on, but I guess with Italian art and culture, any year would bring about those kinds of anniversaries. As a matter of fact, I remember, I think it was Secretary Clinton who, when asked about 2013: The Year of Italian Culture in the United States, answered ‘2013? Well, I thought that every year was the year of Italian culture.’ And frankly, I think she has a good point.”