Athenæum Theatre, Melbourne, Victoria
A long journey to Australia was to attend the wedding of two good friends who live in Lucca. Mattia was born and grew up in Lucca whilst Michelle was born in Melbourne to Italian parents originally from southern Italy. As all of Michelle’s large family live in Melbourne it was the appropriate place to marry after a romantic proposal and engagement in the hills outside Lucca. Two more friends Luke and Cate also from Melbourne and who also own property in Lucca provided an idyllic setting at their home for the reception.
As if this wasn’t reason enough to make the journey, Michelle and Mattia also planned to cement the link between Lucca and Melbourne further by arranging a performance in the city centre entitled “An Evening of Opera”, with members of LuccaOperaFestival that included Lucchese pianist Stefano Teani accompanied by Chiara Calcagnini from Pietrasanta. Completing this group of distinguished musicians was the Argentinan tenor Giancarlo Monsalve who has sung on international stages in every continent to great critical acclaim.
Arias, duets and songs were performed from works by Gounard, Verdi, Bizet, Mozart and of course Puccini. Two delightful piano pieces, Overture from Carmen and Verdi’s Va Pensiero from Nabucco were played by Stefano and Chiara arranged for ‘four hands’ to great applause from a knowledgeable audience. Two particular favourites of mine were Puccini’s ‘E lucevan le stelle’ from Tosca and the Neapolitan ‘Core n’grato’ by Cardillo both powerfully sung by Giancarlo Monsalve.
The work of the MC introducing each piece was shared, proudly and often humorously, by ‘father of the bride’ Tony Buscemi and Giancarlo’s lovely wife Anna Monsalve that added an inclusive family feeling to the evening.
There is of course a large Italian community in Melbourne and is the fifth largest ethnic group after Australian, English, Irish and Scottish. Particularly and somewhat surprisingly Italian immigrants were mostly from northern Italy, with two fifths from the Veneto, two fifths from Piedmont, Lombardy and Tuscany with only one fifth from Sicily and Calabria. The reasons appear to be not economic but more social insofar as the migration was mainly the middle-classes such as missionaries, artists, musicians and professionals that suffered under Austrian domination during the mid-nineteenth century. Australians born to Italian parents nowadays are mostly from the big cities of Melbourne and Sydney.