Things we thank Italy for
Dot Ramos Balasbas-Gancayco (The Philippine Star) - March 2, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Music lovers have a lot to thank Italy for. It is the birthplace of two very important musical instruments: The piano (the invention of which is credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori of Padua, Italy) and the violin (which emerged in its present incarnation in the 16th century in Northern Italy). Italy was responsible for what we study in our music classes like the musical notations and musical scales, harmony and theater, all of which enabled the development of opera, symphony and concerto. Italy has produced many great composers like Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Antonio Vivaldi and Nino Rota who wrote the scores for The Godfather movies. Italy gave us the crème de la crème of opera singers like Mario Lanza, Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli. Music as we all know today would be very different without these gifts shared by Italy to the rest of the world.

Although at my age I have had a lot of exposure to Italian music which I truly love, I was pleasantly surprised during my recent European tour to find my high school (yes, high school!) tour mates from Australia to be Italian music aficionados themselves. While inside the tour bus that drove us around Italy, they requested our tour bus driver to play a CD collection of beautiful Italian songs over and over that the rest of us learned them all by heart. In the magnificent Colosseum (built in 80 A.D. as home to the most violent sport in history), the fast-paced Funiculi, Funicula was my ear worm as I imagined myself a spectator, with pulse racing, both thrilled and scared, as I watched gladiators charging at each other and fighting for their lives and freedom. At the Piazza della Rotonda fronting genius painter Raphael’s burial site, The Pantheon (built around 126 A.D. and said to be the symbol of the highest architectural excellence and the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome that has a hole in its center to allow the rays of the sun), I shamelessly belted out 0 Sole Mio (Oh, My Sun) while doing a Shamcey Supsup pose, embarrassing my ultra-conservative companions. My 89-year-old mom, who swears she is tone deaf, found herself humming, in perfect tune, Volare (To Fly) while having her photos taken in front of the unbelievably stunning Leaning Tower of Pisa (said to be the tallest freestanding bell tower in Europe, designed to be perfectly vertical but which started to lean during construction), and while feeding pigeons in Florence (home of my favorite sculptor, Michelangelo, and favorite cartoon character, Pinocchio). And, in Venice, I had to sing verses of Santa Lucia just to convince my sister Mareyca to take that expensive gondola ride along the Grand Canal with her husband, Mel. As we slowly drove away from Italy to our next stop Liechtenstein,passing through snowed capped mountains in Cortina (the vacation place of probably the most famous Italian actress of all time, Sofia Loren), I felt a searing pain in my heart as Con Te Partiro (With You I Will Leave) played in the background. I must have really been an Italian in my previous life.

That’s me in front of the Colosseum where gladiators fought for their lives and freedom

History shows how music has paved the way to the unity of Italy. Their music has imbued them with national pride and has become an important point in the country’s identity. In Italy, elementary and high school students expect to undergo one or two weekly hours of music instruction apart from extra-curricular musical activities and private lessons. There are so many music conservatories, symphony halls and opera houses where musical performances can be held. Italy is also well-known for international music festivals that draw a horde of tourists every year.

In our country that is so much like Italy, that is, teeming with extremely talented people whose love for music is incredible, I was very sad to find out that music in the Philippine grade school and high school curricula is no longer a subject that stands on its own but is now integrated with art and physical education, thus diminishing its importance amongst today’s young Filipinos. Theater venues like the grand Metropolitan Theater have been left to the elements, slowly crumbling with time and neglect. Music halls like the U.P. Abelardo Hall do not get proper funding for the needed improvements. With all the great choirs, bands and soloists that abound in the country, there is not any institutionalized music festival that attracts foreigners.

We have all been wondering how we could unify our country. We have been banging our heads as to how else we can improve tourism. For sure, we can learn a lot from Italy.

(E-mail me at celebrationsdot@yahoo.com or text 0927-5000833.)

My 89-year-old mom feeding pigeons in Florence

ABELARDO HALL ANTONIO VIVALDI AND NINO ROTA AT THE PIAZZA BARTOLOMEO CRISTOFORI OF PADUA CON TE PARTIRO ENRICO CARUSO GIACOMO PUCCINI GIUSEPPE VERDI ITALY MUSIC
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