Anna Amendolagine, Director of Italian Cultural Institute in Sofia: Bulgaria's Capital Has Discrete Charm
Interview with Anna Amendolagine, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Sofia, for the "International Survey: Bulgaria-Italy" of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency)
We are visiting to interview Ms Anna Amendolagine, the Director of the Italian Cultural Institute who has been in Sofia since November 2010, after having been a cultural attach? in Athens for 5 years. Our meeting with her is at 1 Alexander Zhendov Str., where the offices of the Institute are located. The place is a spacious apartment from where one can enjoy the snow-covered Vitosha mountain.
You haven’t been here for long, how do you feel in Sofia?
I feel very well. I think Sofia has its own specific, discrete charm. In my opinion, it is a calmer and greener city than the Greek capital, but is also just as lively from a cultural point of view.
First of all I became aware of the fact that there is a great interest here in the Italian language and culture, and consequently the participation of the Institute in cultural events organized here, in Bulgaria, such as festivals, reviews, concerts, and exhibitions is much sought after. This is a demand which I try to satisfy within the framework of my programming and financial abilities.
Which are the programming guidelines for your cultural work here, in Bulgaria?
My official task is to facilitate the promotion of Italian language and culture in your country and the signs I use for orientation are several fundamental criteria. In the meantime, a key principle is to work in synergy with Italian institutions in Bulgaria, first and foremost with the Italian Embassy and then with the Italian National Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE), the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria, Confindustria Bulgaria (the association which unites Italian enterprises in Bulgaria), and the Dante Alighieri Association, so as to create a ‘system’, i.e. to present the image of ‘System Italy’ in the best way, with all its particularities.
I can give an example with the next Italian Festival which will take place in Sofia in June and will be a large and noisy open-air entertainment event organized, besides us, by all institutions mentioned above, joined by Casa Sicilia (the official representation of the Region of Sicily).
This will be a big celebration of the Italian spirit and character, including a variety of numerous events: concerts, wine and food gustation, film shows, literary meetings, seminars and symposia.
Please explain what does your work for the promotion of Italian language and culture involve?
As a matter of fact, half of my work is directed towards the promotion of Italian language and culture; therefore, I work in close collaboration with the Department for Schools of the Italian Embassy, as well as with Bulgarian schools and universities which teach Italian. As far as this sector is concerned, ICI organizes Italian language courses for all those who want to learn our language.
The educational package offered is various and the courses are structured in accordance with the six levels, from beginner to advanced, of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) of the Council of Europe.
The program of the courses is designed so as to meet the requirements of citizens of various age groups. The training methods used are cutting-edge and are implemented with the aid of modern information and audio-visual technologies. That is why we put special care in the training of lecturers by organizing courses and seminars to enhance their qualification and improvement.
As far as the promotion of Italian culture is concerned, what are your plans and objectives?
As regards the promotion of culture, I intend to offer the Bulgarian audience not only in Sofia, but in the rest of the country as well, the most significant cultural events which have taken place in Italy and have been organized by municipalities, regions, districts, private and public institutions and ministries, which would like to present themselves globally through the network of our cultural institutes, diplomatic missions and consulates. Amongst the various Italian ministries my privileged partners are, of course, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the Ministry of Education.
However, I consider it also very important to establish relations with the respective local Bulgarian organizations and institutions, both public and private, so as to hear and satisfy, as far as possible, their requests for cooperation.
Unfortunately, the seat of the Institute does not allow for events to be organized on its premises and therefore we always have to search for convenient places elsewhere. However, in the end this appears to be a positive circumstance, because it prompts me to contact representatives of various institutions in order not only to seek new places to carry out our events, but also, above all, to discover new partners.
This year marks the 150th anniversary since thе Unification of Italy. What are you planning to do for its celebration?
In the mean time we have already held an event which was a huge success. Between 25 and 31 March 2011 in the Cinema House, ICI, in collaboration with the said prestigious cinematographic institution, organized an important retrospect dedicated to the films of the great Italian director Luchino Visconti.
In this context the Institute has decided to celebrate the 150th anniversary since the Unification of Italy by inviting its audience on 1 April to the special show of the film Senso, subtitled in Bulgarian.
Тhe masterpiece of Luchino Visconti, who drew his inspiration and subject matter from the novel by Camillo Boito bearing the same title, is a great film and symbol of the Italian National Liberation Movement (Risorgimento), because of the strong patriotic fervor which fills it. The film is a dramatic story of love and infidelity, which is developing on screen while the battle at Custoza in 1866 is raging, unfortunately ending with defeat for the Italian patriotic forces, brought by the invading Austrian army.
The film features a brilliant Alida Valli, unforgettable in the role of the main female character, and the American actor Farley Granger, recently deceased, in the role of charming Austrian lieutenant Franz Mahler. The hall, which holds 250 seats, was filled with Italians and Bulgarians, students and lecturers, who love Italian cinema and culture and had come to see the film considered the best one on the Italian National Liberation Movement (Risorgimento). The applauses at the end for the most part were due to feelings on account of the anniversary celebration.
Are there any forthcoming events in relation to the celebration in the autumn?
Quite the opposite, most of the events on occasion of the 150th anniversary will be carried out exactly during the following autumn/winter season in parallel with the 9th Week of the Italian Language in the World which this year will take place between 17 and 23 October and will naturally be dedicated to the celebrations. The Week’s program includes two academic lectures and a concert.
On October 18 we will have the honor to enjoy the visit of Professor Emeritus of History of Philosophy Riccardo Campa, who is also the Director of the Research Centre at the University for Foreigners in Siena.
He will give a lecture on the features of Italian culture in relation to the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy in the main “Aula” hall of St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia. In his lecture Prof. Campa will speak about the involvement of the Italian humanitarian and scientific tradition in the process of renovation of ideas which dominated Europe from the Age of Reason to Romanticism.
The second academic lecture, entitled The 150th anniversary in Italy and the “near” 150th anniversary in Bulgaria: the path of nations through the 19th century among history, politics, art and culture, will be given by Professor Fabio Bertini from the University of Florence, the date yet to be set, at Neofit Rilski Southeastern University of Blagoevgrad.
The view of the lecture of Professor Bertini, who is an expert on Modern History, is supposed to be a comparative one and to include specifically the outlook of Italy upon the insurrections of the Slav people, and in particular in Bulgaria from 1848 until Bulgaria’s Liberation, thus becoming incorporated, on the part of Italy, in the celebrations of the 150th anniversary.
The Week will close with a nice concert – on October 23 in Bulgaria Hall there will be an exceptional performance by Maestro Alipi Naydenov, conductor of the Sofia Festival Orchestra, of The Hymn of the Nations by Guiseppe Verdi, text by Arrigo Boito. The Hymn of the Nations is a piece which is rarely performed and stands alone, bearing no comparison with the rest of the composer’s work. As a matter of fact, it refers to the only instance when Verdi has agreed to compose a piece ‘on an occasion’, i.e. by the order of an authority, and was composed for a unique and exceptional event – the International Exhibition in London in 1862.
Is this all or is there anything in addition?
Yes, there is more. In November there will be a new performance of the opera “Tosca” by Giacomo Puccini at the Sofia National Opera and Ballet with which we will cooperate. The whole story of Tosca develops in Rome and starts from the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle which appears at the beginning, as soon as the curtains rise, and where we see Cavaradossi making a painting.
The events take place during the 19th century, in the strained atmosphere following the French Revolution and the fall of the First Roman Republic. This event should be interpreted as paying tribute to the city of Rome which became the capital of Italy in 1870, after it was annexed to the Italian Kingdom; it therefore completely belongs to the celebrations of the anniversary.
Finally, a nice and original exhibition is underway, entitled Viva V.E.R.D.I. The opera adventure: an Italian story which belongs to the world, dedicated to the musical glory of the Italian National Liberation Movement (Risorgimento), which is to end in a beautiful and memorable way the series of events in relation to the anniversary celebration. The exhibition is a historical overview of opera art through sketches and costumes from operas by Verdi, together with video and audio materials.
The exhibits are selected from the Historical Archive of the Opera Theater in Rome (Teatro dell'Opera) and have been created from 1900 to date by prominent Italian scenographers, who have invested their artistic talent in the realization of the staging of opera and ballet performances.
The authors chosen have collaborated with the Opera Theatre in Rome over near a century of performance activity. By each of them a sketch has been selected, showing the significance of the great and unique entirely Italian tradition of scenography, and its evolution.
Some of the artists are De Chirico, Prampolini, Turcato, De Pisis, Afro, Visconti, Zeffirelli. A video of the most famous arias from Verdi’s, performed on stage the Opera Theatre in Rome will contribute to the contextualization of the exhibition, thus adding to the honors due the great Maestro; above all, it will remind us of the influence his operas had on the consciousness formation of the men and women who fought and sacrificed themselves to leave us a free and united Italy.
Then there is nothing else to do but congratulate: Happy Birthday, Italy!
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