Geneva Anderson digs into art

Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian director Gabriele Lavia talk about Verdi’s opera “Attila,” at San Francisco Opera through July 1, 2012

It isn’t often that I get the chance to chat with Maestro Nicola Luisotti, San Francisco Opera’s Music Director, whose passionate conducting and dynamic presence have transformed our opera experience in San Francisco.  I caught up with Maestro Luisotti and Italian theatre and film director, Gabriele Lavia, last Sunday in San Francisco at the opening of Tuscan painter Domenico Monteforte’s exhibition, “Toscana,” at Italian Cultural Institute. Surrounded by Monteforte’s vividly expressive landscapes, some of which were painted on Verdi’s musical scores, Luisotti improvised on the piano while Lavia recited poems from memory by Giacomo Leopardi, Italy’s revered 19th century lyric poet, who wrote almost exclusively about the pain of life.  After the performance, Luisotti and Lavia, longtime friends, agreed to chat informally with me about their collaboration on San Francisco Opera’s Attila, which opened to rave reviews last Tuesday (June 12, 2012).

Co-produced with Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and directed by Gabriele Lavia, this new performance of Verdi’s rarely performed opera is set in three different periods of Italy’s history: ancient Rome circa 450 AD; the Viennese occupation of the early 1800’s; and the present day.  Luisotti conducted the production in Milan and conducts it again in San Francisco.

Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian theater and film director Gabriele Lavia discuss their friendship and collaboration on Verdi’s “Attila,” which opened at San Francisco Opera on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. 

Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian theater and film director Gabriele Lavia discuss rehearsing Verdi’s “Attila,” which opened at San Francisco Opera on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. 

Gabriele Lavia talks about directing “Attila” in San Francisco and at Italy’s Teatro alla Scala (La Scala)

Details:  San Francisco Opera’s Attila runs for six performances: June 12, June 15, June 20, June 23, June 28, and July 1, 2012 at the War Memorial Opera House. Tickets and information: or call (415) 864-3330.

Casting:  Legendary Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto heads the cast as Attila; Venezuelan soprano Lucrecia Garcia is Odabella; baritone and former Adler Fellow Quinn Kelsey sings as Ezio; renowned bass Samuel Ramey is Pope Leo I.

June 17, 2012 Posted by | Art, Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco presents “Italy in Film: 1978 – 2008,” a free film series, Friday evenings, February 24-March 23, 2012

Tony Servillo (center) is scandal-ridden seven time Italian Prime Minister, Giulio Andreotti, in Paolo Sorrentino’s “Il Divo,” screening at “Italy in Film: 1978-2008,” at San Francisco’s Italian Cultural Institute, starting February 24, 2012. Image: Music Box Films/MPI Media Group

 The Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco will present “Italy in Film: 1978-2008,” a selection of five entertaining Italian films on Friday evenings starting February 24, 2012,  that explore main changes and issues in Italian society.  The Italian Cultural Institute co-sponsors the acclaimed annual Italian fall film series “New Italian Cinema” and at last November’s N.I.C. hosted Daniele Luchetti and held post-film discussions with the prominent filmmaker.  The audience was transfixed.   “Italy in Film” offers another chance to familiarize yourself with a few of the best newer Italian films.  The series follows a chronology of events from the 1970s to the 2000s, as well as five key themes: politics, mafia and family, work, economy, and immigration. Together, these create a vivid portrait of contemporary Italy from multiple perspectives.  The host is Professor Andrea Bini (MA in Film studies at the University of Texas at Austin, Ph.D. in Italian studies at UCLA).  He is currently teaching Italian literature and film at Santa Clara University and contributed two chapters to the newly published Popular Italian Cinema: Culture and Politics in a Postwar Society, edited by Flavia Brizio-Skow.  All movies are in Italian with English subtitles.  

Friday, February 24 at 6:30 pm:     The Divo (Il Divo), Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, (2008, 110 min.): Register Now!

A biographical drama based on seven time Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, leader of Italy’s Christian Democrat party.  “Il Divo” is a label that was once applied to Julius Ceasar II and is just once of Andreotti’s nicknames─Sphinx, Hunchback, Black Pope and Beezebub are others.  The film is an almost operatic look at his 44 year reign and the Christian Democrats’ last months of power in the early 90’s as mob connections, murders, and other corruption became public knowledge.  Andreotti’s legend is enhanced by the great performance of Toni Servillo, an actor who delivers an absolutely hypnotic character so devoid of magnetism, so Poker-faced, dry and dispassionate, that he becomes fascinating.   The film is a full-on indictment and delivers an astounding and engrossing spree of violence and carnage.

Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino; director of photography, Luca Bigazzi; edited by Cristiano Travaglioli; music by Teho Teardo; production designer, Lino Fiorito; produced by Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima, Andrea Occhipinti and Maurizio Coppolecchia.  Cast:  Toni Servillo, Anna Bonaiuto, Giulio Bosetti, Flavio Bucci , Carlo Buccirosso and Giorgio Colangeli.

Friday, March 2 at 6:30 pm:     One Hundred Steps (I Cento Passi) , Directed by by Marco Tullio Giordana (2000, 114 min.): Register Now! 

I Cento Passi is about the life of Giuseppe “Peppino” Impastato, a political activist who opposed the Mafia in Sicily. The story takes place in the small town of Cinisi in the province of Palermo, the home town of the Impastato family. One hundred steps was the number of steps it took to get from the Impastato house to the house of the Mafia boss Tano Badalamenti.  The film opens with Peppino as a small child singing the popular song “Volare” with his brother in the back seat of a car on the way to a family gathering. The family is in good standing in the social community and they are celebrating the fact that they have such a good life.  Soon after, Peppino’s uncle Don Cesare, a Don (Mafia boss), is blown up by a car bomb which was planted by a rival Mafia boss. So ends Peppino’s time of innocence.  Little by little, as Peppino grows, he learns to despise the Mafia and in 1968, he joins left wing parties and groups and starts organizing and supporting the farmers and landowners whose ground has been expropriated to build the Punta Raisi airport.  Along with friends, he starts a pirate radio station, ‘Radio Aut’ and publicly accuses the Mafia in Cinisi and Terrasini of controlling the drugs and arms trafficking through the airport.  Through the radio, Peppino mocks the mafia and they tire of his impudence.  Peppino’s final days play out against the great upheavals of the 1970’s. 

Directed by Marco Tullio Giordana; written by Claudio Fava, Marco Tullio Giordana.  Cast: Luigi Lo Cascio, Luigi Maria Burruano, Lucia Sardo.

Friday, March 9 at 6:30 pm:     The Fever (La Febbre), Directed by Alessandro D’Alatri (2005, 108 min.): Register Now!

D’Alatri  is beloved by audiences and critics for his amazing ability to balance drama and comedy and to tell amazing stories of the inner lives of seemingly ordinary people leading boring lives.  La Febbre is the story of Mario (Fabio Volo), a young man in his thirties who still lives with his mother in the northern town of Cremona, birthplace of Stradivarius.  The film addresses what was once a very common European middle class career aspiration─parents who encouraged  their children to settle into civil service jobs, with job security and good benefits, which is what Mario’s mother wants for Mario. He dreams of opening a nightclub but goes along with mom and gets a job at a local prefecture. Things seem to go from bad to worse but, at the same time, he meets the beautiful Linda (Valeria Solarino), an exotic dancer who makes him rethink his life.

Cast: Fabio Volo, Valeria Solarino, Vittorio Franceschi, Massimo Bagliani, Gisella Burinato, Thomas Trabacchi, Gianluca Gobbi, Paolo Jannacci, Alessandro Garbin, Lucilla Agosti, Julie Depardieu.


Friday, March 16 at 6:30 pm:     The Jewel (Il Gioellino), Directed by Andrea Molaioli (2011, 110 min.): Register Now! 

Based on the real-life bankruptcy of the Italian company Parmalat, Molaioli’s film reunites him with the great Toni Servillo (The Girl by the Lake, La Ragazza del Lago)(2007) to dramatize a true example of corporate corruption. In 1992, Italian dairy company Leda decides it needs to diversify.  CFO Ernesto Botta (Servillo), right hand man of the boss Amanzio Rastelli (Remo Girone) suggests going public in order to raise cash, but mismanagement, backroom dealings and widespread financial finagling lead to disaster.  Even as the business unravels and it becomes obvious who will be the scapegoat, Botta remains loyal and unflappable. The pace is slow and mesmerizing, and we watch Leda unraveling for years as Rastelli keeps bringing the company back from the brink of failure.  The action switches from Italy to New York to Moscow as various leveraged financing schemes are tried to keep Leda, once the little jewel, afloat.  With a wide range of hooded glances and a particular rhythm of speech, Servillo inhabits yet another character unable to extricate himself from a devastating predicament.

Directed by Andrea Molaioli; written by Andrea Molaioli, Ludovica Rampoldi, Gabriele Romagnoli; photographed by Luca Bigazzi. Cast: Toni Servillo, Remo Girone, Sarah Felberbaum, Lino Guanciale.

Friday, March 23 at 6:30 pm:   Clash of Civilization Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio (Scontro di civiltà per un ascensore a Piazza Vittorio), Directed by Isotta Toso (2010, 96 min.): Register Now! 

A nineteenth century apartment building inhabited by a group of tenants of various nationalities in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio is the scene of a suspicious death.  Within the walls of the building, there arises a clash of civilizations in which the differences within the group─ beliefs, cultural pratcices─become more evident daily and lead to misunderstandings, provocations, and distrust.  Anyone could to be the killer and each person, zany but believably real, begins to blame the other.  The group, together, will reveal the killer’s name to the police commissioner, in place of the only witness that cannot speak: the elevator.  Based on the novel of the same name by Algerian novelist Amara Lakhous, Toso’s film is an exploration of truth seen through various perspectives and a touching ode to the human condition, so fraught with misunderstandings.  

Directed by Isotta Toso; written by Maura Vespini, Isotta Toso; photography by Fabio Zamarion;
music by: Gabriele Coen, Mario Rivera. Cast: Kasia Smutniak, Daniele Liotti, Roberto Citran, Isa Danieli, Ninetto Davoli, Kesia Elwin, Ahmed Hafiene, Francesco Pannofino, Marco Rossetti, Milena Vukotic, Serra Yilmaz 

Details:  Screenings are held Fridays, February 24, 2012 – March 23, 2012 at 6:30 PM, at the Italian Cultural Institute, 814 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94133.  Admission is free, but space is limited, and RSVP required.  To RSVP, click the link by the film you wish to see and you will be directed to  a registration webpage which will send you a confirmation email.

February 24, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Italian Cinema prequel: acclaimed Italian Filmmaker, Daniele Luchetti in conversation at Italian Cultural Institute Saturday, November 12, 2011

Italian Filmmaker Daniele Luchetti, subject of a retrospective at New Italian Cinema, November 13- 20, 2011, will speak at the Italian Cultural Institute in San Francisco on Saturday, November 12, 2011, after a screening of his award-winning film "My Brother is an Only Child." Photo: Courtesy of San Francisco Film Society

The Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco will host a special event with acclaimed Italian filmmaker Daniele Luchetti on Saturday, November 12, 2011 at the Italian Cultural Institute, located at 814 Montgomery Street in San Francisco.  Luchetti’s film My Brother Is an Only Child (Mio fratello è figlio unico, 2007, 108 min., in Italian with English subtitles) will screen at 3:00 pm, then at 5:00 pm, Luchetti will be interviewed by Rod Armstrong, programmer for the San Francisco Film Society, to discuss the film as well as the broader scope of Luchetti’s work. This special event with Luchetti is a rare opportunity to hear about the filmmaker’s experience in a more intimate setting, just prior to the the 2011 edition of the New Italian Cinema festival, which celebrates Luchetti with a three film tribute.

New Italian Cinema opens Sunday, November 13, 2011, in San Francisco at Landmark’s Embarcadero Cinema with Luchetti’s latest film Our Life (La nostra vita, 2010, 98 min) and runs through November 20, 2011.  The other two films in the Luchetti tribute are It’s Happening Tomorrow (Domani accadrà,1988, 87 min), a philosophical Western set in Tuscany’s Maremma region and Ginger and Cinnamon (Dillo con parole mie, Italy 2003, 103 min), a romantic comedy of flirtation, sex and errors set on the Greek island of Ios. 

Now in its 15th year in San Francisco, New Italian Cinema runs every October and is an excellently curated taste of the best new Italian filmmaking.  In addition to the Luchetti opening night film and tribute, this year’s porgramming will feature eight additional new feature films by up and coming filmmakers who are all vying for the City of Florence Award, as well as the closing night film, Habemus Papam (2011), by acclaimed director Nanni Moretti who was an influential mentor for Luchetti.  The films in this year’s program investigate topics including corporate malfeasance, office politics, rural life and war, as experienced by Italians from every walk of life.   All filmmakers are expected to be in attendance at the Embarcadero for lively Q&A’s with their audiences.  The festival concludes with a fabulous closing night party at Fior d’Italia in North Beach, one of America’s oldest Italian restaurants, established in 1886. 

New Italian Cinema is presented by the San Francisco Film Society, New Italian Cinema Events of Florence, Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco.  Tickets, a full scheule, and further information on New Italian Cinema are available at 

About Daniele Luchetti:  Daniele Luchetti was born in 1960 in Rome. He first worked as an actor and later as an assistant director to Nanni Moretti.  The first film of his own that he directed, Domani accadrà, received a David di Donatello as best debuting film. He went on to make Il portaborse (1991), featuring Silvio Orlando who is pressed into becoming a lackey speechwriter for a ruthless politician, played by Nanni Moretti. The film was seen as a forecast of the “Mani pulite” corruption scandal that struck Italy the following year, and won four David di Donatello awards. Luchetti is the recipient of dozens of other awards and nominations, including a Nastro d’Argento for best screenplay for My Brother Is an Only Child, and a David di Donatello for best film for Our Life, which was also the only Italian film in competition at the 2010 Cannes Film FestivalLuchetti’s skill as a filmmaker lies in his ability to draw in the viewer and forge a direct relationshiop with his audience through the narrative and characters of his films.


My Brother is an Only Child: (Mio fratello è figlio unico), 2007, 108 min: Winner of four David di Donatello Awards (Italian equivalent of an Academy Award)—Best Actor (Elio Germano), Best Supporting Actress (Angela Finocchiaro), Best Screenplay, Best Editing—My Brother is an Only Child, is a hit in its native Italy and screened at the Cannes and Toronto film festivals.  The film reunites director Luchetti with longtime collaborators Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli, screenwriters of the highly-acclaimed epic The Best of Youth (La meglio gioventù) 2003.

Set in a small Italian town in the 1960’s and 70’s, the film tells the story of two brothers who want to change the world — but in completely different ways.  Manrico (Riccardo Scarmaccio), the oldest, is a handsome, charismatic firebrand who becomes the prime mover in the local Communist party.  Accio, (Elio Germano), the younger, more rebellious brother, finds his own contrarian voice by joining the reactionary Fascists. What starts as a typical tale of sibling rivalry becomes the story of the polarizing and paralyzing politics of those turbulent times and, the rift between the brothers is further intensified when Accio realizes that he loves his brother’s girlfriend, Francesca (Diane Fleri) who, like everyone else, is blind to Manrico’s increasingly dangerous ideas.  Addressing the dreams and disillusionments of the 60’s and 70’s, My Brother is an Only Child is set in the exact era of the groundbreaking early classics of Bernardo Bertolucci and Marco Bellochio.  Not only does Luchetti pay explicit homage to those films — “Before the Revolution,” “Fist in the Pocket,” and “China is Near” — he comes very close to matching their beauty, intelligence, and youthful exuberance. (THINKfilm) 

A scene from Daniele Luchetti's "Our Life," the opening night fim at New Italian Cinema. A construction worker, married with two kids and desperately needing money to support his family, faces a devastating blow in this powerful character portrait that earned Elio Germano the Best Actor prize at Cannes. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

About the Italian Cultural Institute:  The Italian Cultural Institute (Istituto Italiano di Cultura, or IIC) of San Francisco promotes Italian language, culture and the best of Italy by disseminating information about Italy, offering scholarships, and presenting cultural events including art exhibitions, film screenings, concerts, lectures, book presentations, poetry readings, round table discussions and other events. Its goal is to foster mutual understanding and cultural cooperation between Italy and the United States. The Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco presents a rotating exhibition schedule, video and book libraries containing Italian books, cds, dvds, journals and newspapers; and information and documentation on cultural matters in Italy.

A scene from “Ginger and Cinnamon,” playing as part of the tribute to Daniele Luchetti at New Italian Cinema. Stefania (Stefania Montorsi) (left) heads off to the Greek Island of Ios with her 14-year-old niece, Martina (Martina Merlino), in a farcical romance. Photo: courtesy of San Francisco Film Society.

The IIC moved in September 2010 to its current location at 814 Montgomery Street, in the historic Jackson Square District of San Francisco. For further information on the IIC and its events,

Details:  Saturday, November 12, 2011, screening of My Brother is an Only Child at 3:00 pm and conversation at 5:00 pm at Istituto Italiano di Cultura, 814 Montgomery St., San Francisco, (415) 788-7142.            Tickets:  $10/general, $5/members of the IIC.  Please RSVP to 415-788-7142 ext 18

New Italian Cinema:  Tickets, a full scheule, and further information on New Italian Cinema at

November 2, 2011 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment