Italian performers will laud their homeland with a musical evening at a Girard Estate school.
Though he has established a successful professional existence as an attorney, Joseph Rollo cannot survive without culture, particularly that which intensifies his appreciation for his Sicilian heritage.
He will sate his cultural cravings 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Girard Academic Music Program, 2136 Ritner St., when the school hosts the Italian Musical Extravaganza. Attendees will have their ears and hearts enticed as performers, most hailing from his island, will offer ballet numbers, jazz selections, opera standards and popular native songs to acknowledge their country and to applaud the nation many of their fellow Italians now call home.
“We have two purposes,” Rollo said Tuesday of the Associazone Regionale Siciliana Inc., 1614 E. Passyunk Ave., for whom he serves as chairman. “We aim to keep members fully aware of their origins while also striving to help them to celebrate their American persona. The blending of identities makes our mission so rewarding.”
The association has existed since 1992, with Rollo, formerly a Girard Estate dweller and now an Audubon, N.J., resident, always seeking to broaden its appeal, especially in South Philly, which, aside from Sicily, he considers his true home.
“We are seeing Saturday as a night to offer an homage to the cradle of the Italian population in Philadelphia,” he said. “It will keep intact our history of promoting arts and ethnic pride.”
Though Rollo and his 180 colleagues have organized and experienced five trips to Sicily since the association’s birth, they have yearned to craft local and area festivities to acclaim their bloodlines. As many as four cultural occurrences transpire annually, with musical performances having constituted a large chunk since ’97.
“Our member gatherings are frequent and include book readings and film screenings, but the events give us an obvious edge with respect to exposure,” Rollo said. “Therefore, this upcoming combination of talent figures to honor the Italian preferences for beauty, creativity and majesty.”
The association had used Stephen Girard School, 1800 Snyder Ave., for its main gathering of singers and musicians until last year, when Rollo approached GAMP personnel because of their “fantastic auditorium.”
“It really has perfect acoustics that will bring out the artists’ qualities,” he said.
As the association calls South Philadelphia home, he has enjoyed having his former turf welcome the lauded acts, who will be appearing for free, though Rollo is seeking $30 donations to cover their expenses.
“They are an eclectic bunch and sure to excite eager ears,” he said.
Initially dubbed “From Sicily with Love” because of the influx of Sicilian talent and tunes, the show will include five diverse acts who will solidify what Rollo sees as one of Italy’s top exports, musical magnificence. Program notes explain the production as “an ideal journey that starts from Sicily and through Italy comes to America, exactly the same journey that compels a man who leaves his island in the heart of the Mediterranean to come to America with his wealth of passions and hopes.”
Ragusa, Sicily’s ASD Danza Mila Plavsic will further its 16-year commitment to beckoning ballet buffs by performing a few numbers. The company will be making only its fourth appearance outside of Italy yet second Philadelphia stop — its first coming June 2 in Northeast Philly to commemorate the 66th anniversary of Italy’s becoming a republic.
Lorenzo Licitra, a 20-year-old tenor who also hails from Ragusa, joined Mila Plavsic that day in honoring his homeland. The owner of a highly decorated voice, he has sung in Rome’s Palazzo Venezia and Johannesburg, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Square and captured the prestigious Ragusani nel Mondo prize in August. He will offer most of the selections in the portion dubbed “A tribute to the Italian tradition,” which will include pieces by cherished composers Ruggero Leoncavallo, Pietro Mascagni and Giacomo Puccini.
Rachele Amenta will round out the tribute with a medley of Italian gems. At only 13, she has garnered international acclaim, earning comparisons to Aretha Franklin and scoring a chance to duet with Michael Bublé. She likewise appeared at June’s celebration and will include in her South Philly debut a rendition of Andrea Bocelli’s “La voce del silenzio” as a tribute to Rollo. Also a Ragusani nel Mondo victor, she will highlight the “A tribute to America” element with a medley of songs that will follow Mila Plavsic’s three pieces, including works from “West Side Story.”
Proclaimed as “one of the most precocious talents in the history of jazz,” according to the program, Francesco Cafiso has won many major awards, including the International Jazz Festivals Organization Award in New York City and the World Saxophone Competition in London, and has played with members of the prestigious Marsalis family. The 23-year-old, who in 2009 became Umbria Jazz’s “Ambassador of Italian Music in the Jazz World,” will provide interlude pieces, with Bruno Mollo to voice Neapolitan classical songs. The final segment will have Rachele singing “The Last Dance,” “New York, New York” and “You Raise Me Up” and Mila Plavsic concluding with “Crunchy Granola Suite.”
Following the music, a screening of “Detective Montalbano: Find the Lady” will occur, with director Alberto Sironi to field questions.
“The gathering will prove how passionate we Italians are about our identity,” Rollo said. “We are fortunate to have an abundance of talent coming and hope to inspire our guests.”
For more information, contact Giovanna Cilia-Wheatley at 610-658-6317, 610-592-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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