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Italian is a funny language and the Italians are a funny people. I don’t mean funny like The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight (1971), although Jimmy Breslin’s largely South Brooklyn-set novel is a fine picaresque. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who composed many Italian operas, was an Austrian Catholic, funnily enough, although his greatest librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, was a Venetian Jew. Idomeneo, re di Creta ossia Ilia e Idamante (1781), arguably Mozart’s first operatic masterpiece, was written when the composer was 24 years old; its libretto was by Giovanni Batista Varesco (aka Father Varesco), thirty years Mozart’s senior, an Italian poet, chaplain and— judging by Mozart’s correspondence about the collaboration— a prolix pain in the ass. Mozart cut what he could and I love Idomeneo so much I even have it an English translation by David Parry also. A recording, conducted by Parry himself, is available on the Chandos label and is highly recommended for those who don’t reflexively flee from opera in English. I don’t know why they would, unless they can’t appreciate the daftness and genius both of translating Electra’s aria “Tutte nel cor so vento” as… “I Feel You Writhe Inside Me.”

Whoa! Can ya’ll feel it too? Someone else full of feeling is the Italian writer and artist Luca Dipierro, who now lives in Brooklyn. Luca recently made a brief film about Jim Knipfel, King of Crete, and Jim’s new novel Unplugging Philco; the film features a soundtrack not by Vivaldi, Verdi or Berio  but by Il Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, a band best known to many for the presence of one Ennio Morricone on trumpet. More on Morricone, Mozart and the Marquis de Sade  among others toot tout de suite! — Kenny Wisdom


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