Coming to the U.S.: ‘The Year of Italian Culture 2013’

October 17, 2012

In the wake of Europe’s financial crisis, Italy is still going strong. That, at least, is the message that the country would like to promulgate through “The Year of Italian Culture 2013,” a program of events around the United States that will be officially launched — and fully announced — in December.

As part of the initiative, Italy will send Caravaggio’s “Raising of Lazarus,” the “Codex on the Flight of Birds” by Leonardo, and a work by Michelangelo, as yet to be named, to the United States. The Michelangelo will be displayed in the National Gallery; Washington will also display the Roman sculpture “The Dying Gaul.”

Other highlights include a New York-based festival of the films of Pasolini, a show in Washington of contemporary Italian photographers, and a Washington visit by the training orchestra of Milan’s Teatro alla Scala.

The project has been spearheaded by Italy’s foreign minister, Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, who, while in Washington last week to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, took time to promote the initiative. It focuses in equal measure, he said, on science, technology and culture, with a concentration on innovation — from the Renaissance to today.

“Culture is by far the most important element of Italian foreign policy,” Terzi said on Friday, adding, “Italy is a cultural superpower. . . . When you look at Italy as a geographical expression, an ethnic expression, what comes to your mind is immediately culture. That’s why culture must be a fundamental pillar of Italian foreign policy. It is with this intent that we are here to develop a program that gives visibility to culture.”

The initiative seeks to strengthen links between Italy and the United States with research grants, symposiums, prizes and tourism initiatives as well as shows. It’s American in another significant way: Since public money was in relatively short supply after 2011, 90 percent of the program is funded by private sponsors.

One example: In 2013, which happens to be the 200th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth, the Metropolitan Opera will offer its signature Met Titles — translations of what’s being sung on stage, broadcast to a device mounted on the back of each seat in the auditorium — not only in English, German and, occasionally, Spanish, but in Italian as well. The cost is underwritten by the fashion house Dolce and Gabbana.

The year 2013, Terzi noted, is also the 500th anniversary of Niccolo Macchiavelli’s “The Prince,” that seminal work of political intrigue. When Terzi mentioned culture as the cornerstone of Italy’s foreign policy, however, he almost certainly did not mean that.

“Culture is by far the most important element of Italian foreign policy.”

Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata,
Italian Foreign Minister

Anne Midgette came to the Washington Post in 2008, when she consolidated her various cultural interests under the single title of chief classical music critic. She blogs at The Classical Beat.
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