The Italian Cookie Comes With A Smile. An Exclusive Interview Of The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition’s Winner Tina Zaccardi. [L’Idea Magazine]

The Italian Cookie Comes With A Smile. An Exclusive Interview Of The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition’s Winner Tina Zaccardi.

The Italian Cookie comes with a smile. An exclusive interview of The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition’s winner Tina Zaccardi.

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

 For all the friends who had the fortune to taste Tina Zaccardi’s cookies, cakes, and pies, it was not such a big surprise that she had won “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition”: the heavenly experience of flavoring her desserts convinces you immediately that you are dealing with an artist and a winner. So much so that in the towns of Tuckahoe and Eastchester no TV was turned off the day she participated in the final episode. Call us fans, aficionados, devotees, followers, groupies or whatever else, only a person who tasted her sweets can understand the love for her baking products and for her (she is humble, soft-spoken, and always carries a wonderful smile, all qualities that add up to her charismatic presence). I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions regarding her recent experience.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You have a great passion for baking and cooking in general. When was this developed? Was there a turning point that made it so?
Tina Zaccardi:  I started baking when I was very young by watching my mother and grandmother.  I started to see that everyone enjoyed eating what I was baking and it gave me a great sense of satisfaction and confidence.  As I got older I found that baking was a way to set myself apart.  It was also a way to make my family and friends very happy by baking something that they love.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Was the participation The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition hard to obtain? What was the process for admission and? What prompted you to apply?
Tina Zaccardi:  The process started with a 75 question application.  The next step was an interview with a producer; I was then invited to a tasting interview where I have to bring a few of my bakes.  They must have liked what they tasted because I was sent through to a live baking audition. From there I was chosen as one of the 10 bakers to appear on the show.
The reason for me wanting to apply is a bit of a story.  I was sitting watching TV about 5 years ago and came across The British Baking Show on PBS.  I immediately fell in love with the format and said to myself if they ever do an American Baking Show I would definitely apply.

Photo Mark Bourdilloion_ABC

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You did stay 25 days in England to tape the show. Did you tape an episode per day? Were you always told what type of dessert you had to bake or did they leave it to your choice? How were the judges?
Tina Zaccardi:  I was in England for 25 days filming the show.  We did not film every day and had 1-2 days off in between filming.  Of the three bakes per episode, I knew what I would be baking for two of them.  The technical challenge was a total surprise.
The judges were great!  They gave constructive and honest feedback regarding our bakes and could not have been nicer!!!

Photo ABC/Mark Bourdillion

Photo ABC/Mark Bourdillion

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Could you tell our readers what were the most memorable moments of this unique experience?
Tina Zaccardi:  There were so many experiences but I’ll tell you a few.  I never expected to win, so moving forward in the competition every week was like a dream come true.  One of the most exciting experiences was when I got a handshake from Paul Hollywood for my Chocolate, Cherry, Pistachio Rugelach cookies.  For anyone one that has watched the British Baking Show getting a Hollywood Handshake is as good as it gets!!!
Definitely, winning Star Baker twice was a twice in a lifetime experience.  Also, the great times I had with my fellow bakers outside of the competition is something I will always treasure.

Photo ABC/Mark Bourdillion

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Was there a moment of distress in which you felt you had lost your chance to win?
Tina Zaccardi:  I had a few moments, but I think the most stress I felt was during the Showstopper Bake for Cake Week. I had a problem with my cake and I thought that if I served what I had to the judges I would definitely be going home.  I had to compose myself and bake a different cake all from memory.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: What were some of the desserts you prepared for the contest?
Tina Zaccardi:  Some of my desserts were Chocolate mini cakes with an orange buttercream, a cranberry compote filling and a marzipan pumpkin for decoration.   There were a chocolate hazelnut praline and a key lime pie inspired eclair.  Classic cannoli siciliano, a gingerbread birdhouse and a goat cheese and balsamic glazed pot de creme.  Just to name a few…

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: In 2013, you were the finalist of the “Joyful Cook-off” on the “Today Show.” Could you tell us more about that? Did it require a long time for you to go through the process, as it did for “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition?” What were the main differences?
Tina Zaccardi
:  The Joyful Cook-Off only required that I submit a single recipe and mine was chosen as one of the top three.  I got the opportunity to present my recipe on the Today Show.  My recipe was a Thai Inspired Chicken and Couscous.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: In that same year, you also appeared on “The Chew.” What did you do on that show?
Tina Zaccardi:  The Chew had 3 viewers participate in a dessert cook-off. I won with my recipe for Peach Blueberry Crumb Pie with a Pecan Crust.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: What about “Rachael Ray Show’s 10th Annual Burger Bash,” which you won in 2016? How exciting was the show and what did you win with?
Tina Zaccardi:   Rachael had three viewers compete in a burger bash.  My winning burger was a beef patty stuffed with roasted garlic and gorgonzola topped with arugula, bacon, homemade tomato jam and frizzled onions.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you expect to have more TV appearances in the near future? Are we going to see any “Tina Zaccardi Special” anytime soon?   
Tina Zaccardi:  You never know what the future brings.  Maybe there will be another TV appearance!!!

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: What about the possible commercialization of your products? Do you want to continue to bake for fun or are you looking into a possible partnership with some company for your products?
Tina Zaccardi:  Right now I’m taking one day at a time and have a few things in the works.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you believe your Italian roots influenced your baking and life choices?
Tina Zaccardi:  I do believe that my Italian roots have influenced my baking.  I tried to put some aspect into each of my bakes on the show.

THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKING SHOW: HOLIDAY EDITION – Tina and her tricolor cake, inspired by the colors of the Italian flag.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you have a message for the aspiring bakers and chefs who read our magazine?
Tina Zaccardi:  Whatever you do, whether it’s baking or something else, don’t ever believe that your dream is too big.  If I believed that, I would never have auditioned for the show.  Never underestimate the benefits of hard work.  I’ve been practicing and researching and learning for a long time.  I believe that my hard work and preparation had prepared me for anything that I would have to bake on the show.  Even though I won, I still believe that I still have so much to learn.

Market Place at Fordham University

I would like to thank you and your magazine for giving me the opportunity to tell my story.

 

You can find Tina’s recipes and suggestions on these sites:

Web Site: TinaZaccardi.com                 Instagram: TheItalianCookie

Anginetti cookies (photo courtesy Tina Zaccardi)

A wonderful video by Tina on how to shape Anginetti cookies…

Advertisements
Posted in Interviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Leo Vadalà’s “Some Grief, Some Joy” Will Move The Reader. A Book Review By Tiziano Thomas Dossena (L’Idea Magazine)

Leo Vadalà’s “Some Grief, Some Joy” will move the reader. A book review by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Review by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Historical fiction is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. The term is commonly used as a synonym for the historical novel.

An essential element of historical fiction is that it is set in the past and pays attention to the manners, social conditions and other details of the period depicted. Based upon this definition, the recently published novel Some Grief, Some Joy by Leo Vadalà is a work of historical fiction.

But we also have fictional history, where we change the course of real history by changing a particular detail, and history becomes quite different or not, depending upon how relevant that detail is.

Some Grief, Some Joy follows a pattern that resembles the one of fictional history, and it is unusual that the final outcome, spoiler alert, is not any different from the real one.

So, the author is able to plug in an imaginary tragedy and all the immediate consequences that follow, and still obtain to reach the identical end of the game.

Imagine doing that to the story of your life. However simple it may seem at first, a life of straight choices: school, work, family, love, and whatever other variants you had; tragedies, for example, who doesn’t have one or more? But how big were they? Did they change the course of your life? Maybe. But if they didn’t and you were to narrate your life, what would a big tragedy add to the drama of your life?  Would your life be the same?

We are talking about the author’s life, of course, and this could be a magnificent memoir, but Mr.Vadalà felt that plugging in some mysterious diversion would make it more interesting, and so it is: it becomes a magnificent novel.

Through the difficulties and the enthusiastic discoveries that follow immigration at 16, we discover an attentive observer of our society of the time, with its vices and virtues. The narrative brings the protagonist eventually to a point where his real life and fantasy become a blurred, undistinguishable story.

This is where the author is at his best and we may forget that it’s a novel and not a memoir; regardless, we are going to be absorbed by the various ups and downs of his life and get so emotionally vested in the story that it doesn’t matter anymore: we want to know more!

Adding to that, the author chooses to use a direct, extroverted approach to the language, making it easy to read, if at times almost colloquial, intimate to the point of making you feel as if you are reading a secret diary and that may be too personal: we are peeking into someone’s life. Because of its frankness and the delicacy of the situations presented, the book is not suggested for young readers; let’s say we can assign it a PG13 rating.

All in all, this is a breathtaking story told in a marvelous, well-paced style, and it deserves to be read.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

An Italian Poet In Texas. Exclusive Interview With Victoria Surliuga [L’Idea Magazine]

Exclusive interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Photo: © Victoria Surliuga

Victoria Surliuga is Associate Professor of Italian Studies, Italian Program Coordinator and World Cinema Coordinator in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures at Texas Tech University. She has studied Comparative Literature at Mount Holyoke College and holds an M.A. from Brown University and a Ph.D. from Rutgers University in Italian Studies. She is a scholar of modern and contemporary Italian art, cinema, and literature, as well as a poet and a translator. She was awarded The 1905 Fellowship of the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association for her research on Peggy Guggenheim and art patronage; a grant to the Italian Program at Texas Tech University from the CH Foundation to curate the exhibition “Ezio Gribaudo’s Theaters of Memory” at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts (2016); Scholarship Catalyst grants from Texas Tech University; and was Humanities Fellow at the Humanities Center of Texas Tech University (2016). She has also curated the exhibition “Ezio Gribaudo: A Lifetime in Art” at the Texas Tech University Library (2018).

Her publications include “Ezio Gribaudo: Enchanted Archaeology” (Pistoia: Edizioni Gli Ori, 2018; in Italian and English), “Ezio Gribaudo’s Landscapes” (Torino: Archivio Gribaudo, 2018; in Italian and English), “Ezio Gribaudo: My Pinocchio” (Pistoia: Edizioni Gli Ori, 2017; book in Italian: “Ezio Gribaudo: Il mio Pinocchio”), “Ezio Gribaudo: The Man in the Middle of Modernism” (New York-London: Glitterati, 2016; Texas Tech University First Place President’s Faculty Book Award for 2017-2018), a book-length volume of translations of Giampiero Neri’s poetry “Natural Theater: Selected Poems (1976-2009)” (Edition and Introduction; New York: Chelsea Editions, 2010), “Nell’epoca del gremito: Conversazioni con Giancarlo Majorino” (Milano: Edizioni Archivi del ‘900, 2008), and “Uno sguardo sulla realtà: L’opera poetica di Giampiero Neri” (Novi Ligure: Joker Edizioni, 2005).

She has also written on poetry and painting in Giambattista Marino, on Federico Fellini, on the poetry of Andrea Zanzotto, Franco Loi, Giancarlo Majorino, and Giampiero Neri. She has authored six books of poems, of which the most recent one is “Shadow” (Las Cruces: Xenos Books, with Chelsea Editions and the Raiziss-Giop Foundation, 2018). (Courtesy of www. victoriasurliuga.com)


Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You have worked on modern and contemporary Italian art, and you were also awarded The 1905 Fellowship from the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association for your research on Peggy Guggenheim. What were the most interesting facts you learned about her and her philanthropic activities?
Victoria Surliuga: I started working on Peggy Guggenheim a few years ago as I wanted to explore patronage in modern art. I was mostly impressed by her ability to interact with a variety of artists and continuously acquire their work despite all the difficulties dictated by history and her need to create her own legacy that was independent from her family. Her sense of vision for what later became her permanent collection in Venice is remarkable as well as her strength in facing life and its obstacles. I have worked on archival documents and read about her most interesting experience as a gallerist and then museum founder at the Guggenheim Archives in New York, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection Archives in Venice, Italy, and other research centers such as the New York Public Library.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Ezio Gribaudo’s name appears multiple times in your biography, since you wrote about him and were the curator of two exhibitions of his works. Could you tell our readers how your studies on him started and what made you decide to expand on them through the years and become an expert on his work?
Victoria Surliuga: I started working on Ezio Gribaudo’s art when I found his name mentioned in Peggy Guggenheim’s autobiography. She acquired a few of his iconic “logogrifi” (engravings on white blotting paper) for which he was awarded the 33rd Venice Biennale Prize in 1966. Gribaudo published many catalogs of her Venice Collection between the 70s and the 80s for the Edizioni Fratelli d’Arte Pozzo that he was directing at the time. Guggenheim credits Gribaudo for having organized an exhibition for her Venice Collection at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Turin, Italy. The Italian Program that I coordinate at Texas Tech University was awarded a CH Foundation grant so that I could curate the exhibition “Ezio Gribaudo’s Theaters of Memory” at the Louis Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts in 2014. I have been writing about Gribaudo’s work starting with the book “Ezio Gribaudo: The Man in the Middle of Modernism” (2016). This year I have curated another exhibition, “Ezio Gribaudo: A Lifetime in Art” (2018) at the Texas Tech University Library.

I take this opportunity to say that I consider Gribaudo a vital figure in Italian artistic modernism for how he has managed to combine his many sides: artist, editor, publisher, and cultural promoter. His work has many facets, from the exploration of the three-dimensionality of surfaces to the reappraisal of archaic and mythical shapes and figures (dinosaurs, pyramids, Pinocchio, etc.). The way he has inserted the written word in a figurative context (in his “logogrifi” and “flani / flongs”) is also very intriguingly modern.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you feel that studying his work in depth has somewhat influenced your poetic work? You have several books of poetry to your name. What are the topics of your poems? In what language do you write?
Victoria Surliuga: In 2018 I published a book, “Shadow,” in which five of Gribaudo’s “logogrifi” are included. The artwork in the cover refers to Palazzo Lascaris, an historical building in Turin. The Gribaudo artwork reinforces the connection of various poems with Torino, located in the North West of Italy—a city that in my mind has always been rather stern and somber. Most poems address the theme of betrayed childhood, body dysmorphia, and my views on personal growth. I wrote it in Italian and in 2018 it was also translated into English.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You are the World Cinema coordinator of the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures at Texas Tech University and your research in part focuses on Italian cinema. What aspects do you cover? What are the other areas of your research?
Victoria Surliuga: I teach a Survey of Italian Cinema, a monographic course on Federico Fellini, and World Cinema. My research on Italian cinema is focused on Federico Fellini, and stardom, mainly through the lives and films starring Italian actresses such as Sophia Loren, Anna Magnani, Giulietta Masina, and Monica Vitti. As I mentioned before, I work on modern and contemporary Italian art (the Modernist tradition and the Italian artist Ezio Gribaudo); art patronage (Peggy Guggenheim and her Venice Collection); I have also worked on modern and contemporary Italian literature (post-World War II Italian poetry).

 

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: How much and how did your being Italian influence your career choices and your poetic work?
Victoria Surliuga: I am trained in Italian Studies and Comparative Literature: I have worked on the relationship between text and image in the Renaissance and Baroque, on Politian and Botticelli and Giambattista Marino. I started working on text and image as an undergraduate student at Mount Holyoke College and continued at Brown University, where I wrote my MA thesis on this topic. When I was at Mount Holyoke I also worked on the theme of the dandy and decadence in 19th century literature. I have always liked the decadent anti-heroes in Huysmans and D’Annunzio.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Who are the writers or personalities that you have enjoyed meeting the most?
Victoria Surliuga: At Mount Holyoke College I studied with Iosif Brodsky and he transmitted to me his passion for W.H. Auden and A.E. Housman. At Brown University I also met Carlos Fuentes and later, during a visit to Italy, at a poetry reading I have also met Derek Walcott.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Are there any new projects that you are working on, whether as curator, poet or essayist?
Victoria Surliuga: I am completing a book on Italian stardom and a project on the impact of Fellini on world cinema. I would like to complete a novel that I started many years ago on body dysmorphia but so far I have given most of my time to more urgent projects and grant applications to complete my current research.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: If you could meet, hypothetically, any person from the past, who would he or she be? What would you ask them?
Victoria Surliuga: It may seem too ambitious, but I always thought that I wanted to meet Emperor Napoleon to understand how political power creates a person that only lives within a public perception. However, now I would like to meet Carl Gustav Jung to understand the connection that brings together psychology, science, and spirituality.

More information on Victoria Surliuga can be found at http://www.victoriasurliuga.com

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

From Supermodel To Celebrity Chef And Successful Author. An Exclusive Interview With Maria Liberati [L’Idea Magazine]

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

As a former international supermodel, Maria Liberati never dreamed that she would go from being a fashion diva to a domestic diva. Ironically, while jet-setting off to modeling assignments around the world, Maria became closer to the simplicity of life and food in the country setting of her family’s vineyard in the mountains of central Italy. She began to experience the real tastes of food that she knew from her childhood.
An Award-Winning cookbook’s author and Celebrity Chef -her passion with food began at the early age of 4, when she would accompany ‘nonno’ (grandfather) on his early morning Saturday trips to the Italian Market in Philadelphia to pick out all the fresh ingredients for the Sunday family meal.

Portrait of Maria painted by famous Italian artist, Sergio Nerone

Years later, Maria was spotted by international artist Sergio Terzi (known as Nerone) and was asked to sit for a portrait at his studio in the Emilio-Romagna region of Italy. While sitting for this portrait, the months lingered on and Maria found herself spending more and more time at Nerone’s family farm nearby. During her time there, she studied the art of making the famed Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese. When the painting was finished, it was exhibited all throughout the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the painting and the artist were honored at a special ceremony for the contributions of Italians to the World.
Today, Maria is considered one of the foremost experts on Italian Cuisine and culture, and has been called the Italian ’Martha Stewart’ (Celebrity Society magazine 06/06). The Basic Art of Italian Cooking book series was awarded the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris, France.
A  lover of the arts, Maria is also famous for intertwining  (in her own style ) food with art, travel, and life and a portion of her blog was selected to be part of the digital exhibit for the Kuntshistoriches Museum in Vienna, Austria for its cultural references of Mozart. A frequent guest on radio, TV and national media features. She serves as a spokesperson for many food and kitchen related companies, look for her on QVC. She also serves as food consultant for new products. Maria is frequently found cooking center stage at many consumer and trade show events as guest Celebrity Chef and designs corporate teambuilding programs for Fortune 500 companies. As a professional speaker, Maria is asked to speak at many events on her success. The rest, as they say, is history. She divides her time between her office and residence in the USA and Italy where she writes her books and hosts specialty culinary and wine programs and food/travel writing at some of Italy and Europe’s most magnificent castles and vineyards. (Courtesy of MariaLiberati.com)

Maria is the author of many books. Here’s a short list:
The Basic Art of Italian Cooking
The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays and Special Occasions-2nd edition (this one won the 2010 Gourmand Word Awards)
The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: DaVinci Style
The Basic Art of…Pasta
The Basic Art of…Pizza
The Basic Art of…Coffee
The Basic Art of…Cocktails
The Basic Art of…Creating a Tuscan Style Wedding
The Basic Art of…Experiencing Venice
The Basic Art of…Christmas Dinner


L’IDEA: Maria, when and why did your passion for cooking develop into a full-time enterprise?
Maria Liberati: After I wrote my first book- The Basic Art of Italian Cooking- this became a full-time enterprise. The popularity of the book just took off, I had to create a blog, and I was getting asked to do book signings and appearances throughout the USA and at some places in Italy. The blog quickly grew to over 300,000 worldwide followers. Once I began doing TV appearances I was asked to create a TV series based on my book series. I am now working on my second TV series.

L’IDEA: Could you tell us more about the concept of your culinary travel books?
Maria Liberati: The concept for the book series was to create not just a book filled with recipes but a food experience. I always felt that food in Italy is not just about eating a meal but experiencing the meal Besides the awesome flavors, Italian food is so well loved because when you sit down to an Italian meal you are part of an experience that includes not only the food but the ambiance, the sentiment of eating together with good friends and/or family, and the history related to the ingredients and or the recipes. So the food evokes the senses in many ways. And I felt that a book of just Italian recipes did not really portray Italian food the way it should be; I wanted people to experience the recipes not just put a bunch of ingredients together. Therefore, I set out to create stories that related to the recipes and menus, so that people could experience Italian food. To truly enjoy Italian food, you should experience the food, not just eat it.

L’IDEA: Is your Blog, The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm at www.marialiberati.com, an integration to your books or is it something completely different?
Maria Liberati: The blog was mainly created to be a companion to my book series, so it is mainly related to the book series but I also post about some other topics that may not be in the books. Food is related to so many things- art, travel, home, garden, history, music, architecture and I also combine those topics with food.

L’IDEA: “Your Basic Art of…” books have a great success and are recognized as an important reference point as travel cooking books go, but you have now developed also other topics, such as Experiencing Venice, for example. What made you choose these new themes for these series of books?
Maria Liberati: My philosophy is that there is an art to almost everything, so I am pairing that with select topics that fit in. Yes, so coming up will be other singular topics in that series, The Basic Art of Coffee, Cocktails, Pizza, Pasta, Creating a Tuscan Wedding, Experiencing Venice and more to come.

L’IDEA: You have won many awards, among them the Gourmand World Award and the Culinary Travel Blog of the Year Award. Which one you felt was the most rewarding and why?
Maria Liberati: Both awards were equally regarding, but if I had to pick one, I would say that the Gourmand World Cookbook ward that I received in Paris in 2010 was exciting. I was up against so many professional international chefs, it was truly an honor to know that a book I had worked so hard on was selected as best Italian Culinary book in the USA.

L’IDEA: Maria, you are developing your own TV series for PBS. What is it going to be about? When will it be aired?
Maria Liberati: I did do a PBS series a few years ago that was based on my book series and filmed in Italy. This new series that I may be developing will probably be done in a studio and will have guests cooking with me. That will air sometime in 2019.

L’IDEA: Your Company, “The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati,” organizes, hosts and caters corporate training culinary-themed events for Fortune 100 and 500 companies. Could you tell us more about that?
Maria Liberati: Corporate training culinary events are events that bring together employees in a culinary environment. They get to spend time away from the office and connect with fellow employees by cooking and eating with them. So I may have a menu of five courses and then divide a group of 30 employees into teams of 6 and each team has to prepare one recipe and then eat the courses that have been prepared together; this creates a collaboration environment they can take back to the office with them. However, sometimes I am also asked to be the special guest at incentive meetings for salespeople, they receive a signed copy of my book and I may do a cooking presentation or other presentation on one of my books.

Click on the image to see a video of Maria Liberati

L’IDEA: Your Company now has a line of food products. What are they? What makes them different?
Maria Liberati: So far the products are a Pizza Sauce and a spice blend. Both products use all natural ingredients but they also include a blend of spice blends I developed that incorporate many of the flavors used in Tuscan cooking. I am working on developing blends of spices that highlight the flavors used in different regions of Italy. I am currently developing other food products.

L’IDEA: Are there other new book titles on the way? What about new projects, other than the PBS program? 
Maria Liberati: Yes I am collaborating with my favorite culinary school in Italy- Chef Academy in Terni (the town of St Valentine) on a book that will include their recipes and my stories from my blog. And, as mentioned, a new TV series, and a podcast.

L’IDEA: If you could meet a personality from the past or the present, who would he or she be? What would you like to tell them and to ask them?
Maria Liberati: If I had to choose one, it would most definitely be Leonardo DaVinci. One of his interests, and he had many talents and interests, was food. I researched DaVinci’s foodie life and wrote The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: DaVinci Style- which is about the different cities in Italy he lived in and what he created in each city as well as recipes from those regions. But I would like to ask him what would be his favorite meal to eat and to paint.

L’IDEA: Maria, do you have a message for our Italian American readers?
Maria Liberati: Yes, to keep your heritage alive and teach your children or grandchildren or nieces, nephews about it. We have such a rich heritage, and our ancestors made so many contributions to assisting in building the USA  and invented so many of the things we use today in our daily life. But it is also really important to understand where our families came from to appreciate what we have today. Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ house always included stories and photos about their life in Italy. I didn’t truly understand anything about their life and where they came from until I had the opportunity to visit and then live in Italy and research so many things. I fell in love with my culture and history and that is why I created my book series. It afforded me the opportunity to work in and study the things I love the most. As Italian Americans, our life here in the USA is a result of so many years of hard work and drive and passion that our ancestors had. And if you can somehow teach that or convey that to your children it is truly a beautiful thing for them to understand and even aspire to keep their dreams alive.

Posted in Interviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Sirian Revelations Bring Hope To The World. An Exclusive Interview With Author And Clairvoyant Patricia Cori [L’Idea Magazine]

The Sirian Revelations bring hope to the world. An exclusive interview with author and clairvoyant Patricia Cori

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena for L’Idea Magazine

She’s been dubbed a “real-life Indiana Jones” by fans and the media – an inspiring icon of truth and a living model of the adventurer within us all. Internationally acclaimed author Patricia Cori is one of the most well-known and established authorities on the realms of the mystic, whose views of the world challenge the status quo and confront the issues that concern us all today. She’s a pioneer of the alternative thought community. She loves to “stretch the imagination” with visions of what might very well be, as science fiction becomes reality every day in our rapidly changing world. With fourteen books, published in more than twenty foreign languages, she has been a key voice in the alternative media for decades, bringing paradigm-busting information to the public since 1996.
  The former host of the popular radio show, Beyond the Matrix, she has herself been interviewed on hundreds of talk radio and TV programs, including CNN, Coast to Coast a.m., Project Camelot, WABC, Fade to Black with Jimmy Church, Exopolitics with Alfred Webre, Veritas Radio, Playboy Radio, the Urban Journal Radio, KJAC Radio Montreal, 21st Century Radio, Fringe Radio, Unity FM, and a host of others. She has also appeared in documentary films.
 Her latest work, The New Sirian Revelations, Galactic Prophecies for the Awakening Human Collective, was released Dec. 5 2017 to the enthusiastic response from her global audience. Twenty years since she first re-connected and attuned to a group of extra-dimensional light beings that her readers have come to know as the Sirian High Council, this collective returns, through Patricia’s dedicated process as their Scribe, with new revelations that affirm the veracity of earlier prophecies, while transmitting new visions for the human race. They affirm that we are ascending through the outer reaches of the fourth dimension into new levels of conscious awareness and parallel realities, as we prepare for our imminent emergence. Their messages delve into crucial issues facing humankind and the planet today, to include the merging of mind and AI, exoplanetary migrations for our species (and what that means for planets that will receive us), coming clean about cloning, the care and feeding of the human soul, and the slipping of the time-space continuum.

L’IDEA: Last year, you won an award for ‘Best feature Screenplay’ at the London Film Festival. What film was that? Could you give our readers a brief synopsis of the film and how did you get involved in the project? 
Patricia Cori:   Yes, it was such an honor to be recognized for the screenplay as BEST SCREENPLAY for the festival – a competition for screenplays that have not been produced. My involvement is that I wrote the original screenplay and it is now under option with a British producer to be made into a film – although the process is tedious, especially getting the funding. The title of the screenplay is ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM, and it is a story about a dysfunctional, super wealthy couple in the Wall Street society of Manhattan, who have a child with autism, and how their lives change when they embark on a trip to Africa. The logline reads: “An unexpected trip to Kenya catapults the wealthy mother of an emotionally challenged child to walk away from a privileged, but empty world to discover the real substances of life – for her, and her mysteriously gifted little boy.”

L’IDEA: You had quite a success with the novel “The Emissary,” but you already had published quite a few books. What are the topics of these books? Is the novel somewhat tied to these books? 
Patricia Cori:  Yes, indeed. I have quite a collection – I think my last book, The New Sirian Revelations, is my fourteenth to date! I’ve lost count. Most of my books are targeted to the New Thought/Spiritual communities of readers who are interested in subjects that lie outside the field of conventional thinking – from alien life, to quantum physics – and to the empowerment of people on this planet to raise the consciousness of our individual and communal experience. The Emissary, my first “fictional” novel, is a variation on the theme – one whose protagonist is an extraordinary psychic who receives messages from the whales about the apocalyptic scenario being perpetrated by the dark government and their quest to protect underwater alien colonies. It’s sci-fi, fantasy and possible reality all blended into a spine-chilling story. I’ve also written a screenplay for this and it is being considered by a few industry experts for production!

L’IDEA: You published a trilogy on revelations you had by some extraterrestrial beings. How did these revelations come about? Could you tell us more regarding these beings and the reason they contacted you? 
Patricia Cori: Actually, the premise of the books, known to my readership as THE SIRIAN REVELATIONS, is that beings from another dimension (specifically the 6th) are communication with the human race through me as their scribe. They call themselves the Sirian High Council. Many people now claim to hear messages from other dimensions, but what is particular about this information is the accuracy of many of the predictions and futuristic visions that are already coming to pass, since they first started coming in as early as 1996.
As for why I have been contacted, I suppose it is that I have been a very clairvoyant experiencer since childhood, and for reasons that are still inexplicable to the rational mind, for me it is quite natural to pick up these messages – as if I were reaching a different bandwidth – and then I transcribe them into the written word.
It is a great honor and responsibility to be chosen to do this work – one I do not take lightly. And it has been a guiding light – a mission, if you will, for most of my adult life.

L’IDEA: A few years after these three books, a book appears with new revelations. Are they really new revelations or are they deeper explanations of the preceding ones? 
Patricia Cori:  That’s a great question! Certainly, the new book builds upon former revelations since they were so revolutionary back in 1996, and now much of what was absolutely impossible to imagine is unfolding in our world. One central theme was and still is that we are merging with the fourth dimension and what that will mean to us at this stage of our evolution. The New Sirian Revelations elaborates just what that means to us now, and how the sun, planets, and earth in particular are changing their frequencies, while the entire solar system moves to a higher band of vibratory fields. And there is so much more that has not been elaborated before – it is as if we had to reach this phase before the next wave of information was made available.
What is very exciting about the material is that it is inspiring people with a hopeful outlook on what currently seems to be a very desperate, almost apocalyptic scenario for our future.

L’IDEA: Your Website defines you as “author, guide, visionary.” Why guide? How do you perform this duty? Visionary is referring to your clairvoyance or some other quality of yours? 
Patricia Cori:  I have been referred to as a spiritual guide and mentor for decades, since my work involves teaching, healing, and actually guiding hundreds of people on spiritual journeys to sacred sites on the planet: Egypt, the Mayalands, Sacred England, Tibet, etc. I am devoted to helping people evolve spiritually, to be empowered and liberated, and to find their true purpose on this planet, in this lifetime. I believe you need to be a visionary to do that – to help people seek greatness and to believe in the wonder of life and their own divinity. That is what I mean by the term “visionary.” I think it is inspired by the old Star Trek motto “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” To be a dreamer, to believe in all that has come before and all that we will create anew – that to me, is a “visionary.” People these days are losing that, losing the dream, the vision, and the hope. And I am dedicated to helping them find it again.

L’IDEA: The first realization that occurs while reading your books is that there is still hope for this world of ours; your approach is not apocalyptic but positive and refreshing. Notwithstanding the fact that if our readers want to know more they can find it by reading your books, could you tell us what leads you to have such a positive outlook on the world when most of the predictions out there are dire and gloomy?
Patricia Cori:  Thank you for that! Yes, as I mentioned above, the material is filled with hope and having this feed my soul for two decades cannot help but affect my own experience! I’ve always been a very positive person – I think I owe a lot of it to my mother, who was the most empowered, loving person I have ever known, and she transmitted her love of life and that essential pursuit of happiness to me, since my childhood and throughout my life.
As for the growing malaise that seems to pervade human consciousness and our societies en large: bear in mind that the power that rules this planet feeds on greed and the abuse of wealth and power – and that means war. Peace is not profitable. So we are programmed to be at war – with countries, with each other, with ourselves. We are entrained by the media and all systems that govern us to be dissatisfied and buy more – to consume mindlessly, to work almost enslaved to the system and to be grateful we even have work.
Keeping people in a state of lack and fear feeds that system. In the words of the immortal comedian, George Carlin, “they don’t want a society of free thinkers, no they don’t. They don’t want that. They want slaves to the system.”
My vision and my work reflect another perspective – and that is that we do not have to bow down to the system. We don’t have to perpetuate war, buying into the myth that war is a necessary evil. We don’t have to over consume, and then destroy the planetary ecosystems with the waste of that consumption. And we can be at peace with who we are, what we truly value, and how to be responsible for our own successes and ‘failures’ in a very Buddhist approach that has each of us understanding how we create our own karma. It is the opposite of what we are seeing perpetrated today, the growing commiseration with victim consciousness, which is totally disempowering and debilitating to the human spirit.
I believe we are seeing a transformation in old values, and that the old system is dying. Change is upon us. It’s painful: change almost always is. We have to get out of our comfort zones, which we have been constantly taught is ‘safe’.  And we have governments proclaiming to keep us ‘safe’ by reducing our liberties. That’s control – and there is nothing safe about that!

L’IDEA: When did you discover to be a clairvoyant and how?
Patricia Cori:  Ha! Let’s go back way back in time. My mother told me that when I was four years old I walked into the kitchen and declared: “I am not from here.” Taken aback, she asked me where I was from, and I said: “I’m from another galaxy – but you’re not ready to hear that yet.” And then I walked out. Back in the day, there was none of this kind of lingo available to us – especially to children. There was none of this galactic consciousness permeating our lives. Fortunately, my aware mother paid attention. She encouraged my visions, and they were constant. I had premonition, clairvoyance, and contact with spirits from that early age and the intensity has grown with me. I offer private clairvoyant sessions, and the constancy of working on that level I believe strengthens the ability to draw on that gift.

L’IDEA: You also work with animals. Could you tell us more about that?
Patricia Cori:  I have been an animal activist all of my life – saving and rescuing, and advocating for animal rights. Years ago I founded a non-profit organization called SAVE EARTH’S OCEANS, to work on protecting all life in the oceans, particularly the Cetaceans. I produced an amazing concert in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and several talented artists – it was called SINGING THE OCEANS ALIVE – in 2014. Currently, and unfortunately, the organization is on hold due to lack of funding but I will return to the fight!
The animals of this world are struggling. Several species are extinct and others follow due largely to man’s destruction of the ecosystems. And then, there is the abuse… so much to do. We need to all fight for the animals, who have every right to live on this planet as we do.

In the screenplay, Elephants in the Room, which we mentioned above, an underlying theme is the preservation of Elephants in Africa – in fact, the antagonist in the story is a wild game hunter. It underlies much of my work. One of my books, BEFORE WE LEAVE YOU, is a plea from the whales and dolphins to the human race to save them before they become extinct. The Emissary is an off-shoot from that work.

L’IDEA: You also offer workshops and courses. What are these courses?
Patricia Cori:  I offer healing workshops, motivational workshops, and programs to help people develop their own psychic/clairvoyant capabilities.  I take people out to swim with wild dolphins, and during that experience, I share with them what I know about animal communication. I have another one of these programs coming up in June 2019, here in the Azores Islands, rich in Cetacean life, and where I believe to be the remnants of Atlantis. I also have a program coming up in April – in Egypt, where we explore the extraterrestrial intervention in that Ancient Kingdom and the traces that remain.

People can find out more on her site www.patriciacori.com

Posted in Interviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Being Italian American Is In The DNA Of My Being And Of My Work… An Exclusive Interview With Playwright And Director Charles Messina [L’Idea Magazine]

Being Italian American is in the DNA of my being and of my work… An exclusive interview with playwright and director Charles Messina

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena for L’Idea Magazine

Charles Messina

Charles Messina is an American playwright, screenwriter, and director. Born in Greenwich Village, of Italian-American descent, he attended Xavier High School and then later, New York University.
Known for his deconstructive take on biographical subjects, Messina’s most notable stage work as director includes the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway plays “Cirque Jacqueline,” about the life of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and “Mercury: The Afterlife and Times of a Rock God,” a monodrama written by Messina about Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury.
In 1999, “Actor Found Dead,” a one-act play written and directed by Messina about actor James Hayden debuted at the John Houseman Studio Theatre in New York City.  In 2007 Messina directed “Two-Mur Humor,” which was an official entry in the 2007 Fringe Festival in NYC, and the big-budget musical Be My Love: The Mario Lanza Story, written by Richard Vetere,
Also in 2007, Messina’s play Merging won BEST PLAY in The Players’ Theater’s Shortened Attention Span Theater Festival in Greenwich Village. Messina also directed the film version of Merging, which was released in 2009.
Messina’s play, “Homeland,” which premiered in 2008, starred Sopranos actors Dan Grimaldi, Jason Cerbone, Joe Lisi, as well as Gina Ferranti and Amir Darvish.
Messina’s play “A Room of My Own,” about an Italian-American family living in Greenwich Village in the late 1970s was performed in 2009. In May 2010, Messina directed and co-wrote (along with Vincent Gogliormella) the script “’Twas The Night Before a Brooklyn Christmas,” starring Mario Cantone, Michael Rispoli and Robert Cuccioli.
Messina has directed the off-Broadway shows “Rockaway Boulevard” by Richard Vetere, “The Accidental Pervert” by Andrew Goffman, and Art Metrano’s “Accidental Comedy,” as well as a staged reading of his own script “Younger,” starring Joe Piscopo.
For the big screen, Messina has written “They’re Just My Friends” and “Spy.”
Messina wrote the book “My Father, My Don,” about the life of Genovese Capo James “Jimmy Nap” Napoli and his son Tony Napoli, in collaboration with Tony Napoli.

 

L’IDEA: You wrote and directed many plays. One of them, “A Room of My Own,” is autobiographical and it depicts the story of a young man growing up in an Italian American family in a studio apartment in Greenwich Village. Could you tell us more about the play and the characters? Is the rumor that it may soon become a TV series true? 
Charles Messina:  “A Room of My Own” is a very special project to me.  It is my baby.  Deeply personal and extremely detailed and accurate in its portrayal of my family and my upbringing.  It was a unique family and situation to be raised in, to say the least.  Crazy, funny, energetic, it was constant motion in that small apartment.  Growing up in Greenwich Village at that time was such an experience.  You had the art scene, the gay world exploding, the jazz scene.  And here we were this little Italian enclave, this tribe, that had settled there around the turn of the century, holding on to its old ways, as the outside world moved in.  There were many influences on me growing up there.  But in our house it was so much about survival.  My parents were working class people just trying to stay afloat financially.  And sometimes in those situations, the best way to get through it is by having a sense of humor.

Mario Cantone and Ralph Macchio

There were a lot of laughs in that place, and in this play, too.  But in the show there is also a deep sense of melancholy as the main character, essentially the adult me, played by The Karate Kid himself Ralph Macchio, looks back on his life and as a writer, tries to change the things he didn’t like about it.  Only to realize, through his young self, that you cannot change the past.  Acceptance is healing.  Such a wonderful cast.  I must acknowledge their brilliance.  Mario Cantone, Joli Tribuzio, Johnny Tammaro, Nico Bustamante, Kendra Jain, and Liza Vann.  I bow to them. They brought my childhood back to life so vividly and accurately.  We had a wonderful sold out, limited run-off Bway and have been developing it for television since, it’s true.  We are talking to a major network and are very hopeful that the Morelli family will be coming to the small screen very soon.

a scene from “A Room of My Own”

L’IDEA: In writing your plays, are you always inspired by true events or people you met or are some of them a complete work of fiction?
Charles Messina: Well, there’s true and there’s truth and those two things aren’t always exactly the same.  But I like stories that are based on real people.  The key word being real.  If something is real, you just know it, it cannot be denied.  We know real when we see it.  The way real people talk and walk and behave.  That fascinates me.  I love behavior.   Capturing the specifics of behavior or speech patterns and rhythms, those things excite me.  When I was a kid, and still now, I will watch something and I have this internal barometer that tells me, “Hmmm, that doesn’t seem real, that doesn’t feel right.”  So that’s very important to me.  I enjoy true stories and finding the truth in them and depicting that truth in a way that feels specific and real to me.  I think audiences are smart and can sense when something is false.  It’s vague.  It’s general.  It’s disconnected.  Real is specific.

L’IDEA: Your play “Merging” won the Best Play Award at the Players’ Theater’s Shortened Attention Span Theater Festival. What is this play about? Is the film version an accurate interpretation of the theatrical one?
Charles Messina:  Merging is a very strange and scary piece about loss and consumption.  About loving something so much that you want to consume it thoroughly for fear of losing it.  I had never written anything with a horror theme, so I wanted to give it a try.  Although I’m not sure it truly is horror, but it’s definitely a psychological thriller.  It examines the lives of a couple whose infant has suddenly and inexplicably gone missing and how things in their life begin to unravel quickly and horribly from there.  It’s tense.  It has a shock ending.  But for me, it was really about this theme of loss.  Humans do not handle loss, abandonment or separation very well and I wanted to explore those issues with Merging.  Audiences seemed to like and respond to it very well.  The film is certainly well done and closely reflects the play, practically word for word.

L’IDEA: You also wrote numerous movies’ screenplays. In your experience, how different is the process of writing them from the one of writing theatrical plays? Which one do you feel more rewarding? Are your screenplays original or are they based on pre-existing stories, novels or plays?
Charles Messina: There are several differences between writing for screen and writing for stage.  One of the most basic is setting.  Plays tend to take place in one or two locations.  Films can and often do have many varied locations, interior and exterior.  So that usually means discerning which stories will work best in which medium.   Also, there’s a difference in scene length.  That’s a big one.  In a stage play it’s all dialogue driven, so you can have a scene between characters that goes on for 10, 15, 20 pages if you like.  Film is governed by the cut, so scenes are much shorter generally, as you move from moment to moment, place to place.  There’s an economy of words.  Film is also much more the director’s medium.  Theater is the writer’s domain.  They can both be very rewarding creatively but in film as a writer you tend to step back and let the director do his or her thing.  Show up at the screening and say, Oh, they cut that line or they cut that scene, okay.  In theater the writer is usually much more involved day to day and that allows for more creative input and control.  I tend to work on stories based on real-life people or events, so for me the key is in the research and then deciding the best way to tell the story.  Whether it’s stage or screen, I tend toward character-driven pieces.  Connecting myself and then the audience to these characters is my first priority.  I’ve just always had a curiosity about people, what makes them tick, why they do what they do.  I can remember being in 6th grade and we had an anthology of short stories to read and before each story there was a brief passage of description about the writers of each story.  A biography about them.  This fascinated me.  I found the people behind the story just as, if not more, interesting than the stories themselves.  How and where they were raised, where they went to school, what influenced them.  For me, the people behind the story WERE the story!

L’IDEA: Charles, your experience with directing, both plays and musicals, is quite ample. Do you find directing your works any easier than directing other authors’ work? Are you able to write even in the period in which you direct? It’s obvious that directing is a major activity for you; any new play or musical in the works that you want to talk about?
Charles Messina:  I have directed a lot of my own work.  I think singular vision is very important.  A writer can get inside their own work in a way that another director may not be able to.  Especially if a piece is autobiographical. There’s a shorthand that a writer can bring to their own work that I think can make the piece very specific and unique.  Of course I’ve directed other people’s work and have had some wonderful directors take on my writing.  It’s all about understanding and trust.  I am working on a show now called The Storm.  It’s a musical based on the true story of composer Jeremy Long’s grandparents who were these marvelous show business personalities, who lived an incredibly successful and sometimes turbulent life.  Jeremy asked me to come onto the project because he knows I understand the value or personal storytelling.   I’m co-producing the project and may end up contributing as a writer or director,  we haven’t decided that yet.  But the key is being connected to the material and to your co-creators so that the creative process can be open.  Trust and openness is the key to any collaboration.

L’IDEA: Your musical “The Wanderer” about the life and music of Dion is having a great success after its recent workshop in NYC. Can we expect to see s full production of it any time soon?  Is it Broadway bound? Can you tell us something about it?  What prompted you to write this musical and direct it? 
Charles Messina:  The Wanderer is truly a great show.  I’m very proud of it.  We recently had our workshop presentations at The Baryshnikov Theater in NYC and the response was overwhelming.  We have such a wonderful catalog of music in it.  All Dion’s hits, from Teenager in Love to Runaround Sue to Abraham Martin & John.  And of course the title track.  It’s just great music.  In addition, we tell the compelling story of Dion’s life, including his struggles with heroin addiction and how his life was saved by a renewed faith in God.  It’s very powerful.  It’s going to surprise a lot of people.  We’ll be taking it on the road next year and then,  God willing, to Broadway soon after that.   I was excited to work on the book for this show.  It was a great fit for me as a NY kid who knew Dion’s music.  We were introduced through a mutual friend and we really hit it off.  I think there was a fast connection, two NYC guys, Italian American.  We knew each other’s culture and upbringing because it was the same.  He was from the Bronx, I was from Greenwich Village.  But we shared that Italian thing that you have to be inside of to fully comprehend.  I immediately saw his life as a Broadway musical.   But we both wanted it to be real and authentic.  Not fluffy or glossy.  We want edgy, dark, honest.  This is about addiction. But with all that great music throughout.  I think it’s a very special show and I can’t wait until the world sees it.  People ask if it’s a jukebox musical and we say, no, it’s REAL LIFE musical.

L’IDEA: Freddy Mercury was the icon star for a few generations, even after his death. You wrote “Mercury: The Afterlife and Times of a Rock God.” Is that a play?
Charles Messina:  Mercury was a monodrama I wrote about Freddie’s life.  I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish with that piece.  To just strip away the rock star glam and glitter and show the man.  That was most important to me.  He hid so much of his true self from the world for fear of exposure – his sexuality, his ethnicity.   And this was long before the upcoming biopic that they’re releasing.  We were light years ahead of the curve on that one.

L’IDEA: Although you are known for your deconstructive take on biographical subjects, I found only one book written under these premises. Is this going to be the exception or do you project to write more books like this one? What made you decide to co-write “My Father, My Don” with Tony Napoli? I previously reviewed the book, which I found very well written and emotionally captivating, and at that time I had extended my compliments to you for your ability to retain Tony’s informal, almost intimate language. How difficult was it to abstain from rewriting the story with your voice? Did you enjoy working with Tony? Is the filming of the movie based on the book still going on? Are you involved with it?
Charles Messina:  Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint.  It takes time.  Research.  It’s an arduous process.  I found working on My Father, My Don an to be a learning experience.  To tell a story from the first person point of view and capture the rhythm and tonality of another person’s voice, and to keep it genuine and truthful, that was a wonderful challenge.  As a playwright, I’m used to writing dialogue, so staying committed to the first person narrative was comfortable for me.  Sustaining it over 300 pages, that was the harder part.  My Father, My Don should make a fine film.  I’m not currently involved with any adaptation of it.  I have been asked about writing other books.  I think there’s a little Mob fatigue out there.  So Mob subjects don’t particularly interest me at this point.  Maybe if it were the right one.  I have some ideas.  I will write another book one day.  The timing just has to be right for it.

L’IDEA: How much did your being Italian American influence your life choices and your behavior in general?
Charles Messina:  Anyone who knows me knows just how much being a NY Italian American means to me.  That is my world.  Those are my people.  I was raised in it.  It’s in my blood.   It was and will always be a part of me.  I know their ways, their food, their hopes and dreams, their phrases!  To me when I talk about what’s real, I’m talking to a great extent about Italian Americans and their culture.  Their manners and rhythms and the particulars of their language, that’s what real sounds like to me. That’s what real is.  Brash, funny, but always to the point, always alive, connected and energetic, that’s what influences my writing.  That’s what my ear picks up.  That sound is the sound of someone telling it like it is.  I have often said that ethnic authenticity is the most important thing to my work.  It’s hard to teach what being a real Italian American looks and feels like.  You know it when you see it.  It comes out of the pores.  It’s in the DNA of my being and of my work.

L’IDEA: If you had the opportunity to meet and talk with a person from the past, anyone you wished, who would it be and what would your conversation with them be about?
Charles Messina:  My mother.  She passed away in 2009.  She saw some of my work but not all of it, of course.  Although a part of her is in all of it.  The lead in A Room of My Own is based on her.  She will always be my greatest influence.  I owe everything that I am to her.  I owe my active language as a writer to her.  My sense of humor is hers.  She had no filter.  She said it just as she saw it.  Funniest, toughest, boldest person I have ever known.  When I’m stuck for a line as I’m writing I will often ask, What would my mother say here?  She had the funniest and most particular turns of phrase!  She could do with one sentence and a look what it takes writers whole novels to convey.  She was hyper-aware and sharp.  Sometimes biting and cruel.  But a true original.  Her mind was ten steps ahead of everybody else.  Fiercely supportive of me.   Funny thing is, she was stricken with throat cancer and lived the last 14 years of her life without her voice.  Yet, she was more articulate and more expressive than ever!  She really gave me the confidence to believe that I could do anything, that I had as much right to be what I wanted to be as anybody else did.  She was defiant about that.  She worked the counter in a bakery and my father was a truck driver, a teamster.  Worked their asses off.  Put me through Catholic schools and then college.   When I said I wanted to go to NYU to become a writer and a director, they didn’t flinch.  They said, “Become whatever you want to become.”   So if I could meet one person, it would definitely be my mother.   What would I tell her?  I think I would show her something.  I’d roll up my left sleeve and show her the MOM tattoo I have on my forearm.  She never saw it.  I had it done after she passed away.  It’s designed with steel beams to symbolize her strength and when I put my arm down she’s always there, by my side.  I could see her being proud of it, smiling and saying, “My son-my son, you did that for me.”  And I’d say,  are you kiddin’, Ma, after all you gave to me, it’s the least I could do.

Posted in Interviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“The People’s Tenor” Who’s The “Prince Of The High Cs”. An Exclusive Interview With Michael Amante [L’IDEA Magazine]

“The People’s Tenor” who’s the “Prince of the High Cs”. An exclusive interview with Michael Amante.

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena
Michael Amante was ranked the number one selling Classical Artist in Billboard Magazine 2001-2002, nominated for regional Emmy Award for Self-titled PBS Special, recipient of the State of New York Governor’s Award for Excellence, guest radio host WICC in Bridgeport CT, featured Artist on major networks including ABC, PBS, NBC, CBS, TBN, FOX, The Food Channel and other national affiliates, and performed in a host of the nation’s most distinguished and recognized performing arts venues, casinos and establishments including Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Additionally, some of his recipes were published in PASTA magazine, as a living proof that the Italian roots in him are alive and strong. He has appeared in many TV movies and musical., Illustrating, drawing, photography have been passions of his as far back as he could remember, and in June of 2018, Michael had his first gallery premiere and showing of selected photographs and graphic designs at the Bilotta Gallery in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. What other activities does he have? We thought that an interview would answer that question for us, so we contacted him and sat down for a pleasant conversation….
L’IDEA:  Michael, at what age and how did you start being in the singing business?
Michael Amante:  I think that when the doctor delivering me gave me a whack, I started singing instead of wailing. There have been milestones however. The first was when I was six and the good sisters of St. Ann’s Catholic School were looking for a boy to sing the role of “Oliver” in a live recording they were producing. Music was already playing a role in my life as I loved listening to classical masterpieces at home. Also, my father sang around the house. Needless to say, they found their singer.  Then while in high school, I started singing in area rock bands, then regional theatre, local radio commercials, and solos for church services. It was in a church that a musical director by the name of Warren Ottey first recognized my pipes were well suited for Opera. Plus singing in Italian seemed like a good way to attract women.

L’IDEA: Why do they call you “the People’s Tenor”?
Michael Amante:  It’s hard to determine why the media likes to label you as this or that but I believe that it’s because I did not come up through the ranks of Julliard or a major music conservatory. I sing everywhere and for anyone. God gave me the equipment and the desire to “make a joyful noise” and I worked hard to make the best and loudest sound possible.

L’IDEA: With opera names such as Pavarotti and Corelli giving you and your voice high praise, and having been nominated by Billboard Magazine as the number one classical artist in 2002, what made you decide to become a “crossover singer” and not stick to opera and classical music alone?
Michael Amante:  I would have to say that I have always been a cross-over singer. There were those individuals, like Franco Corelli, who wanted me to sing nothing but classical and opera, but the “damage” was already done growing up listening to 70’s and 80’s bands like Foreigner, Journey, Styx, Kansas and many others. I thought that as long as I was using proper technique and not straining my cords, I could pretty much sing whatever I wanted. Opera, Gospel, Broadway, Standards and Rock were all in my wheelhouse.

L’IDEA: You also appeared in many TV movies (too many to mention). Do you feel more comfortable in the singing role or in the acting one? Will you continue your acting career? (Please mention whether there is something going on with that; a film, theater, etc.…)
Michael Amante:  Singing is something that I am completely confident doing. Acting, especially for Musical Theater, is another art form that I truly enjoy. I don’t get as many opportunities to do a whole lot of that while living in Florida. However, not too long ago I was cast in a lead role as “The American” in the musical CHESS for an equity theatre in Naples, FL. I imagine that I will do much more live stage work as my three children get older and become more independent.

L’IDEA: You received an Emmy Award nomination for your television special. What was the program about? Do you have any other similar projects in the making? Any new recordings?
Michael Amante: The PBS special actually was born out of a concert in tribute to Frank Sinatra which, involved many other performers.  After I came onboard singing “Nessun dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot and other Italian favorites, the focus kind of switched towards me. Producers who attended that concert approached me and asked me about doing a program for PBS and we started filming various locations soon after. The Emmy nomination took me by complete surprise. After filming, I just went on with my life without giving much thought that it was so well received. Subsequently, PBS had me jetting around the country in order to help them with pledge drive campaigns.
I am just now trying to get a new Christmas recording completed. I was hoping to get it all finished this season, but my friend and keyboard player developed a health crisis.  He’s better at this time but it did throw us off schedule and I would have been uncomfortable replacing him.

L’IDEA: The critics have spoken of you as “The Prince of the High C’s” What are they referring to, when they say that?
Michael Amante:  I suppose they are referring to my natural tenor high notes and the ease in which I can produce them. I have always been able to sing really high. Some other tenors work their way up from Baritone and Bari-tenor. A high C is pretty easy for me on any given day. On the days that my voice is really fluid, I can go up to “F” above high C, which is just ridiculous, and even though it’s just a few notes above, it’s miles away!

L’IDEA: What was the opera’s role that you loved the most to perform? Why?
Michael Amante:  My favorite operatic role is “Edgardo” from Donizetti’s “Lucia Di Lammermoor.” The music is so full of angst, torment and weight. It’s not an easy role to perform, but that’s what makes it so great. Some day I’d like to perform “Andrea Chénier” by Giordano, but that opera is not produced very often. If we’re talking Puccini, then “La Bohème” is the ticket – great music, especially for the tenor and soprano. It’s so full of passion and pain.

L’IDEA: You also performed in numerous musicals. Which one was the most significant performance for you and why?
Michael Amante: People really respond when I sing from “Phantom” but “West Side Story” will always have the deepest affect on me personally. The music is just genius and the first time I was cast as “Tony” I had the best experience. And my “Maria” was absolutely brilliant and amazing. Even the newspapers caught our excitement for the music and each other. Singing from that show still moves me after more than thirty years of singing it for the first time.

L’IDEA: You now formed a tribute band called Michael Amante’s Rock Opera. Could you tell us more about that?
Michael Amante: Well, it’s not just nostalgic for me. It takes me back to a time when I was much more carefree and had no real responsibilities other than hitting the high notes. So it’s almost like therapy for my soul. I’m singing all the tunes that were so important to me as a teenager. Luckily, I can still hit the notes! I just can’t stop myself from listening and singing that music. We might change the name to just AMANTE which, means lover in both Italian and Spanish. That covers the whole deal, I think.

L’IDEA: You also had an experience as a Tenured Crisis Intervention counsellor. What did that teach you? (Please talk about that job’s duties also)
Michael Amante: Yes, I worked for the Syracuse City School District for about ten years. Even though I taught at a number of different locations, I found that the children, many of whom had serious issues emotionally and sometimes physical ones, responded favorably to both music and art. Thankfully, I am skilled in both areas. I was largely responsible for engaging students who were “acting out” or had disruptive behaviors that needed to be managed and modified in order for them to return to class. I would sing to them and draw pictures of their favorite superhero or cartoon character to temporarily pull their attention away from what was upsetting them at the moment. Once I had their interest, I could talk to them about how they were feeling and chart a path back to their regular classroom. I provide that moment of relief for my audiences as well. It may be transitory, but it’s very necessary.

L’IDEA: How do you believe you can make a difference in today’s world?
Michael Amante: Life is often challenging and at times, downright hard. While the stresses of life affect people differently, it affects us all. Rich man, poor man, black, white or brown – we all have very similar needs, wants and desires. We all need a break, even for a moment, from the daily routine and struggles that all humans have in common. The music that I make is meant to encourage, uplift, energize and provide comfort for the listener. While it may not solve the world’s many issues or provide a lasting peace among the nations, it might just inspire someone or everyone to do just that. As I visual artist, I can create images that last as long as you have it in front of you. It’s a commodity, a product. Apart from recordings, music is ethereal. It’s a string of small moments temporarily suspended in time and space. If you are moved by a ringing high note or a particular phrase of melody, it’s here only for a moment, and then it’s gone.  But the memory of it can last a lifetime.

L’IDEA: How much do you believe being of Italian origins influenced you in your career choices? Do you have a message for our Italian American readers?
Michael Amante: Italians have strong family bonds, love music and art, and are passionate and passionately stubborn about life. These values have governed all of my decisions, relationships, my aspirations as well as my sorrows. Many culturally strong communities have this as well. My message to Italian Americans is to not let those cultural elements fade into nothingness or become meaningless. Learn to speak Italian, cook Italian recipes and study the history of music and art while supporting those who are doing their best to keep those vitalities alive. It’s up to them to maintain the importance of Opera, classical music, painting, sculpture, literature, etc. Without these things, we may as well be like something out of the Matrix films – living batteries for some other entity.

Posted in Interviews | Leave a comment