Va', Pensiero

Politics in art is like firing a gun in the theatre, it was declared at the dawn of the 20th century.

The declaration was of course immediately put to the test by a young poetic hothead. When reciting his poem "Rosa Luxembourg, Emil Bønnelycke fired a gun three times into the air on February 4, 1919.

In a way he proved the declaration right, in that his recitation by gun broke a spell. After all, his audience panicked in fear for their life.

Or was the gun necessarily a problem? Cartooning is an example on an art form, whose outlook may be the enrichment that creates understanding and give nuances to our world. It gives us a shared voice as shown by the deeply moving example from the opera in Rome, which has been circulating on the web the past year: The Choir of Hebrew Captives has just sung its Va', pensiero from Verdi's Nabucco. The very opera, which since it was written in the 1840s, has been a symbol of an independent and free Italy.

Now, it was performed in a climate of... reportedly Silvio Berlusconi himself was present that night. The audience cherished the choir's performance, but the conductor Riccardo Muti did not immediately allow an encore. Instead, he addressed the audience:

"(...) If we continue in this way, we will kill the culture on which Italy's history is built. And then both our native country and we would indeed be "beautiful and lost".

All this time during which an "Italian climate" has been the norm, I, Muti, have kept silent for too many years. I would like to now... we should all give meaning to this song; since we are in our house, the theatre of the capital, and with a choir, who sang magnificently, and is being accompanied magnificently, then I suggest now, if you do not mind that you join us so we can all sing together".

Note the audience's reaction when they reach "My fatherland, so beautiful and lost" - Oh, mia patria, sì bella e perduta!:

With special gratitude to Per Arnoldi for sending on the moving manifestation today.

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