The Piazza Vittorio Orchestra
Federica Araco - 13/09/2010
“I live in an apartment overlooking a courtyard in the Esquilino area dominated by one of the biggest squares in Rome, Square Vittorio Emanuele II. Courtyards have always been my passion; I like their sound. The noise of dishes at dinner, the frenzied laughter of children, crying babies, the distressing cough of old people, the irreverent radio of young girls, and the silence too... thanks God.... But one thing that makes Rome unique, at least to me, is the sound of my backyard. The Esquilino is maybe the only city’s area where Italians are an ethnic minority, all the world crosses and lives in the Square. The uniqueness of my courtyard’s sound is its language. The idea of the Piazza Vittorio’s Orchestra was born from the desire to reproduce this sound in the form of a concert.”
So Mario Tronco, former keyboardist of the Avion Travel, tells us about the atmosphere that inspired the birth of the first multi-ethnic orchestra of Italy, that he directs.
In 2001, together with Agostino Ferrente, documentary filmmaker and other artists, intellectuals and citizens in love with the Esquilino area, they founded the Trunk Apollo 11 Association. The objectives were: saving the historic Apollo cinema, which was in danger of becoming a bingo hall, promoting the neighbourhood’s cultural diversity by organising multi-disciplinary creative workshops and creating an orchestra composed of musicians coming from different countries living in the area. Today, the association has several cinema, art and literature projects and is a landmark in Rome’s cultural landscape.
In 2002, with Ferrente’s support, Mario Tronco started looking for artists to involve in the project. "When I had the idea of gathering musicians from different countries and from different continents, my intuition seemed stupid, simple," he recalls in an interview. "Then, on the Internet when I realized that there were no similar projects in Europe, I was scared. I thought, if they have not done it in London or in Paris, it means that it cannot be done. "
And yet despite the difficulties, the Orchestra Piazza Vittorio (OPV), with sixteen musicians (street musicians or not) coming from eleven countries and three continents, is now one of the most interesting and original experiences in the Italian and European music field.
In a closed country that is becoming increasingly folded on itself, obsessed by the fear of seeing foreign presence trouble its territory and its social fabric, the OPV is a unique but extremely effective model of fruitful coexistence, confrontation and dialogue. “[In Italy] we have the worst political class in the world. The Right is totally closed and has lost its own identity. We are in the hands of an increasingly powerful, increasingly convinced Centre-Left that is putting a lot of pressure on the theme of security that is delinquent in itself because it is an instigation to violence. The same electoral campaign has been an instigation to violence. The integration issue is to be resolved politically: we are only an example of a group of common citizens who bring people together and who are open to exchange”, explains Tronco.
Since their debut concert in December 2002 to mark the end of the prestigious Roma Europa Festival, the OPV has recorded two albums, “L'Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio” (2004) and “Sona” (2006).
At a crossroad of life stories and music, every element of the Orchestra brings its own baggage of dreams, rhythms and languages resulting in a multicultural encounter with an enchanted atmosphere, a living testimony of a lively, fruitful and possible integration. “Musicians are privileged people because they can communicate in a common universal language: music. The notes are as they are, they do not create misunderstandings as words do,” he says.
The energy that the musicians emit during concerts is contagious, exciting and for the Roman audience it was love at first sight. “The City likes is, Piazza Vittorio has adopted us and the people consider us as the “the Roman Orchestra”. In the past years we have played all over the world, from Australia to the United States, from Canada to France, Spain, Germany, Green…” pursues Tronco.
The successful documentary film of Ferrente Agostino (90’, Italia) entitled “L’Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio” (Piazza Vittorio’s Orchestra) recounting the project’s story dates to 2006.
On the cover’s presentation we read:
“If you want to see an Indian at the Coliseum on a white vespa and who doesn’t wear the helmet not to mess up his hair, an Ecuadorian who is crazy out of love, an Arab macho dressed in baby pink, a man from Caserta singing in Hindi, an Argentinean who is evicted from his garage, a sitarist convinced of being Uto Ughi, a New Yorker playing tablas, a Senegalese griot that get married to his Italian pupil but above all, if you want to know how to sing a song without pronouncing a word…then you should watch this film. You will love the world and its inhabitants”.
In 2009, the OPV has started a new, amazing project: the theatrical performance “The Magic Flute according to the Orchestra of Piazza Vittorio”. Mario Tronco has organised work as a work in progress imagining Mozart’s Opera as a musical fable passed down orally in the Orchestra’s musicians’ countries of origin: Senegal, India, Tunisia, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Cuba, Hungary, England, United States and Italy. Thus, Tamino, Pamina and Papagheno’s adventure has been transformed into an open tale, subject to constant changes thanks to the many narrative voices that enrich the story, each one of them with its own language and its own cultural imagination. Mozart’s austere musical partition is tinged with a fabulous and exotic atmosphere with new arrangements going from jazz to rock, with a touch of Latin, Indian and African rhythms.
The performance premiered at the Roma Europa Festival in September 2009 has toured the world and was presented at the main European Opera festivals like the one in Lyon, Barcelona and Athens.
A real challenge for the Orchestra. For the public, yet another confirmation of an extraordinary artistic vitality and a fruitful melting pot that comes out of the encounter of its different cultures.
Translated into English by Elizabeth Grech