Italian Ambassador Tells Qorvis Focus Washington: Italy Is Sponsoring More Than 200 Major Events Throughout the U.S. in Year of Italian Culture

Italian government projects broad view of culture, encompassing science and technology as well as arts, literature, fashion, food.


Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero told Qorvis’ Focus Washington that Americans have responded enthusiastically to 2013: Year of Italian Culture in the United States, a nationwide program by the government of Italy showcasing Italian culture in the broadest sense.

“We want to showcase the best Italy has to offer in the area of culture,” the ambassador told Focus Washington host Chuck Conconi, “and frankly, it’s a great series of events—more than 200 events all over the US, 50 American cities, 80 [locations] between museums, universities, opera houses… So it’s a great event.”

Arts, Literature, Lifestyle and Science

Ambassador Bisognieri says that Italy is taking a broad approach to culture.

“Obviously it contains the great Italian heritage of culture and art: You know, music, painting, and sculptures, and opera,” he says.  “And that’s great, it’s a great historic heritage; but also, in addition to that, we want to showcase the Italy of today, the Italy of tomorrow. So technology, design, and all of that, research and science. So, as you would see, there are many, many events devoted specifically to this area of the innovation and creativity that Italy brings.”

Americans have responded enthusiastically in cities from Seattle to Ft. Worth and Los Angeles to Miami.

“We are really receiving an incredibly positive response from the general public; the number of people who attend these exhibitions is spectacular,” the ambassador said. “You will recall we inaugurated here in Washington, D.C., the opening event of the whole year, which was in December, at the National Gallery. We brought a Michelangelo statue of all things. That was an immensely popular event with huge crowds attending, and the same applied to Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston, and Miami and so on and so forth. So the response from the general public has been great.”

A Contribution to the American Cultural Scene

Italy is not just showcasing its culture; it is making a significant cultural contribution to s\cities all over the United States, including Fort Worth, Seattle, San Antonio, Charlotte, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Oklahoma City as well as traditional cultural centers such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston.

The contributions range from exhibitions of works by Michelangelo and Caravaggio to an exhibition of works by contemporary artists like Giorgio de Chirico, which was at the Phillips Collection in Washington from April to June. Famed conductor Riccardo Muti recently conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a Verdi concert. Pianist Maurizio Pollini performed at Virginia’s Strathmore a couple of months ago. Chicago also enjoyed staging of plays by Eduardo de Filippo.

“We are very much committed to this,” he says.

Robotics, Aeronautics, and Space

And then there is technology. Italy’s humanistic tradition is so strong, its footprint in art, architecture, literature and classics so huge, that we sometimes forget the engineering feats of ancient Rome. The great builders of the Renaissance, including Michelangelo, Bernini, and Brunelleschi, were engineers as well as artists, often breaking new ground in architecture and inventing new machinery to build the cathedrals and palaces they designed. That tradition in Italian engineering has continued, as well as a strong scientific tradition. That is also a part of Italian culture.

“We have a very solid and very technologically state-of-the-art industrial base in our country,” says Ambassador Bisognieri. “We have a very solid trade relationship with the US. We have growing trade both ways. Of course we export Italian food and wine and fashion, but also a great share of those exports are industrial products, industrial machinery, aerospace components. Let me give you another example: Nearly 20% of the Boeing 787 is manufactured in Italy in, by Alenia in the south of Italy, and is shipped all the way to Everett in Washington state.”

Italy is also at the forefront of robotics, particularly robotic surgery, and has long provided technology for space exploration.

“A few months ago, we celebrated at the embassy the 50th anniversary of the collaboration between NASA and Italy,” says Ambassador Bisogniero. “Italy has a very strong space collaboration with the US, more than other European countries. A huge component of the International Space Station, which is orbiting as we speak, is manufactured by Alenia Spazio in northern Italy.”

At that event, Ambassador Bisogiero presented Italian astronaut Major Luca Parmitano a specially-made embroidered patch featuring the logo of the Year of Italian Culture in the United States.

“So he’s now, as we speak, orbiting on the International Space Station. He’ll be staying there for six months, and, on his space suit, he has the patch of the logo of the Year of Italian Culture,” says Ambassador Bisogniero. “So, as we speak, the logo of 2013:  The Year of Italian Culture is orbiting in space.”

“I thought every year was the year of Italian culture.”

Why 2013? Why has the Italian government chosen this year to bring so many culturala resources to the United States?

“It wasn’t in relationship to a specific date or a specific objective,” says the ambassador. “2013 happens to be the 200th anniversary of [the birth of] Giuseppe Verdi, it happens to be the 500th anniversary of the publishing of The Prince by Machiavelli, a book which is very popular in this particular city. It happens to be the 700th anniversary of Giovanni Boccaccio, and I could go on and on, but I guess with Italian art and culture, any year would bring about those kinds of anniversaries. As a matter of fact, I remember, I think it was Secretary Clinton who, when asked about 2013: The Year of Italian Culture in the United States, answered ‘2013? Well, I thought that every year was the year of Italian culture.’ And frankly, I think she has a good point.”

 

transcript

 

Conconi: Welcome to Focus Washington. I’m Conconi Conconi. My guest today is Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero, who is here to discuss 2013: The Year of Italian Culture. Ambassador, thank you for being here.

Ambassador Bisogniero: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Conconi: Well, tell me about this Year of Italian Culture; what’s the motivation for it?

Ambassador Bisogniero: What we want to do, we want to showcase the best Italy has to offer in the area of culture, and frankly, it’s a great series of events. As a matter of fact, more than 200 events all over the US, 50 American cities, 80 between museums, universities, opera house. So it’s a great event and I look forward to discussing in more detail.

Conconi: What kind of events are you talking about? But I also noticed when I saw the document you have on it, that there’s a lot of salute of science and technology as well as culture.

Ambassador Bisogniero: Yes, there is, because frankly the notion of culture we want to showcase is a very broad one. Obviously it contains the great Italian heritage of culture and art: you know, music, painting, and sculptures, and opera. And that’s great, it’s a great historic heritage; but also, in addition to that, we want to showcase the Italy of today, the Italy of tomorrow… so technology, design, and all of that- research and science. So, as you would see, there are many, many events devoted specifically to this area of the innovation and creativity that Italy brings.

Conconi: I mean, it’s always appreciated that Italy- with music, with art, with antiquity, with cuisine- is a special country, but what about the industrial power? I mean, that’s something in past times Italian ambassadors I’ve talked to have been frustrated with, saying we don’t realize how important Italy is industrially.

Ambassador Bisogniero: I think you are right and they are right. As a matter of fact- Italy is part of the G8, so it’s part of the main industrial countries of the world. We have a very solid and very technologically state-of-the-art industrial base in our country. Let me give you an example, for instance: We have a very solid trade relationship with the US. We have growing trade both ways; we happen to have a surplus, which is good, but that’s not the point. The point is that, of course we export Italian food and wine and fashion, but also a great share of those exports are industrial products, industrial machinery, aerospace components. Let me give you another example: The Boeing 787, the new aircraft by Boeing- well nearly 20% of that is manufactured in Italy in, by Alenia in the south of Italy, and is shipped all the way to Everett in Washington State and they put it together. So, as you can see, the image that through the Year of Italian Culture we want to promote also wants to address this particular component.

Conconi: We all know what Americans like in the Italian culture, so how—what is the relationship that you see? What are Americans getting out of this?

Ambassador Bisogniero: Well, let me tell you, the response is incredible. We are really receiving an incredible positive response from the general public; the number of people who attend these exhibitions is spectacular. You will recall we inaugurated here in Washington, D.C., the opening event of the whole year, which was in December, at the National Gallery; we brought a Michelangelo statue of all things. That event was an immensely popular event with huge crowds attending, and the same applied to Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston, and Miami and so on and so forth. So the response from the general public has been great, but equally important has been the response from the level of the institutions here: President Obama, Vice President Biden have both been very supportive of the Year of Italian Culture- and the same applies to Secretary Clinton then, and today Secretary Kerry, and so many—even governors and mayors have been very much supportive. I think at the end of the day, Italy brings with itself a great image of what it represents in terms of culture and heritage, and this is what we want to build upon also for the economic and industrial repercussions and trade repercussions it can have.

Conconi: So, one final question- so what you see, then, is that your relationship with America has always been good; does this improve it? Or, why did you think it was necessary to do this?

Ambassador Bisogniero: Well, once again, let me tell you, it wasn’t done in relationship to a specific date or a specific objective. I think I described what the general principle of the operation was. 2013–it happens to be the 200th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi, it happens to be the 500th anniversary of the publishing of The Prince by Machiavelli, a book which is very popular in this particular city. It happens to be the 700th anniversary of Boccaccio, and I could go on and on, but I guess with Italian art and culture, any year would bring about those kinds of anniversaries. As a matter of fact, I remember, I think it was Secretary Clinton who, when asked about 2013: The Year of Italian Culture in the United States, she answered “2013? Well, I thought that every year was the year of Italian culture.” And frankly, I think she has a good point. So, we are very much committed to this, we are organizing events, as I said, in the area of exhibitions, from Michelangelo here to Caravaggio or Giotto in L.A.; contemporary artists like [Giorgio] De Chirico here at the Phillips Collection; music and opera, opera frankly all over the US, but I was in Chicago last week when Riccardo Muti was conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for a beautiful Verdi concert; we had [pianist] Maurizio Pollini here at Strathmore a couple of months ago, and then [playwright] Eduardo de Filippo plays in Chicago.

And going back for a moment to the advanced technology- nanotechnology events we have organized: surgery done by robots because Italy is at the forefront of robotic surgery. Space exploration: A few months ago, we celebrated at the embassy the 50th anniversary of the collaboration between NASA and Italy because, not many people know this, once again, Italy has a very strong space collaboration with the US, more than other European countries, and a huge component of the International Space Station, which is orbiting as we speak, is manufactured by Alenia Spazio in northern Italy. Well, when we did that event at the embassy to celebrate the 50th anniversary, I had the beautiful logo of the Year of Italian Culture embroidered on a patch and I gave it to [Italian astronaut] Major Parmitano, who then was launched into space. So he’s now, as we speak, orbiting on the International Space Station, he’ll be staying there for 6 months. And, on his space suit, he has the patch of the logo of the Year of Italian Culture. So, as we speak, the logo of 2013: the Year of Italian Culture is orbiting in space.

Conconi: I think that I agree with Secretary Clinton that every year is an Italian year. Thank you so much, Ambassador, for being here.

Ambassador Bisogniero: With great pleasure.

Conconi: I’m Chuck Conconi. This has been Focus Washington.

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