Friday, 4 March 2011

6. GIAN BURRASCA

1.  Viva la pappa col pomodoro
2.  Casa mia
3.  Il serraglio
4.  Stasera sogno
5.  I tigrotti di Mompracem
6.  Le piccole stazioni
7.  Gian Burrasca

1.  Sei la mia mamma
2.  Tango della scuola
3.  Nostalgia di casa
4.  Le bugie e la verità
5.  Un amico
6.  I gatti di Roma
7.  Addio Giornalino

all songs written by Lina Wertmüller [words] and Nino Rota [music]
arrangements and orchestra direction by Luis Enriquez
citar in ‘Viva la pappa col pomodoro’ played by Anton Karas.


‘Il giornalino di Gian Burrasca’ (The diary of Johnny Tempest) is the title of a mini-series in eight instalments broadcast every Saturday [9 to 10 PM] by the Italian national TV from 19 December 1964 to 6 February 1965. One should bear in mind that Italy – as most European nations then –  had only two TV channels run by the State.  The series had re-runs in 1973 and 1982.

The mini-series was adapted by Lina Wertmüller and Luigi Bertelli from a book written by Vamba published in 1907.  Music written by Nino Rota, with lyrics by Wertmüller who also directed it. Luis Enriquez orchestrated all the songs and incidental music.  It was a major production that entered the Italian consciousness and stayed there for decades.  Since the first broadcast it became immediately the talk of the nation.  The theme-song ‘Viva la pappa col pomodoro’ was released as a single in December 1964, and ‘Gian Burrasca’ which one could label as a ‘concept album’, was released in early 1965.

VIVA LA PAPPA COL POMODORO’ –  Long live the sop with tomatoes – The ultimate Italian tarantella written masterfully by Nino Rota who knew the Italian musical soul to its core.  Anton Karas, the Greek citar genius of ‘The Third Man’ fame was brought in to lend a hand playing the introduction and interlude of this ditty that is a Bolshevik-inspired list of demands against the tyrannical school Establishment in which Gianni was an inmate. It starts ironically praising the sop [pap] that is served the inmates as dinner: a pap with tomatoes!  It goes on saying that starvation breeds resentment and violence: ‘The story of the past says that a starving people will make revolution’. And concludes:  ‘The gut that growls is the cause of the plot and the fight, down with the Principal.  We have battled against the cut of the sop [pap] therefore, ‘Good appetite’ let’s have our dinner!’  It’s obviously a tongue-in-cheek song as the whole ouvre by Mr. Vamba.  What a winner the whole enterprise turned out to be. That was a milestone in Italian TV and music.  Rita could do no wrong.  Lina Wertmüller was on her way to the top. Luis Enriquez showing what a wonderful arranger he was... and Nino Rota had already proved he had genius.

CASA MIAMy house – A cute little waltz extolling the virtues of one’s house. ‘Casa mia per piccina che tu sia, tu me sembri una badia, mia, mia’.  Dearest house, no matter how small you may be, you seem as if you were an abbey to me. Another descriptive song about his lovely house with its nooks and recesses. It sends all of us back to a place in time when grandpa and grandma were still vigorous and gay.

IL SERRAGLIO –  Menagerie – An ‘adventure song’ like many others in the series. Gianni gathers his play mates at the back yard and start drawing animals for a make-believe zoo.  A red poodle called Bianchino will become a big lion; a lamb will be transformed into a tiger. Rita proves to be more than a simple singer;  her rendition of these uptempo songs are wonderous. Only a truly actress-songstres could do it.  A descreptive song like this is highly sofisticated with unusual vocabulary and a very demanding timing.  Apart from having an extraordinary singing voice Pavone has also got a marvelous talking cadence that is in perfect pitch for a major work like these up-tempo songs.

STASERA SOGNOI dream tonight – As usual, Gianni is dreaming about food.  In this beautiful slow waltz he lists the food he’s dying to eat: stufatino con le patate (potato casserole), ‘salsicce arrostite’ (grilled sausage), fagiole con purè [(eans and mashed  potatoes); braciole coi brocolleti (cutlet with Brussel sprout);  or even spaghetti with tomato sauce.  Then Gianni sighs and asks himself: ‘Who wrote that old adage:  You either eat your soup or out the window you go!?  Violence was always around the corner but Giannino goes on dreaming about food:  ‘pollo arrosto con patatine’ (roasted chicken with spuds), ‘lenticchie con zampone’ (lentils with ham) and ‘cozze “al gratin” (sirloin ‘al gratin’).

I TIGROTTI DI MOMPRACEM–  The little tigers of Mompracem –  Another ‘adventure song'. This time is about Salgari’s characters. A very popular Italian writer at the turn of the century [1900] who wrote especially for the young set. Sandokan was his main hero who had his adventures in Malaysa and India.

LE PICCOLE STAZIONI The tiny stations – Cleverly arranged voices make the illusion of the choo-choo of a train that is going slowly by the tiniest of stations along the way.  The whole album is descriptive but this particular track is almost like reading a novel.  Its quaint depiction of a small station from its little garden to the clock and the waiting-room is superb.  A little girl  sitting under a tree waves Gianni good-bye;

GIAN BURRASCA’ – Johnny Hurricane –  This is Johnny’s visiting-card song.  He presents himself to the audience saying mainly what other people think of him:  ‘cataclism, cyclone, rascal, knave, some people even call me ‘Nero’ [the Roman emperor who set Rome on fire]. He protests against these charges saying he’s only trying to ge the best education he possibly can but only ends up on the wrong side.

SEI LA MIA MAMMAYou're my mum - Slow ballad about how much Giannino loved his mother.  It was chosen as the B-side of ‘Viva la pappa’. Rita recorded it in English in the US and it was released on the B-side of ‘Eyes of mine’.  No doubt, it’s a nice tune, but I think a little over-hyped. I think it’s a little too long for radio play and should have remained as an album track only.

TANGO DELLA SCUOLA –  The school’s tango – Only Nino Rota could devise such a powerful tango in which Giannino lists all the complaints against the tyranny of the school system and how hard one has to go through tests and exams everyday.  Wertmüller lyrics based on the book are sensational.  One can feel the suffering imposed on the poor students.

NOSTALGIA DI CASA–  Missing home – That’s another Rota masterpiece.  Yearning and wistful.  If there is a musical trilogy here I would say they are: ‘Nostalgia di casa’, ‘Un amico’ and ‘Addio giornalino’.  They all are longing tinged with melancholy with wonderful melodies.

LE BUGIE E LA VERITÀLies and the truth – Probably the longest lyrics in the album, has Gianni telling instances of how grown-ups can be deceitful and hypocrites when it comes to telling the truth. Little white lies like: ‘mother asks me to tell the visitor she’s not at home and when I say she actually is home she gets mad at me and’. Father tells that Mrs. Vera is a plain woman.  Gianni contradicts his father saying that only yesterday he’d said: ‘What shape! What beauty!’ Jesus, I can’t underestand that lies are only sins for the young set but not to adults.

UN AMICOA friend - The best thing I can say about this beautiful paean is that it reminds me of my dearest friend Silvia Paula Jentsch who used to be one of the liveliest members of Rita Pavone Fan Club in São Paulo-Brazil.  She had seen Pavone on the stage in 1964 and was a bit of a role-model among our peers.  She also had some privately imported vynil records from Argentina, Germany and Italy that no one else owned.  I remember when she received the ‘Gian Burrascaalbum as a present from a pen-pal in Italy.  After listening to the album a few times she said she’d chosen ‘Un amico’ as a dedication to me!  I was so happy and flattered by her act that I can still remember that day in far-away 1966.  ‘Un amico’ is so beautiful and true that it hurts. ‘A friend, a true friend whom I’ll give my hand and is so sincere is a real treasure.  A friend, a true friend I have found, I have found him when I met you!’  It still brings tears to my eyes. Especially now that Silvia has passed away. She died of cancer on 13 August 2010, but she’s still very much alive inside me!

I GATTI DI ROMA – Rome's cats - Amusing and witty little ditty about the presence of cats everywhere Gianni goes in Rome.  He says:  I have come to visit Rome, this celebrated and very old city.  But I have noticed cats of every shape and form here and there. He describes cats on top of Marco Aurelio’s head, on Saint Peter’s dome, in the Colosseum, at Piazza Panteon, at Constantin’s arch and even on top of Garibaldi’s head.

ADDIO GIORNALINO– Adieu Diary - Then comes a time to say good-bye.  Such a beautiful and heart-rendering song.  A little masterpiece. Short and pithy!  The album closes and one keeps longing for more.  What an album.  What a masterpiece.  As I said before this is a ‘concept album' before the word was invented to classify ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band’ in the summer of 1967.  The team effort put up by Nino Rota, Lina Wertmüller, Luis Enriques and Rita Pavone was made in heaven and was victorious.  Where Rita would turn to next?  What would be her next career step?  When you realize something as good as that it becomes very difficult to top it.  But she was young and willing to take any road and reach for the stars.







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