The calm run of the evening ebbed and flowed, one might say, like a versified sentence.
Standing between a lectern and an antique, gold-framed mirror—itself hung betwixt two of the room’s many Corinthian-topped, gilded mural pilasters—actor Fausto Lombardi imbued the full sequence of Italian texts with particularly buttery, mezzo-baritonal gravity. The English versions, meanwhile—less oleic, naturally, though exquisitely rendered and presented nonetheless—were read by two of Montale’s most noted translators, Jonathan Galassi and Charles Wright, and by Rosanna Warren, editor of William Arrowsmith’s Montale translations. The alternating vocal registers and reading styles lent themselves well to Montale’s at times oscillatory poetic modes.
Few extraneous comments were made. Each reader presented a different version of “L’Anguilla” (“The Eel”), among other texts. The pacing was slow, fluid, deliberate. The listeners, composed, transfixed. A girl taking photos at stage right was almost the room’s lone source of meta-lecternal motion. Another source, however, just above us all, was the middle of those three ornate chandeliers. Something had somehow, so subtly, set it ever so slightly asway. The gentle stir of metered words, perhaps.
Then wine and fine comestibles in an adjacent room that featured, in its center, a replica of Rome’s mythic Lupa, the She-Wolf, whose teats—typically tug-tended to by plump infants named Romulus and Remus—instead hovered fixedly above a lavish spread of treats. A curious placement, to be sure, though perhaps logical as well, for the evening’s readings and reception might well be summed up as the tits.
As a result, Amato offered no prescriptions for how Italy might overcome her current woes. This was certainly intentional, for the evening might have otherwise transitioned quite quickly from commemorative to caustic—moreover, Amato’s lecture was essentially under the aegis of the Italian Consulate, whose representatives might not have been awfully keen on the idea of hosting dissenting opinions, as evidenced by the introductory remark that no questions or discussion would be permitted after the talk—but such lacunae were curious, at the very least, and rather unfortunate. Currently a professor of constitutional law in both Italy and the US, and known as an extremely keen and erudite expert on political matters various and sundry—Gardner introduced him as “the most learned man I’ve ever known”—Amato, a stalwart center-leftist, must certainly have sharp opinions on the Italy of today. And for at least some of the evening’s attendees, his insights would have been very welcome.
Instead it was mostly the Italy of yesterday, like Tuesday’s lightly pendular chandelier, that held sway in the commemorative events held last week.
Patrimonies of poetry and culture beneath history’s She-Wolf teats. And B-word-elephants in stately rooms with double-bunga’d feet.
Tuttavia, don’t forget to wish Italy a happy 150th on March 17th. Auguri!