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New York City Opera offers Italian classics

Posted on: 3/26/2010 9:48:34 AM under General 

This season, New York City Opera is performing two exciting Italian operas: Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Handel's Partenope.

Madama Butterfly, left. Partenope, right. Photos courtesy of New York City Opera.

You might not immediately associate these works with Italian culture due to their subject matter (Madama Butterfly is set in Nagasaki, Japan and portrays a geisha whose love for an American naval officer ends tragically) or author (Partenope was written by German-born George Frideric Handel), respectively. But both include Italian librettos (text used in a musical work); additionally Madama Butterfly premiered at the famed Teatro alla Scala opera house in Milan, while Partenope features a cast of characters that includes the Queen of Naples.

New York City Opera's take on Madama Butterfly, which opened last week, is receiving rave reviews. Catch performances through Sunday, April 18, 2010. Tickets start at $12.

Meanwhile, the upcoming run of Handel's Baroque classic Partenope receives a modern spin for its gender-bending tales of royal passions and intrigue. Performances run from April 3-17; tickets start at $12 as well.

Founded in 1943, New York City Opera has been celebrated for its risk-taking style and edgy productions. It shares a facility with New York City Ballet at Manhattan's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Take a peek behind the scenes with this YouTube clip:

Have you been to any of their performances of Madama Butterfly? If so, tell us what you thought!


NIAF launches $500,000 AP Italian challenge grant

Posted on: 3/25/2010 9:31:52 PM under General 
Today NIAF is proud to announce that we will support the AP Italian program for high school students around the country with a $500,000 matching grant. 

Why, you may ask? A quick refresher: In 2005, the College Board began offering AP Italian but announced three years later that it would cancel the program after the 2008-2009 academic year, citing lack of interest, unless $3 million became available to support it. Despite extensive work within the Italian American community, the AP Italian program ended in 2009.

Today, some high schools continue to teach the Italian language, even at the AP level, but AP Italian exams are no longer offered. As a result, students of Italian can't obtain college credit for their work, prompting them to instead study one of the other languages for which the exam is offered. (French, Spanish, German, etc.)

NIAF isn't alone. Italian Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata secured a commitment from the Italian government for $1.5 million over a three-year period toward the program. Both the Embassy of Italy and NIAF are part of a coalition organized by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations to launch a nationwide campaign geared toward raising the remaining funds necessary.

To find out how you can help, contact NIAF's Director of Education and Culture Serena Cantoni at 202-939-3111 or serena@niaf.org. We can make a difference and bring the Italian language to more classrooms around the country!


Save room for dessert!

Posted on: 3/25/2010 3:42:09 PM under General 

Just in time for the Easter holiday, Dolce Italia has launched the first official Italian Web site in the U.S. dedicated to authentic Italian sweets and dessert wines, www.dolceitalia.com.

The Web site is the latest effort of the Italian Confectioners Association, with the collaboration of Buonitalia SpA, to bring Italy's confectionary and chocolate-making traditions to American consumers.

On Dolce Italia's Web site for Easter, you'll find recipes for Colomba Cake, Chocolate Truffles with a Hint of Violet, a decadent Baci Pie and more. You can also subscribe to their "Sweets Newsletter"  to stay up-to-date on tastings and special events in your area.

Which recipe will you be trying first?


NIAF grant recipient wins book prize

Posted on: 3/25/2010 9:23:25 AM under General 

Congratulations to Dr. Mark Choate, author of "Emigrant Nation: The Making of Italy Abroad," a book he completed with the help of a NIAF grant that recently won the Council on European Studies Book Award for 2009-2010.


In the book, Choate examines how Italy responded to mass emigration in the 19th and 20th centuries, making the case that officials tried to turn a negative (mass emigration of its young men) into a positive (colonization). A $7,500 grant from NIAF helped Choate and his publisher, Harvard University Press -- a nonprofit -- assemble the book with a color cover and pay for additional costs.

"Italy wanted to...try to see this as expanded Italy rather than just a dead loss -- these people leaving and never coming back," Choate said during an interview about the book last summer.

Last summer's issue of Ambassador magazine, Vol. 20 No. 3, profiled Choate's book, offering more details about the 15 years of work that went into this book's making.



NIAF and the 2010 Census

Posted on: 3/24/2010 12:18:24 PM under General 

With 2010 Census forms hitting mailboxes across the country, NIAF wants you to be informed about why it's important to participate.

So, we've compiled a list of commonly asked questions and answers to help NIAF supporters better understand the census and our participation in it. Visit www.niaf.org/census2010 to learn more today!

An important note: This year's census does not have a "Race/Ancestry/Ethnicity" question, in part because the census is intended to provide a basic head count of U.S. residents and in part because the question was found to be confusing. Instead, the 2010 Census offers a "Race" question while an "Ancestry/Ethnicity" question now will appear in the American Community Survey (ACS), which is conducted annually EXCEPT for years in which the U.S. Census occurs.

What does this mean? It's vital to participate in this year's census and then proudly identify your Italian American heritage in next year's American Community Survey.  We can all stand proudly to be counted.

Do you have any other questions about the U.S. Census that we don't answer at www.niaf.org/census2010 ? Comment here and let us know!



Italian researcher discovers new method to fight cancer cells

Posted on: 3/24/2010 10:24:03 AM under General 

Italian Pier Paolo Pandolfi, a researcher at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center -- a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate -- has discovered a new method to combat cancer.

Photo courtesy of Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, PhD.

Rather than poisoning tumor cells with toxic substances that sometimes have collateral effects, he successfully interrupted their continued replication by making them age and die. He accomplished this, effectively activating the cellular aging process, by shutting down a specific gene.

The discovery, published in the journal Nature, could also bring about the development of a universally effective drug against many if not all tumors. His work has already led to breakthroughs in understanding the genetics behind leukemias, lymphomas and solid tumors.


NIAF hosts visiting Italian students in New York

Posted on: 3/24/2010 9:56:20 AM under General 

This week 10 high school students from one of Italy's most prestigious academic institutions returned home from a visit to New York as part of a cultural exchange sponsored by NIAF and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As part of the program, called "Italians in the World -- Leadership and Identity," these gifted teens from Convitto Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele II di Roma spent the week from March 16-22 attending morning classes at Scuola d'Italia Guglielmo Marconi -- a school founded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Italians living in New York City. They also toured New York, attended workshops about identity, met with the Italian Consul General and representatives of New York's Jewish community and attended a briefing at the U.N.

NIAF organized two workshops as part of the program: "Italianita' Today and Its Success," in which the students met New Yorkers of Italian American heritage, and an identity workshop that encouraged students to compare how they view themselves and their culture to the perceptions of Italian Americans and Italians living in New York.

What do you think some of the different perceptions are of American and Italian cultures? Any thoughts on how that affects Italian American identity?


San Diego Italian Film Festival offers cinema classics

Posted on: 3/23/2010 1:15:38 PM under General 

If you're on the West Coast this week, you may enjoy the latest offerings from the San Diego Italian Film Festival (Motto: "Not just Italian films -- an Italian perspective").

On Thursday, March 25, 2010 and Wednesday, March 31 the festival will showcase the 1961 film "Il Posto" by Ermanno Olmi, which will be shown in Italian with English subtitles. 

"Il Posto" by Ermanno Olmi. Photo courtesy of San Diego Italian Film Festival.

Its title refers to the Italian concept of "posto fisso" or secure "job for life"; accordingly, the film follows young protagonist Domenico as he travels to the city to vie for a limited number of jobs  -- a topic sure to resonate in this economy.

The film will be shown at on March 25 at 7:30 p.m. at UltraStar Cinemas Flower Hill, 2630 Via De La Valle in Del Mar, California. Admission is $7.50.  On March 31, the curtain will rise at 7 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts at 1649 El Prado in San Diego. For that showing, a suggested donation of $5 is requested.

Can't make these screenings? Then watch for the San Diego Italian Film Festival's Anti-Mafia Film Series in June, which will highlight films testifying to the long struggle against organized crime.


New York Times highlights Tuscan travel

Posted on: 3/23/2010 1:01:34 PM under General 

Italophiles will enjoy a recent New York Times article and accompanying slideshow on "Visiting Tuscany Without the Crowds."

An added bonus? The article is linked to a Tuscany and Umbria Travel Guide, with articles on topics including hotels in Florence for under $150, Florence's Oltarno district and rustic farm rentals.


Join NIAF in Baltimore next week

Posted on: 3/22/2010 10:23:19 AM under General 

Join us at a special NIAF Council Reception next Monday, March 29, 2010, from 6-8 p.m. at Baltimore's Geppi Entertainment Museum in the Camden Station building at Camden Yards.

A display at the Geppi Entertainment Museum.

This event is a great way to network with NIAF Council members, Italian American business and community leaders and other notables from the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas.

The Geppi Entertainment Museum presents a unique look at popular culture, allowing guests to walk through a timeline that parallels recent history and advances in media while highlighting the newspaper, magazine, comic book, radio and television characters that helped define those times.

To attend, contact Rachel Salerno at 202-387-0600 or rsalerno@niaf.org.


Italian town marks WWII battle and Nazi roundup

Posted on: 3/19/2010 3:09:41 PM under General 

Today the Italian town of Cisterna di Latina observed the anniversary of a World War II battle that ended with the deaths of 250-300 U.S. Army Rangers and the Nazi roundup of surviving townspeople, according to an article by the Associated Press.

As part of the commemoration, schoolchildren visited the underground grottoes where their grandparents took shelter during bombings before being rounded up by German forces on March 19, 1944 and forced to march north. Many townspeople soon found themselves in labor camps or farms.

Only eight U.S Army Rangers survived the Cisterna battle, which was fought to liberate the town from Nazis. Today, the Italian town also honors their legacy with a street named Via dei Rangers and a school named after Rangers commander William O. Darby. Additionally, the town is paired in a sister cities relationship with Darby's hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas, according to the article.


In play, Turturro takes on Italian folk tales

Posted on: 3/19/2010 2:26:07 PM under General 

A recent New York times article highlighted Italian American actor John Turturro, who has been in Italy performing in a play that he adapted from a renowned collection of Italian fables.


Actor John Turturro at NIAF's 1994 Anniversary Gala.

Called "Fiabe italiane," or "Italian Folk Tales," the play features Turturro in a lead role of an unscrupulous innkeeper. The veteran of stage and screen also directed the play, which just completed a sold-out tour of Naples, Milan and Turin.

According to the March 2 New York Times article, the production's dialogue is delivered in English, Italian, Western Lombardian, Sicilian, Neopolitan, Piedmontese and Abruzzese. It draws on a collection of 200 fables published by Italo Calvino in 1956.

According to the article, Turturro is interested in bringing his "Italian Folk Tales" to the United States, so keep your eyes peeled!

Are you familiar with Calvino's folk tales?



Congressional reception welcomes Italian Ambassador

Posted on: 3/19/2010 12:48:23 PM under General 

This week, NIAF and the Italian American Congressional Delegation (IACD) hosted a special reception at the U.S. Capitol welcoming Hon. Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, Italy's new Ambassador to the United States. The event was held under the auspices of the NIAF Frank J. Guarini Public Policy Forum.

U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, Italian Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata and

 NIAF President Joseph V. Del Raso, Esq.

Ambassador Terzi di Sant'Agata addressed the crowd, describing Italy as a privileged partner of the U.S. and how Italian Americans are a fundamental part of U.S. culture, economy and political life. He singled out the work of Fiorello La Guardia, Mario Cuomo, Geraldine Ferraro, Rudy Giuliani and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.  He also outlined how our economies are linked by close interdependence, noting that many Italian companies have successfully settled in the U.S.

The Ambassador advocated for increased teaching of the Italian language, noting that it will be a vital component of our legacy.


Italian game blends tourism, treasure hunt

Posted on: 3/18/2010 10:44:32 AM under General 

In case you missed this New York Times blog post, Italian touring game Whaiwhai is combining tourism and treasure hunt for a fresh alternative to the traditional walking tour.

The game seemingly channels "The Da Vinci Code," weaving fictional stories about searches for lost artifacts with common sight-seeing attractions in Italian cities. Four "guides" are currently available:  Florence, Rome, Venice and Verona.

Whaiwhai, which means "to search for" in Maori, was manufactured by Italian game developer Log607;  SelectItaly.com is now offering the game in both English and Italian for $33.75. A  $75.95 kit provides a game book, city map and an Italian SIM card - all necessary for the interactive game, which sends codes via SMS to a number in your game book. 

So, what do you think? Is this something you would try?



NIAF welcomes new board members

Posted on: 3/18/2010 10:15:47 AM under General 

Please join us in welcoming three new members to NIAF's Board of Directors, elected during last week's March 12, 2010 board meeting at the Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa in Arizona: Linda R. Carlozzi, Esq., Gerard LaRocca and Giacamo Marini (below, respectively).


Carlozzi is a partner at the New York City office of Jackson Lewis LLP. LaRocca is CEO of Barclays Capital Inc. and the New York branch manager of Barclays Bank PLC. Marini is founder and managing director of Noventi Ventures.

We look forward to their involvement with NIAF!



Did you know? St. Patrick was Roman

Posted on: 3/17/2010 10:13:10 AM under General 

Today millions across the United States will celebrate St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, on the day he is thought to have died. March 17 is a natonial holiday for the Irish and a day of pride for Americans of Irish descent. But Saint Patrick was not Irish and his name was not Patrick.

Born during the late fourth century to a noble family in Britain, then a province of the dying Roman Empire, Patricius is thought to have been kidnapped as a teen and taken to Ireland. According to historic accounts, he served as a slave for six years before escaping and returning to his family in Britain.

But, after having several visions that he believed were inspired by God, Patricius decided to return to Ireland and guide its pagan citizens to Christianity as a missionary. Two letters written in Latin by him survive to this day, although the date and location of his death remain a mystery.


NIAF board member Pace helps veterans find work in finance

Posted on: 3/16/2010 1:55:32 PM under General 

Retired Marine General Peter Pace -- a NIAF Board Member and a proud Italian American -- is also devoting his time to Wall Street Warfighters, an organization that helps injured veterans find new careers in financial services.

Marine General Peter Pace at a NIAF gala.

As head of the Wall Street Warfighters board, Pace, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is spreading the word about this organization.

With its above average wages and minimum physical requirements, the finance industry offers an important new start for injured veterans, Pace says. Wall Street Warfighters' six-month program provides training and certification to help this process, including short-term and formal internships. Companies including Drexel Hamilton and Goldman Sachs have signed on.

Watch the below March 12, 2010 clip to see Pace discuss Wall Street Warfighters on Fox News.


Rare antiquities from Italy on display at the Met

Posted on: 3/16/2010 9:24:37 AM under General 

Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art can now view a rare, recently excavated silver dining set from the Roman region of Pompeii in addition to an equally rare Greek drinking cup exported to Rome during ancient times as part of an ongoing exchange between the museum and the Republic of Italy.

The Moregine Treasure. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The silver dining set, which is known as the Moregine Treasure and dates to the first century A.D., is particularly rare - only three such sets are known to exist in the world. Buried during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, the 20-piece set was only unearthed in 2000 at Moregine, in the outskirts of Pompei. But the set's story is possibly more interesting than the beautiful vessels themselves: all 20 pieces had been placed in a wicker basket and hidden in the basement of an unfinished public bath house during the volancanic eruption in Pompeii, presumably by an owner who died during the disaster.

The terracotta drinking cup, known as a kylix, is one of the most famous surviving works from the ancient republic of Sparta. It dates to between 575 and 560 B.C.

Both the dining set and cup will be on display in the museum's Galleries for Greek and Roman Art for the next four years. To learn more, click here.


First Lady praises "corragio"

Posted on: 3/15/2010 12:12:08 PM under General 

While speaking at the International Women of Courage Awards on March 10, 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama paid tribute to 10 brave women from around the world. But in summing up the purpose of the awards themselves, it was the tale of one Italian woman during World War II -- and the Italian word for "courage" -- that she evoked during her remarks.

Michelle Obama: "That is the purpose of these Women of Courage awards. We know the
difference this kind of recognition and encouragement can make. It really matters.

I'm thinking of a story that I heard, of Ginetta Sagan, a human rights activist who was first imprisoned during World War II for helping Jews in Italy escape from the Nazis. And during her time in jail, she was brutally beaten, raped and tortured with electric shocks. And then one day, one of the guards threw a loaf of bread into her cell. And inside that loaf was a matchbox. And on that matchbox was written the word -- one word in Italian -- 'corragio' -- and it was courage. Ginetta spent the rest of her life working to free prisoners of conscience. And every time she came across prisoners who had started to lose hope because they feared that no one knew of their plight, she thought of that moment in that cell.

And so today, we say to you women, our sisters, we say 'corragio' -- courage. (Applause.) America stands with you. We are so incredibly proud of you and your contributions. And know that we are praying for you and we are thinking about you every day. And we have young women here who are going to follow in your footsteps. Right, ladies? (Applause.)"


Bertolli presents Cortese, DiSpirito and Tomei in Web series

Posted on: 3/15/2010 11:30:16 AM under Personal 

Hungry for an Italian culinary experience from your desk at work? Then check out Bertolli's latest Web series, "Into the Heart of Italy," featuring chef Rocco DiSpirito, Academy Award-winning actress Marisa Tomei and actor Dan Cortese as they explore Italy's varied regions and cuisines.

The three begin their adventure in the City of Lucca, where they explore the region's cheeses, and discover the inspiration for Bertolli dishes. Each episode highlights a specific dish, like Chicken Florentine and Farfalle -- and, more importantly, an opportunity to win a culinary vacation to Italy through the related "Bertolli's Into the Heart of Italy Sweepstakes."

In each of the series' six episodes, Cortese, DiSpirito and Tomei learn the techniques behind Italian cuisine from chefs and other culinary artisans. After watching an episode, visit Bertolli's contest Web site to answer one related question. Your correct answer will provide one contest entry.

Look for a new video every week. Bertolli's Into the Heart of Italy Sweepstakes ends on June 14, 2010. Participants can enter the contest six times.


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