Jun 12 2019. view 111
The Italian Embassy, in tribute to the longstanding friendship between Sri Lanka and Italy, organized a benefit concert, bringing the best of Italian musicians to Sri Lanka. Internationally acclaimed conductor Maestro Jacopo Sipari di Pescasseroli, accompanied by renowned Italian musicians and soloists, impressed the audience with their performance of the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi at the Archbishop’s House Auditorium last evening.
“Since we had to forgo our plans for the Italian National Day Celebrations this year, we wished to organize something symbolic. We wanted to bring here a significant piece of our culture –by bringing an orchestra with 19 members. We wanted to help send the message to our fellow people and to give visibility to the fact that the situation here is normalizing,” Ambassador of Italy Her Excellency Rita Giuliana Mannella said.
The Ambassador said that as the relationship between the two countries have remained strong for decades, running back into the times of ancient kingdoms, the need to host such an event was very clear. Asked why a concert was chosen, Ambassador Mannella said that like Sri Lanka, one of the cradles of civilization, Italians are very proud of our origins. “We strongly believe that culture, and music, as one of its expressions, can put different people together, be a bridge between different countries. Through culture, the world can be a better place.”
Beloved for its cultural heritage, Italy is also especially known for its capacity to mix ancient traditions with modern innovations. “Our culture is so embedded in our way of living that it has influenced also the way of producing objects. One can look to our Design. One famous architect, Luigi Caccia Dominioni, once said referring to Italians: "We have more imagination, more culture, and are better mediators between the past and the future", and I am sure of it. The real secret of the Italian way of living is the capacity to interpret the present through our past,” the Ambassador said.
Ambassador Mannella explained that this identity of Italy is valid in many fields. “Take food for instance. Our best products have their roots in the past. Take pasta, the way we produce it; it was born during the Roman Empire, just to provide a solution to make it last for a long time when the Roman soldiers were engaged in the long travels across the world. And salami and Ham? They were also invented in Roman times, as this method of preserving allowed for greater longevity,” she added.
Reaching out in our time of need
The Italian Embassy also took this opportunity to assist the Sri Lankan tourism sector, having relaxed the travel advisory on the 29th of May. “We were one of the first countries to lower the travel advisory. We hope – for the good of Sri Lanka – that it is able to see a return of tourists, possibly more than before, to come and enjoy this country of great beauty, rich of water and fruits, described by an old Italian, Giovanni dei Marignolli, a Franciscan father who visited Ceylon in 1347, as close proximity to paradise,” Ambassador Mannella affirmed.
She also requested local tour operators to encourage more Italian tourism in Sri Lanka owing to the special and unique nature of the country’s tourists. “Italians tend to use a trip not just as a vacation but also as a life experience. They just don't enjoy the sun and the beaches. They like to experience the country to know better about the culture, to experience the food, to do a lot of shopping. It's very good tourism. Italian tourists in Sri Lanka have tripled in the last decade and amounted to around 40,000 in 2018” the Ambassador opined. She added that offering more Italian restaurants would be a great way to add value to this segment of tourists. “Keep the Italian tourists happy. So pay more attention to their needs. Italian tourists love to eat Italian, and love to eat well,” she said.
The Concert also provided the opportunity to fundraise for the families of the victims of the Easter attacks, while the funds will be dedicated to helping the reconstruction of the churches as well. Meanwhile one of the largest Italian investors in Sri Lanka has agreed to finance the stained glass windows, from a world-renown artisan in Verona. The windows will be donated and installed at the St. Anthony’s Shrine, which came under attack. “The windows will be crafted by a renowned art workshop, with decades of experience and excellence in this field, to create some unique masterpieces for the windows of the Church of St. Anthony. We are looking to work with this premier workshop, that has created pieces of art for the likes of the Cathedral of Bari or the Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls in Rome,” the Ambassador detailed.
In a final note, the Ambassador expressed confidence in Sri Lanka and its people in overcoming challenges. "Our centuries-old friendship and diplomatic ties make Italy erudite in its knowledge of Sri Lankan resilience, overcoming a great many challenges that range from the civil war to the tragic Tsunami of 2004. I am confident that Sri Lankans will be able to unite in this difficult time and to return stronger than before. Italy is strongly committed to standing alongside Sri Lanka as a preferred partner and looks forward to expanding the range of cooperation.
Text By: Kalani Kumarasinghe
Pix by: Kithsiri De Mel