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> > Riccardo Muti was conducting Nabucco at the Opera di Roma, until -to his delight- he was forced to interrupt the performance by pressure from the crowd. As part of the massive celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy in 2011, the Opera was packed to the rafters to see Giuseppe Verdi's famous work. A political opera, it deals with the enslavement of Jews in Babylon. Its famous "Va Pensiero" chorus is the song of oppressed slaves, and symbolises the fight for freedom for many Italians, who struggled under the Habsburg empire in the 1860s and has become Italy's unofficial anthem. Rome's mayor, Gianni Alemanno, took the stage before the start and spoke passionately against the budget cuts to the arts and culture the central government had done, in essence railing against his own party and political allegiances, and setting the tone for a very special evening. The intensity was palpable and the audience was rapt. When the Va Pensiero chorus came, "O my country, so lovely and so lost", the cries of "Encore!" and "Viva Italia!" began to sound. By the time it finished, the roar of the crowd was immense. > > > > Muti had allowed an Encore only once in his career, at La Scala in 1986, and he was not likely to do it again unless the occasion really deserved it, but the crowd had touched him deeply. He turned around and spoke: "Yes, I agree, long live Italy, but…I'm not 30 anymore, I've lived my life and travelled the world, and it pains me to see what is happening to our country. So, I will accede to your request for an Encore, not only for the patriotism I feel, but because as the chorus was singing, I thought that if we allow this murdering of the culture on which our history was built, then it truly will be "lovely and lost"…..Let us now give this chorus a special meaning. We are home, at the theatre of Rome, let us all join together and sing." And so they did. > >
I read about this somewhere – probably the Economist – and thought “holy shit, I wish I’d seen that, that sounds like it was really something.”
Now I’ve seen it and, holy shit, it’s really something.