Forgive me if I use another Italian title, but I am trying to learn a little of this beautiful language. The theme today is very much Italian with different threads to it so I must try to weave something from the thoughts stirred by my scarf.
I sometimes read my blog to partially sighted friends or those without access to internet so first I must give you a description of today’s scarf. It is silk, quite well worn, in beautiful singing yellow, with bitter chocolate borders edged in cream, reminding me of a delicious cup of Italian coffee, hems hand sewn of course. It is decorated with six clowns, the Italian translation of which is pagliacci. In two corners is the word CINZANO. So there you have the first Italian connection.
Maybe, the CINZANO drink is not so popular today but it has an interesting history. It was created more than two hundred and fifty years ago in a Turin herbal shop by two Cinzano brothers as a vermouth rosso with thirty-five ingredients including herbs from the Italian Alps. This was followed by a vermouth bianco using a different selection of herbs. By the early twentieth century, the company had expanded internationally and in 1913 Cinzano was the first product to be advertised by a neon sign on the roof of their Paris office building. Very avant garde! Cinzano posters and memorabilia were very collectable from these early days and later I remember amusing TV commercials in the 80’s, starring the glamorous Joan Collins having her Cinzano Bianco tipped over her by a clumsy Leonard Rossiter. Not long after this Cinzano ceased to be a family run company, was taken over by the Distillers Company, which became Diageo and finally they came under the umbrella of Gruppo Campari. It seems to have dropped now from favour. These funny adverts with Joan Collins are forgotten. LA COMEDIA E FINITO. You don’t need Italian to understand that.
If there are opera buffs reading my blog, they will recognise the significance of these words, as they are the last ones sung in Ruggero Leoncavalla’s opera PAGLIACCI after a very gruesome stabbing by the clown of his unfaithful wife and finally her lover. That’s the second Italian connection. The programme photo is of the first performance in Milan in 1892. I watched an old video last night of Placido Domingo in Zeffirelli’s film of the opera and his performance as the zealous husband was outstanding. It is great to indulge in these past performances on YouTube and the like during lockdown when I am not whizzing around the world on my magic carpet. The enforced isolation does have some advantages if one looks for them.
The disadvantage is I could not find a drop of Cinzano, white or red, on my shelves, nor its rival Campari which has overtaken it in popularity, to add to the enjoyment of my evening of culture. Must add Cinzano Bianco to my next online shopping list for old times’ sake, and I will try not to tip my drink over my jester scarf like poor Joan Collins......not sure if dry cleaners are open in this second shutdown. For the moment I will leave you with the thought of the farce being played out in the White House, knives out everywhere, but I will be diplomatic and not mention any pagliaccio by name!
La comedia e finito!
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!
Series 2, Blog 19.