The first G7 of Culture will be held in Florence on 30 and 31 March 2017.
Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States will participate in a meeting to discuss the protection of cultural heritage, how to combat the trafficking of artistic and historic items, and how to use culture as an instrument for dialogue.
The event will culminate with a concert conducted by Riccardo Muti with the Orchestra del Maggio Fiorentino.
We need a common cultural project, without resentment or jealousy. If culture was used as a way to augment the tourist numbers, then it could greatly benefit the economy. Italy would then have the record for tourists, yet this is not the case. Something’s wrong.
I think the idea of having Blue Helmets to protect culture in war zones is a good one. I also believe that in Italy we should open many of our closed theatres and give them to local groups who cultivate new talent. I think we should focus on making opera accessible to everyone and not just an élite. Showy theatrical events can kill culture.
In Italy, we must be worthy of our heritage. We are admired for what we were, not for what we are. Conducting in Chicago, I see many talented scholars who have abandoned Italy, and the same in the Conservatoires where top students head abroad.
In Europe we sense the advantages of a single currency, but a common feeling doesn’t exist. I see nationalism and rigidity. Europe has always been seen as the cradle of culture… but its history isn’t just made up of intellectuals and scientists but also of war and blood. This makes it more difficult to find common ground, which I hope will happen.
An attempt to overcome the various barriers that divide us resulted in a cultural vision, above all by Italian musicians living happily abroad: Paisiello and Cimarosa in St Petersburg, Spontini in Berlin, Salieri in Vienna, Cherubini in Paris, Mercadante in Madrid. Haydn named Porpora as being the one who had taught him the secrets of composing; the castrato Caffarelli acquired such power through his singing that he was able to influence politics in Spain. With my Ravenna Festival we managed to get Serbs and Croats together, and the same with the Armenians and Turks.
Every work of art is a free expression of the soul and goes beyond the political, even if it is abused by the powerful… just think of the Nazi’s banning the music of Mendelssohn and Mahler. I have always fought for the liberty of expression.
I feel fortunate to have been born in this country… Preparing for the future is a must, it’s just that we are forgetting the past. This makes European identity vulnerable: it’s in hibernation, confused, agitated. As they said in ancient Rome, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?… who will guard the guardians?
Riccardo Muti was talking to the Corriere della sera’s Valerio Cappelli.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.