(The transcript of the event was prepared by Riccardo Piroddi)
Antonio Migliozzi, Journalist
Good afternoon and welcome everyone. I am pleased to begin with telling you a story about what happened to me a few days ago. I received a very polite phone call from a person, who introduced themselves with name and surname. I didn’t know them. “Is this Antonio Migliozzi?” “Yes”, I replied. He thanked me for having joined an event that concerned him. I liked this phone call for its grace, education, subtlety and humility. The first name of the person who called me was (and is) Raffaele, his last name, Lauro. I liked this phone call very much, again, for its grace and humility. Although tonight we meet in person for the first time, he is a person that I know is difficult to find nowadays. With even more pleasure I take part in this great event. Tonight we present the last book of “The Sorrentine Trilogy” by Raffaele Lauro, the title of which is “Dance The Love - A Star in Vico Equense”. I read it greedily. It tells a story of a very courteous woman, a great artist of classical dance and ballet! Let’s come to the point, because I know there is a Naples game and some of us would like to watch at least the second half. I give the floor to Mayor Andrea Maccarelli to introduce the event.
Andrea Maccarelli, Mayor of Presenzano
Good evening, everyone! It is a pleasure to see you participate in large numbers in this cultural event of Presenzano. I would like to thank, first of all, our speakers, Giuseppe Bocchino, Professor Forgione, and our host Antonio Migliozzi for their availability. Antonio holds the task of a moderator for the first time, while the Professor and Giuseppe presented the previous work of our friend Raffaele. I also thank director Posabella, who as the president of the educational centre of ENEL offered us the availability of this wonderful hall. Allow me to thank, obviously, our friend Raffaele for wanting to present in Presenzano his third novel of his Sorrentine trilogy. Moreover, he has helped and helps us with the earthquake problem. He is one of the most efficient politicians I know. If we’ve managed to face the emergency rapidly, he is to be thanked for this. Allow me to focus for a moment on the figure of Raffaele Lauro, because he is one of the people whom - and I can really claim it with pride - I’ve had the honour to get to know well. Raffaele, in fact, in a few years ever since I met him, has made me understand the importance of people who apply that principle of our Constitution, which indicates not only the rights but also the duties of citizens. To make oneself available for their country, you can do it in different ways. Raffaele Lauro did it when he was a statesman, and as soon as he quit all public functions he continued to do so in the field of culture. To be able to pass on to others the knowledge, skills and experience is an excellent reason to leave a sign of ones existence. For all that, I thank him hoping that one day he will be interested more closely in the history of Presenzano. I hope you would like to be the coordinator of a publication describing our traditions and our history, with the collaboration of professionals such as Professor Forgione, and all those wishing to make a contribution, especially the young. On our part, from the municipal institution’s point of view, we want to patronize this project morally and economically. Professor Forgione for example has been available for years, and she helps us to great extent also through associations and the members of the Youth Forum. I would like it Raffaele, even if you do it from a distance, if you could support us, hoping that the next book that we present here together has Presenzano as its protagonist. A book written by the citizens of Presenzano for the citizens of Presenzano. Thank you, everyone!
Ciro Posabella, Director of the ENEL Hydroelectric Plant of Presenzano
Good evening. I welcome you on behalf of the company I represent. To be able to host such precious initiatives which enrich a person makes us very pleased. On this occasion I wish to highlight the great collaboration between us and various Communal Administrations which succeeded over the years. Our common goal remains always a goal to open ourselves to the land and to make culture grow also through student visits, which we promote in this important hydroelectric plant. Despite limited availability of personnel we host 20 thousand students per year. We reached 32 thousand in the past. This is in honour to this land, which deserves a lot. Thank you!
Luigia Forgione, Professor of Literary Subjects
Good evening! I have been offered as always the huge task to analyse the work of Professor Lauro. Meanwhile, I thank all the guests, especially my two friends, who have come from Cassino to participate in this event. Naturally, I thank the hosts and Professor Lauro, who once again chose Presenzano to complete this tour of national presentations of his latest work. Last time I said, dear Professor, that when one reads a few books of the same author, one gets to know their soul. Here I have added another element to my knowledge of your soul. Do not write anymore about it please, otherwise I will know you better than you know yourself. However, jokes aside, we are here to present “Dance The Love, - A Star in Vico Equense”. Dance the love is an emblematic and polysemic title, because it can be interpreted as dance the love with love as object, and love intended as life, therefore, live the life, live it to its depth, without ever fearing anything. This book is very special, because it is a fictionalized biography of a friend of Professor Lauro, a star of the world of dance, who at the age of ninety-three lives in Vico Equense. This lady, named Violetta Elvin, was born in Moscow in 1923, and then moved to Vico Equense. Before I tell you in brief about the adventures of her life, otherwise we won’t be able to get to know her closer, I want to make an observation. Professor Lauro, you’ve used the rules of a novel formulated by Alessandro Manzoni: the real object, the useful purpose and the interesting way. The real object is the story of Violetta Elvin linked with historical facts, but at the same time the author has left for himself a corner to insert his way of seeing that particular event, not so much the story that concerns the existence of Violetta, but the historical events that are the backdrop to the life of the protagonist. Violetta is born in Moscow in 1923. We are at the beginning of the twentieth century and the whole twentieth century is a backdrop to the story of this woman. The twentieth century, or as it has been defined, the short century, because the events took place very rapidly. Who reads this book carefully, captures the author’s interest in politics and his harsh judgement on what was the communism in Russia with all its implications. The story of Violetta is romanticized because, while retaining the essential features, the author has left himself a little space and partially reconstructed the dialogues without ever being short of ideas and the protagonist’s ways of thinking and feeling. The useful purpose in the novel is to have the possibility of a re-thinking of the last century, which is not a fact in its own right, because we know that today prepares tomorrow and yesterday was what we experienced. Consequently, things happened in the twentieth century, although it is already in the past, the consequences of which we still carry with us today. Therefore, a reflection, a retelling of this historical period can only do us good. The interesting way, finally, is the author’s skill to make it attractive, not only through the figure of the protagonist, but also through her human and artistic events. Violetta is almost never presented physically. Some mention at the beginning of the novel, a slender and elegant figure. I saw her in a photo, a blonde with blue eyes. Violetta’s detailed descriptions are not there but I assure you, at the end of the book it feels as if we saw her in front of our eyes, because the author gets us to know her for the beauty she has inside. Here is a link with Dante, who was capable of making us imagine Beatrice, “so gentle and so honest appears my lady when she greets others”, by presenting her not through her physical looks, but through the virtues. I won’t be long now. Violetta is born in 1923, in Moscow. Vasily Vasilyevich, the only Russian name I can remember, because the others are unpronounceable, Violetta’s father, married his second wife, a Polish eighteen year old girl, Irena. They had a daughter, Violetta. A few months later, her father had to travel to pay homage to the mortal remains of Lenin and on his return passed in front of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Violetta’s father was an eclectic man of a thousand cultural interests, an intelligent man, curious and eager to understand and to learn, keen on music, painting and architecture. Vasilij determined the future of his daughter, wishing that the little girl one day could take the stage of that theatre. Violetta’s family lived in the Arbat district, in a comunal house where every family had a room available with shared facilities. Violetta was much loved by her parents. She was still little, but soon learned not to talk, or rather, learned to speak quietly and never say everything you think, because the spies were everywhere. This helps us understand the specific character of Violetta: a woman who will be strong and able to face on her own what is to happen in her life. Violetta applied to enter the Bolshoi through a very hard selection. She began to study dance. Meanwhile, the Second World War started and the Bolshoi was forced to close, Violetta moved outside Moscow, but after the war she returned to her city and started to train hard. She started seeing an Englishman, Harold Elvin, who worked at the British Embassy in Moscow. When the secret police got to know of it, Violetta was called by the director of the Bolshoi. He told her that if she wanted to dance, she had to stop seeing that foreigner. Faced with this ultimatum, Violetta did not break up with the Englishman, because, in addition to dance, she also loved freedom. Violetta loved dance because it was the tool that would allow her to bring forth the freedom she felt inside. She married Elvin and was sent away from the Bolshoi, to a small theatre outside Moscow. Through her marriage she finally managed to leave the country, obtaining a visa thanks to the political support of her husband’s family. In London, after a period of acclimatization, she began to dance with the Royal Ballet of Ninette de Valois. She entered there on the tips of her toes as the substitute for the primaballerinas. She did not complain, she worked harder than her superiors, she never asked for a pay rise, she accepted everything. A strong woman, who was able to start again, with humility and with a spirit of sacrifice. This gave her the friendship and affection of all the artists of the Royal Ballet, who learned to respect her. In the early 50’s, she was in Italy on tour, and met Maria Callas. Two women, two great artists, but with two antithetical visions of life. Callas represented fatalism, and it could not have been otherwise, because she was Greek. Violetta, however, believed that with sacrifice and will, you could direct your destiny and she had demonstrated it up to that point. Violetta appeared somewhat renaissance-like, “Homo est faber fortunae suae”. Then, with her husband and friends, she went on vacation to Vico Equense. That’s where her love emerged for the sea and for those places, for nature and for the people. During this stay she met Fernando Savarese, who acted as a guide to the English group. Fernando fell in love with Violetta at first sight. Violetta also did, but she didn’t realise about it straight away. She returned to London with her husband and they separated soon after. She continued to work hard at the Royal Ballet. After some time Fernando went to London and only then discovered that Violetta was an international artist, because she had not told him that earlier. The two fell in love and decided to get married. All this might seem a normal thing. The abnormal thing, however, was that Violetta decided to leave dance, which had been her life. One of Violetta’s friends said: “Dance is a love that does not admit lovers!” Violetta realized that her love for Fernando could not have been reconciled with her love of dance and vice versa. Another friend said to her: “Happiness is like a passing train. If you’re distracted, you don’t get on it in time. You, Violetta, caught it and got on it.” After a year the two moved to Vico Equense, with Fernando anxious that an international dance star could not live in a provincial town like Vico. Despite this Violetta never regretted her choice. The decision to leave dance was taken alone, it matured alone, because she knew that certain choices could not and should not relate to the person next to you because, in the future, you could carry around remorse and regret. Violetta faced everything alone. A decision she was never to regret. Unfortunately for her, her husband passed away early. She has never moved from Vico Equense, in her husband’s memory and in respect of that great love. At the age of ninety-two, in a dream, she was invited to the Bolshoi to dance “The Sleeping Beauty”, which he had seen at the age of seven with her father, and which she had danced in her début right at the Bolshoi. In her dream she goes to Moscow, dances and leaves the stage among applauses, and believes to see her husband, who says: “ You’ve never been as good as this time!” The image that comes up is that of a confident, determined woman who makes her decisions without ever turning back, it may appear that Violetta in her way of being can in some way identify the individualism of the Renaissance . I don’t think it’s entirely that. Violetta personifies the classical conception of love, understood as Eros, Filia and Agape. Eros, because it is a passionate love for the man she loves. Filia, because it is the love of family and the loved ones. Agape, also in the Christian sense because Violetta opens to others, representing a bridge towards other people and towards the outside, giving this love to all. Thank you!
Giuseppe Bocchino, Journalist
Good evening, everyone! I want to talk to you by repeating aloud the thoughts matured while reading this book, which seems to me to be a biography, albeit with a few if no more than a few elements of poetic fantasy. It was already pointed out on the criterion of the Manzonian verisimilitude, I would add, especially for the initial part, how the reconstruction of Violetta’s family environment bears clear reminiscences of the French, English and Russian realistic literature of the nineteenth century, where the narrative of the family origins is used to foretell the character and destiny of a character. That said, I will make three simple considerations, those that I consider the most important. First of all, a brief introduction: I have to say that the choice of a female protagonist already puts me in a favourable state of mind in terms of this work. An author who chooses to tell a story, which has a woman as its protagonist, shows from the start a special sensitivity different from other male colleagues, often obsessed with solving through the construction and the stories of the protagonists of a novel their real and symbolic problems with another male, that is with a male, fatherly figure. A reasoning for men only and, therefore, very boring. It is also a radical choice, since a female perspective on the facts of life is completely different from the most common points of view. From this point of view, taking up what has been said by Professor Louigia Forgione, Violetta’s meeting with Maria Callas is emblematic. The second point I want to make is about the relationship that is created between the idea and the forms of its concrete realization, in our case, the narrative style. I guess the idea behind the book was to describe the realization of an artistic life and make it a hymn to freedom, to the full expression of their vocations, despite the enormous difficulties caused by a historical-political and strongly oppressive context, that suffocated the individual and their, also artistic, aspirations. We are talking, of course, of the Soviet Russia and the Stalinist regime. To give the exact measure of this contrast between the aspiration for freedom and the denial of freedom, the narrative construction of the text had to give the reader, inevitably, more precise references to the historical and cultural context of the time, creating a continuous interweaving between general events and biography. In this regard, my impression is that in the first part of the book the author wanted to prioritize the historical background with respect to the general autobiographical plan, also to emphasize what will be the various dislocations of the protagonist in her escape from the places of oppression to the land of freedom and love. Perhaps he is driven by an intellectual experience that pushes him sometimes to a scholar reference. This explains the presence of a final index of names, places and ballets: the frequency of references has necessitated the creation of a supplement to facilitate the reading. I would say, because our dialogue must always be critical, that in some moments of this initial part I sense a text that develops by looking for a difficult balance because, basically, the historical background aims to interrupt the autobiographical vicissitudes so as to constitute a sort of a brake. Surely, the interruption of Violetta’s events could be a choice for delaying the development of the story and arouse more curiosity in the reader. From my point of view, however, I have often felt the need to learn more about the life of the protagonist without being interrupted by the exterior historical context. If we think of a text as an architecture, which, to be fully successful, or fail, must find a solution to the difficulties that arise during the actual process of writing, the crucial moment of a critical reading is this: to identify where it is has been achieved, or has not been achieved: the effective and creative narrative balance, in our case between the external events and biography. I am convinced that the work is progressing expeditiously and without hesitation, when it has an emotional essence, the emotional fuel. In “Dance The Love - A Star in Vico Equense”, for this reason, I believe that the love story between Violetta and Fernando is the highest emotional moment of the work, because it manages to guarantee a stylistic synthesis, where each element acquires its proper weight in the story, without blurring or extremes. The third notion: in some moments while reading the story of Violetta I thought of Madame Bovary, the eponymous protagonist of Gustave Flaubert’s novel. The final suicide of Emma shows that for the French writer it is impossible to live a life that imitates art, literature, and those chasing this dream are unfortunately destined to a tragic failure. What I think, however, has fascinated the author of “Dance The Love” is the exact opposite: thanks to talent, determination and love, like in case of Violetta, you can have a beautiful life, so much so that the crucial phrase in the book for me is this: “And the love story between Fernando and Violetta was to transform soon into an extraordinary work of art.” Thank you for your attention!
Raffaele Lauro, Writer
Good evening everyone and thank you! First of all, I thank each of you, especially the Naples fans, for making this sacrifice, though, I must say in all modesty that the games of Naples are not always works of art and, therefore, dedicating a few hours tonight to a great artist, Violetta Elvin, can be an important moment of remembrance and gratification, more than a football match. I thank each of you, especially the patient husband of Professor Forgione because she always gives an input on relationships. I think her husband listens with interest, taking note of all her comments. Dear Mayor, dear Andrea, our friendship has been long. The esteem and affection I have for you are known, as the fact that I am always available whenever I may be helpful to you, to your administration and to this city that I have come to love. With great joy I came here to present the third novel of my Sorrentine trilogy. Presenzano, Sorrento and Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi are the only places where I have presented all the three pillars of my trilogy, which feeds on the deep love I have for my homeland. The contents of the presentations of this novel will form an eBook, which will arrive to you as a gift at Christmas. Listening to the presentation speeches made me a lot richer. Therefore I thank all the speakers and, on this occasion, also Dr. Posabella, who has a worthy surname for his hospitality. We moved here in Presenzano from presenting my books at the Ducal Castle to the Enel power plant. A bridge between the past, present and future. About the proposal by Andrea Maccarelli to write about Presenzano, I answer that I could write a historical novel about the Dukes family, but a book about Presenzano – no. I wouldn’t be able to. It could, however, coordinate and publish contributions, which we can plan together, in a book that addresses the various fragments of history, of popular culture, of cuisine and of the common life of this beautiful village. So that you, Mayor, can leave a cultural trace, especially for the younger generation, fully approved and protected from the Internet madness. Internet is freedom, but it can become slavery, a drain, an anthem not to freedom, but to a deprivation of freedom. This task, dear Andrea, you’ve got it, and it is good that you leave a mark, because books are bricks with which to build the future. I offer you my full availability. I want to focus, in conclusion, on the speech of Professor Forgione. She was, although in the short time, absolutely bright and clear in identifying the substance of the book. This novel is the result of many hours of conversations between me and Violetta Elvin, a charming lady aged ninety-three, which, after leaving dance sixty years ago has never wanted to give interviews to newspapers. A woman who still has class and extraordinary elegance. She attended only two events and, believe me, she enchanted the audience: in the web there are videos of her inputs, which I strongly suggest you look at to realize what I’m talking about. I wanted to compliment the Professor for the great synthesis of the female figure of Violetta, which is spread across three dimensions: education, success, in London and in theatres around the world, and family, in Vico Equense. Violetta Elvin has not lost anything of this. She did not loose touch with the culture of her Mother Russia, neither with the Anglo-Saxon culture, that of the English society, nor with the family dimension. In Fernando’s luxury hotel, “Le Axidie” in Vico Equense, the Reform Club of London was recreated in the summer, an exclusive circle that Violetta and her husband were members of. Fernando was a man so intelligent to support his wife so she would not become a prisoner in the place of natural beauty. They often returned to London, travelled the world, hosted in Vico Equense the great world stars of dance as well as great entrepreneurs. The British consul, when he came to “Le Axidie”, said the resort had become a branch of the great English clubs. The Professor also highlighted the theme of the Bildungsroman, because Violetta is certainly an example for young people. In previous presentations professors and teachers have especially emphasized this aspect: she is an example of tenacity, of adaptation to the new. She arrives to London during the Cold War and Ninette de Valois says they can no longer call her Violetta Prokhorova and that it is advisable to take as stage name the last name of her husband at the time, Harold Elvin. She obeys and takes on the secondary role, never puts a foot ahead of Margot Fonteyn, the star of the Royal Ballet. The Professor confirmed also that in this novel the narrative technique, which I endeavoured, remains of the Manzonian inspiration, like in the historical novel,“Sorrento The Romance”, and in the one about Lucio Dalla, “Caruso The Song - Lucio Dalla and Sorrento”. In the trilogy, everything is treated with the technique of historical verisimilitude. Of course, I recorded many hours of material with Donna Violetta, but she failed to tell me in detail the content of the real conversations, for example, with Callas. What she told me, however, has allowed me to reconstruct them, as mentioned by the Professor. Thank you, Porfessor Forgione, I’ve become a very humble student of Manzoni. I also really liked the comments of Giuseppe Bocchino. The whole novel finds its emotion in the final dream. It is obvious, that we are talking about a dream: Violetta returning to dance at the age of ninety-two, represents a metaphor. Kissed by the prince, she becomes eighteen again, as when she danced “The Sleeping Beauty” for the first time, and, looking among the boxes she notices all the people in her life, convincing herself from the whispered compliment from her husband that her choice was certainly the right one. She confirmed it to me personally. In the eBook, which you will be able to read at Christmas, you can read the variety of opinions on Violetta’s existential choice. Each has interpreted it as they thought best, according to their own experience. We celebrate this courageous and unique choice, and I have considered it perfect to write a book about it. When the book came out, many people read it and many of them were surprised by how I managed to get close to this artistic and human dimension of a woman. I do not pretend to have exhausted with this book the discourse on the uniqueness of a woman, because it is well known what I have been saying for some time: men have ruined the world and women, maybe, maybe they will save it. Only women! Thank you, everyone!