An interview with Raffaele Lauro by Vincenzo Califano

The Dallian adventure of Raffaele Lauro has now lasted for four years and has reached the 5th anniversary of the passing of the great artist (1st March 2012/1st March 2017) in love with Sorrento and the Sorrentines. It has been a long and exceptional, intellectual and first of all human route of the Sorrentine writer (www.raffaelelauro.it). On the eve of the 2017 celebration events (the twinning between Sorrento and San Martino Valle Caudina; two study conferences on the topic of Lucio Dalla, a man, a poet and a musician; a tribute-show to Lucio Dalla at the Fauno Notte Club), held between Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th March 2017 in Sorrento and San Martino Valle Caudina, Lauro, the inspirer and protagonist of this adventure, makes an initial assessment.
D.: How was this four-year-long Dallian adventure born?
R.: In the structuring of “The Sorrentine trilogy”, commemorative of my land, after the historical novel (“Sorrento The Romance - The conflict between Christianity and Islam in the sixteenth century”, Ed.), I located in Lucio Dalla the unconditional love for Sorrento and his generous friendship for the Sorrentines, which lasted for decades, and in the creation in Sorrento and for Sorrento of his masterpiece (“Caruso”, Ed.), an emblematic and charming personality to continue my celebratory discourse on Sorrento, the Sorrento-Amalfi Coast and Capri. During the analysis of the musical bibliography on the great artist, and long conversations with his dearest friends and collaborators (Peppino Jannuzzi, Giovanni Russo, Angelo Leonelli, Riccardo Scarselli, Gianfranco Villa, Eugenio D’Andrea, Giovanna Solimene, Giuliana Gargiulo, Salvatore Irolla and Cristofaro D’Alessio, to mention only a few) I made a bitter discovery. Sorrento, as a “place of the soul” and as a source of inspiration for the masterpiece, had been described in Dallian publications, due to ignorance, superficiality or bad faith, as if it was just a mere “incident” in the human and artistic story of Lucio Dalla. A Cinderella. While the testimonies of his friends, gathered by me, documented his extraordinary, intense and fervent more than fifty-year-long relationship with Sorrento. Definitely not an incident! I sensed that Lucio was “leading me by the hand” and that the second novel in the trilogy represented a unique opportunity for Sorrento to take ownership of the “Dalla heritage”, of its “Dalla heritage”. To clarify: Dalla and his work are the national heritage, and perhaps also a world heritage, but a part of this heritage belonged and belongs by right to Sorrento and to the Sorrentines. The same situation occurred with Dalla’s bond with San Martino Valle Caudina.
D.: Do you believe to have preserved the world of the artist and to have identified Dallian poetic in your three books?
R.: Absolutely not. I would be crazy to even think that. In those four years I got convinced that Dalla, also after his death, continued to be an expanding universe, a polycentric universe made out of a thousand places discovered and visited by him and by a thousand people, places that he knew and loved. Thinking of having exhausted the artistic phenomenon linked to Dalla would be a pure illusion. In my opinion the Mystery of Dalla understood as a creative dimension will never be revealed and that is the part that proves its charm.
D.: So it is not possible to assess it?
R.: The only assessment that I feel like making today, on the 5th anniversary of his passing, concerns his creative world, which I consider the inexhaustible way of ideals, values and modernity yet to be discovered. And never shrouded in rhetoric. Dallas lyrics, the post ideological ones, contain a lot of answers with regards to the identity crisis of the contemporary man and to the threat of cultural homologation of the new generations. Dalla should be studied in high schools and at universities.
D.: Is it for this reason that you wanted to involve students and high school professors in the reading and discussing of your biographical novel on Dalla? Is it for the same reason that you will soon start coordinating an inter-university project on the analysis of Dallas lyrics?
R.: Definitely. Not surprisingly, I consider the meeting with teachers and students of the “Gaetano Salvemini” High School in Sorrento, between fiction and music, as one of the most exciting pages of my 22-stage tour, with as many as 82 testimonials and thousands of participants. Everything is documented. I was very moved at the Teatro delle Rose of Piano di Sorrento this morning.
D.: Perhaps that emotion was also contributed by returning home to the origins of your professional activity as a professor of history and philosophy at the school before you moved to Rome?
R.: Certainly. Memories are convicts! As professor of philosophy I was a living scandal at the time. I made the class read and discuss daily newspapers. I explained the turning points in history with music: not only Mozart or Tchaikovsky, but also the Beatles and Genesis. This way I fed the critical conscience of my students. Educate with joy and fun, with what young people love, it is the only way to keep the school alive, to prevent its death as a cultural and educational institution. Today, for example, the school is faced with an even more formidable challenge: to re-educate young people in the Italian language threatened by the simplifications of the social media (emoticons are killing words, writing and feelings!). This also could help in the study of the texts of Dalla. Educating critically on the use of new communication technologies should be the main mission of the school, not just in Italy. An ungoverned future will lead to destruction of humanity. To chaos.
D.: Do you also feel lead by the handin this case, as you often declare in public?
R.: At the risk of sounding naive, a fool (in the Pascalian sense!) or a visionary (Dalla was a visionary!), I confess that in those four years the person who guided me, who took me by the hand, was him, the ragamuffin: he made me discover San Martino Valle Caudina and his friends, Manfredonia and his friends, Barletta and his friends, Matera and his friends. I added very little of mine there, I only adjusted myself to his suggestions. He spoke to me through his friends, he gave me hints, indications. A crowd of people told me extraordinary episodes of humanity, poetry, love, existential loneliness and passion for life, nature and beauty. His doctor, his confessor, his crew, his solicitor, his manager!
D.: Does it mean you could write many other books on Dalla?
R.: Certainly, if I had enough time. But there is little time. Others will do it after me and certainly better than me. I have only opened the door.
D.: Even in writing a song, defined by some as Kantian, transcendental?
R.: I’m not a Freudian in the theory of dreams. A dream, for me, turns out to be a premonition, an inspiration and an anticipation of the real. It is enough to know how to read, grasp the signs, coincidences, the randomness, which often is not random at all. The text comes from a fragment written by Lucio, discovered years later in a little black book by his friend from Barletta, Giuseppe Di Miccoli, who gave it to me. An anthropocentric fragment of Lucio, his trust in man that rules the world. And from my dream about Lucio singing on a larger terrace, where winter never sets. The other time, as he called it. The title: “A ragamuffin, a clown”, as he ironically described himself. The music of the demo in a video of Michele Martucci on YouTube is performed by The Sputos band, who accompanied me at a few stages of my tour. By the Maestros from Macerata, Cardella, Della Mora and Lucerna, with the beautiful voice of Marco Virgili.
D.: A ragamuffin, a clown, your song dedicated to Dalla will be performed live for the first time at the Fauno Notte Club on Saturday, 4th March? Who will be singing it?
R.: I owe it to the courtesy of Maurizio Mastellone, the host of the renowned nightclub of brothers Franco and Peppino Jannuzzi, where Lucio Dalla performed as a young man in 1964 as a clarinettist from Bologna, famous in the skat jazz sung in an English that was not English. I owe it to the professionalism of the Sorrentine director, Eleonora Di Maio, my friend since always, who has converted her music and dance show into a tribute to Dalla, also remembering the extraordinary direction that Lucio did in 2008 at the Teatro Comunale of Bologna, of “The Beggar's Opera” by John Gay, a reference point to the Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill’s masterpiece, “The Threepenny Opera”, performed by Peppe Servillo and Angela Baraldi. Dalla wanted to return for one evening to the Fauno Notte Club. And we listened to him. Who will sing my song? For now it will be a surprise.
D.: Also the formal part of the Dallian occasion is of great interest!
R.: I am truly grateful to the Mayor of Sorrento, Giuseppe Cuomo, and the Mayor of San Martino Valle Caudina, Pasquale Pisano, for having carried out two of my proposals this year: the twinning of the two towns in the name of Dalla, related to the composition and to the first public performance of “Caruso”. That is, the ideal bridge between the blue of the sea and the green of the mountains, the natural elements beloved by the artist. And the prologue of a national conference on “Lucio Dalla, a man, a poet and a musician”. I must also thank for the continued support received from the two municipal administrations. For this, I accepted the honorary citizenship of San Martino Valle Caudina, in the name of Dalla.
D.: This epic story is unbelievable, considering that you and Dalla didnt meet a lot. Is it true?
R.: Very true, I met him in person, after 1964, only in 2006. Although Lucio in a dedication made on a picture of us together called me “my friend prefect”, our real friendship has developed, paradoxically, remotely, post-mortem, the most in the last five years, from the day of his passing to date. When, at the ceremony in 2006 of awarding us both with the “Sorrento in the World Award”, he quietly asked me to write a book about him, I did not understand, I didn’t comprehend, nor even imagined to be able to write it, it being light years away from my interests. I understood and comprehended it only after his death. That request was prophetic. A signal. Another lucky intuition of Lucio.
D.: Are you happy, that you read that signal, even though late?
R.: Certainly, because Lucio has given me more than I could give him!
D.: What invite you would like to direct to those who will have the opportunity to read this interview?
R.: Take part in the events in the memory of Dalla, take part in the emotions with Lucio and me on Saturday, 4th March at 8.30pm at the Fauno Notte Club in Sorrento at Piazza Tasso.

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