by Vincenzo Califano

The long-awaited novel by Raffaele Lauro on the poetic and the nearly fifty-year-long relationship of Lucio Dalla with Sorrento, entitled "Sorrento The Romance - Lucio Dalla and Sorrento", which now has been published, is waiting to be presented in Sorrento during its national première on Saturday, 28th February 2015, on the eve of the third anniversary of the death of the great artist from Bologna, and before the Roman event in the Senate on 18th March 2015. We met the Sorrentine writer during the Christmas holidays to pass on best wishes. In this exclusive interview the author announces the project of his third narrative work, "Dance & Love", dedicated to the Sorrentine land. This time in particular to Vico Equense.

What surprise is there in store for us for the next year?

There are no surprises, my new novel concludes the repeatedly announced "Sorrentine Trilogy" dedicated to our beloved coast through history, religion, poetry, music, dance and love. Love is the culmination of my second narrative trilogy (the first one, published by Lancio Editore in the nineties, was the praise of Life, Eros and Death), as it summarizes all the expressions of the Spirit connected internally through human and artistic events of certain characters, in Sorrento and in the Sorrentine Peninsula. From the Particular to the Universal. From the Human to the Superhuman. It is not a coincidence that Angela Barba chose to entitle her critical essay on all my narrative work with the expression "The Love Universe". I am immensely grateful for that.

Indeed, "Sorrento The Romance" has brought back to the people of today the memory of the Turkish assault of Massa Lubrense and Sorrento on 13th June 1558, through the troubled and dramatic story of a noble Sorrentine, Marino Correale.

Marino Correale is the fruit of my imagination, a non-historical character, although probable in a Manzonian way. However, the existential journey of the young Sorrentine, with his conversion to Islam and his conversion back to the Catholic faith, well summarizes the metaphor of the conflict between Christianity and Islam, which in the sixteenth century devastated not only small hamlets of Sorrento or the Sorrentine decumani, conquered and sacked at the time, but also the entire Mediterranean claimed by the Ottoman and Christian fleets. If the Particular in this historical novel is represented by Marino Correale and by his pursuit of truth and God, the Universal is identified with faith in God, the One God, the God of Love, through the three monotheistic religions, the instrumentalisation of which for the reasons of power covers the history in blood. History and faith is the binomial of the first novel as a cultural reference to my Crocean philosophical formation.

From an entirely invented although probable character to a real, historical person, Lucio Dalla, who at three years after his death remains in the heart of all Sorrentines, and who donated to Sorrento an immortal melody, "Caruso", a composition known all over the world. What creates this Sorrentine continuity in"Caruso The Song - Lucio Dalla and Sorrento"?

I see no difference between the love for Sorrento, which supports the Sorrentine hostages brought to Istanbul in their painful time of captivity, before they were returned home ransomed and freed (unfortunately very few of them!), and the love of Lucio Dalla for Sorrento revealed in the first two striking verses of his masterpiece. Without Sorrento the poetics of Lucio cannot be understood. He would have never created "Caruso" without Sorrento. The second novel in the trilogy fills a huge gap in the biography of Dalla and in all the tribute works dedicated to the great artist in the areas of journalism, television, radio, celebratory work, documentary and film. Was Sorrento omitted out of ignorance, lack of cultural knowledge or by the lack of accurate research? In the biographies of Dalla Sorrento seems to emerge by chance and in brief because of a fault in the singer's boat, while Lucio arrived to Sorrento when he was young, as a member of The Flippers, playing in the Fauno Notte Club belonging to Franco and Peppino Jannuzzi. And since then he had been bonded with our city eternally and repeatedly called it "the true corner of his soul". Sorrento and Lucio's childhood are the two huge omissions, which I am trying to recover in this novel. Without them the poetic of Dalla would be mutilated.

Which universal combination emerges from "Caruso The Song"?

The combination of poetry and music, that is of the highest and most sublime expressions of human creativity, which Lucio manages to merge in his songs into a continuous process of blending between cultures and different musical worlds. Musically "Caruso" represents a unique blend of Neapolitan song and lyrics, the Italian melodrama. On the poetic level, the famous tenor Enrico Caruso becomes the symbol of the dialectic between life and death, between Eros and Thanatos, with the latter mitigated for a moment, just for a moment, by the memory of the past success and the beauty of the Sorrentine nature.

What was the source of the third part of the "Sorrentine Trilogy" after Lucio Dalla?

To tell the truth, I missed the last piece to complete the celebration of my land: the Sorrentine coast. My maternal grandparents came down from the hills of Vicania and moved first to Sorrento, and then to Sant'Agnello. Therefore, after Massa Lubrense, Sorrento, Sant’Agnello, Piano and Meta, I searched for a thread to allow me to enhance the most complete pearl of the coast from the natural point of view: Vico Equense. From the high mountains to the hills, from the plane, right down to the sea. There is no place in the world that would gather a similar natural synthesis in such a limited space. However, I could not find a real character who would lead me by the hand. I was in trouble. I was turning towards another idea when the third miracle happened... providence!

A miracle? Providence? Could you be more specific?

Despite my Crocean formation I remain a convinced providentialist. I think that it is not fortuity, which moves history, nor human passions. The inspiration for the first novel came at night, in the Tower of Salvation (in today's Michelangelo Hotel in Sorrento), where hundreds of Sorrentines fled Turkish scimitars. The second one was inspired by the finding of an autographed card of Dalla, which I thought to have lost during one of my many ministerial removals. The third novel was inspired by the also providential discovery of the existence of an artistic personality of international fame, who has lived in Vico Equense for more than fifty years. In complete privacy. Violetta Elvin, a global star of classical ballet.

Violetta Elvin, who has recently been honoured with the recognition of "Sorrento in the World"?

Precisely. It's her. Only recently someone in the Peninsula discovered this wonderful and rewarding presence, although I believe that 99% of the inhabitants of Vico have no idea altogether as to who Violetta Elvin is.

How come this personality arrived to Vico?

This is the essence of the novel, the title of which, “Dance&Love”, symbolizes the path of this extraordinary woman. She arrives to Vico because of love. In fact, at the height of her success in London she decided in 1956 to drop the dance and marry a man from Vico, whom she had met during her stay there: a lawyer, Fernando Savarese. A marriage of love, which is the underlying theme of this narrative work, and which, in the natural setting of Vico Equense, finds its habitat, its reflection: from the top of Faito to the sea squirts of Marina d'Aequa!

So the third universal binomial is represented by dance and love?

Certainly. Dance and, more in general, the art. The love for art. The love for a person. The love of nature. The Universal Love. The existential triangle of Donna Violetta develops between the great mother Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution and under the Stalinist dictatorship, the London of the reconstruction and Italy, precisely Vico Equense, from after World War II to the present. Her artistic path meanders up until 1946, including dance studies at the Bolshoi Theatre, the first successes in Moscow, and the triumphant decade of 1946-1956, of performances with the Royal Ballet in London and on tour in the major theatres of the world. In Italy at La Scala, at the Fenice, at the Teatro Comunale in Florence, at the Rome Opera and also at the San Carlo in Naples.

How did you gather information on this great artist?

Before obtaining the privilege to meet her in person during many meetings in her family home which overlooks the sea in Vico, and to chat with her for hours, I thoroughly studied everything that was available on the web and in various publications on ballet, great choreographers and on major composers, beginning from Tchaikovsky. But while listening to her, starting from the first conversation, everything I had studied was reduced to nothing, to dust, in the face of the overwhelming richness, the brilliant vivacity and the irresistible charm of her story. At the beginning she was almost diffident, despite her son Antonio and her friend Salvatore Ferraro, whom I shall never cease to thank, gave me the credit of her benevolence. Then she understood my admiring and at times emotional wonder. And so I was led with all her feminine grace into the enchanted gardens of a wonderful, unique and unrepeatable story, made not only of triumphs, beauty and love, but also of dramatic choices and fears induced by the ruthless and violent communist regime. I can say that as of now this will remain the most fascinating and exciting experience of my life, in emotional and intellectual terms, having closely met many leading figures of the world of culture, politics and institutions. The intact female beauty and the amazing grace of this woman of the age of over 90, associated with a sensitive approach and a regal bearing, become nothing in front of her inner beauty.

Are there any other biographies on Elvin?

Nothing at all. Neither biographies or autobiographies, nor exhaustive interviews. Just stage pictures, articles from the Time, short videos of performances. That's all. Despite convincing and offers, she has always refused to break her reservation, rightly protective of the conquered privacy and of her family universe, with her husband, now deceased, her son and her friends from the world of dance: from Massine to Prebil.

This third novel in the trilogy will be a complete novelty! Could you reveal a few details to our readers?

I was granted a great privilege. I have agreed with Donna Violetta on the matter of the providential hand. We are both Catholics. Her of Polish origin, on her mother's side. With the collected material I could write five volumes, but we decided to proceed with a light, gentle draft, like a dance step. There will be no details. I can't. I am committed to submit the text to her for a joint review. I can only anticipate that, next to the main character, on the backdrop of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain, we will also meet famous people such as Stalin, Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Diaghilev, Leonide Massine, Maria Callas, Margot Fonteyn, Alvar Aalto, Rudolf Nureyev, and many others. Through the loving eyes of Donna Violetta we will also discover the entire beauty of Vico Equense.

How much time will you dedicate to the writing, which appears to be extremely delicate and demanding?

Not less than one year. I hope to live up to the commitment and not to betray such trust. I would not forgive this to myself. I can anticipate, however, that the book will come out in 2015/16, in English, and it will be presented in London, besides of course it's première in Vico Equense.

Could you at least describe in brief, how did Violetta Elvin's love for dance was born?

Violetta as a little girl, sitting on her father's lap, assists for the first time in "The Sleeping Beauty" by Tchaikovsky, at the Bolshoi. In Moscow. This is how the star was born. Violetta Elvin, on the evening of her farewell to dance, dances in London in "The Sleeping Beauty", as the last performance of her career. Truly amazing!

We will publish this just as amazing interview on New Year's Day. Would you like to pass on a greeting to the readers in Sorrento? To the young people?

My wishes for 2015 to my fellow citizens and, in particular, to young people, is to love our Sorrento and our coast, without any hypocritical rhetoric of the past and without selfish, self centred, private and predatory goals. Not many got rich at the cost of Sorrento. Now we need to think about safeguarding it from destruction, whatever beautiful of it remains still standing. My "Sorrentine Trilogy" is a gift of love and gratitude. I want to offer it to future generations of the whole Sorrentine coast, so that they learn to respect and love this land, just like the great personalities adopted by Sorrento did, such as Lucio Dalla and Violetta Elvin. Happy New Year to everyone!

Sorrento, New Year's Day 2015

In the photo: The famous star of classical dance, Violetta Elvin, the protagonist of the new novel by Raffaele Lauro, "Dance&Love", dedicated to Vico Equense.

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