There’s this video going around, I saw it on Daily Mail, that shows the Italian air force flying the colors of the Italian flag across the sky while playing, at booming volume, Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma”. It’s the most powerfully moving thing I’ve seen come out of people’s responses to the coronavirus that’s kept Italy under quarantine for longer than those of us here in America.
Last year I saw Ron Howard’s documentary about Pavarotti and I had mixed feelings about it shwitewashing of some of the pretty unsavory shit that Pavarotti did to his loved ones, but it was a moving portrait, overall, of a self-critical and earnest artist–and the most beautiful thing about it, I though, is the way that he was adopted by his people.
Italians adored him (the whole world did) and proudly claimed him as one of their own.
Maybe it’s different in smaller countries but as an American I feel so small compared to the sweep of national action–the shootings in this place, the fires over there, the riots a bit closer and then the president over someplace east of all that, doing his thing–and it seems so diverse, so hectic and busy, that I can’t fathom a single person being adopted by this nation as a treasure, a kind of national representative of whom we are uniformly proud.
In some respects, that’s probably a good thing. No deities. Cuz I can imagine being a pissed off citizen of Italy like, “Why the fuck do we drop what we’re doing whenever this guy comes around? He looks like my dad.”
Canada seems to be uniformly reverent about Leonard Cohen–which I of course emphatically agree with, because Leonard Cohen was an incredible guy and remains a personal hero. I’m always moved by that enormous mural of him in Montreal.
(I have to stop myself from digressing into Cohen stuff.)
But yeah, we don’t have an American version of that. What comes immediately to mind is the uproar surrounding Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature.
It’s not even an American accolade, and still we were all either pissed or delighted.
And that’s kinda good! Because no matter who rises to what rank, there’s always gonna be a voice of criticism, of dissent, and while that might seem on the surface like some curmudgeonly reflex—“someone’s always bitching…”—it means we’ll always find something to show us the Other Side’s argument.
Cuz there’s always an Other Side.
So it’s moving to see a nation adopt an artist as their own and love him dearly, and of course one might entertain fantasies of one day being so widely celebrated themselves, but I guess I’m still on the fence about whether, finally, it’s such a good thing.