My favorite things Sicily

by on August 7, 2009 at 4:43 am in The Arts | Permalink

1. Novel, set in: The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.

2. Movie, set in: This is a tough one.  But I'll opt for Visconti's The Leopard (big screen required, don't bother with Netflix) over Coppola's Godfather sequence, not to mention La Terra Trema and L'avventura.  Wow.  Is there a Sicily scene in Patton?

3. Chess opening: 5…a6, the Najdorf.  Chess is a good example of the more general point that it takes a long time to discover which innovations turn out to be valuable and which not.  Thirty years ago, who would have thought that 6.Be3 would become the most common response?

4. Playwright: Luigi Pirandello, but I would call this a "favorite only because I can't think of anyone else."

5. Opera composer: Bellini, especially the first Act of Norma, sung by Maria Callas.  There is also Alessandro Scarlatti but I don't know his music well.

6. Musical arranger: Pete Rugulo, yes he was born in Sicily and later he arranged for Stan Kenton.  That music still sounds impressive to me.

7. Philosopher: Gorgias was smart but cynical (if we trust Plato).  Empedocles was sooner a natural scientist in my view.  Archimedes I would count as a mathematician.  

8. Painter: Antonello de Messina is a clear first choice, unless you count De Chirico as Sicilian.  Here is a very good Messina image.

9. Movie director: Frank Capra was born in Sicily; see my comments on Pirandello.  Note by the way that I am not considering Sicilian-Americans unless they were born in Sicily.

They have a bunch of accomplished writers and poets I'm not familiar with, other than Lampedusa, so I don't have a favorite there.

The bottom line: A nice, diverse list, with numerous surprises.

1 CRP August 7, 2009 at 4:58 am

I do not wat to sound critic, but this list (as a few others you did) sounds a lot like a quick wikipedia research. Have you already been to Sicily? If not, maybe the posting of such a list _after_ you have dwelled a bit would be much more interesting.

2 mg August 7, 2009 at 5:34 am

Yes, there is a sequence in Patton dedicated to the race to Messina.

3 Duncan August 7, 2009 at 9:25 am


4 Joe August 7, 2009 at 10:22 am

Rosi’s Salvatore Giuliano deserves mention for Sicilian film. It has a very authentic feel – Rosi only had two professional actors and used Sicilian villagers for most scenes.

5 Floccina August 7, 2009 at 10:45 am

What no food!

6 Bene August 7, 2009 at 11:39 am

As to painter, here’s an addition: The Master of “The Triumph of Death” in Palermo.

As the painter is unknown, it’s not clear whether he’s from Sicily but this masterpiece hangs in the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia (Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo). A small palace hidden away in one of these parts of town that seem to have been slowly decaying ever since the Renaissance. You enter the first two or three simple rooms and see some interesting finds of antiquity, but then, after taking another turn you stand in a room with the full 7m*7m wall covered by this fresco and are overwhelmed by its intensity, modernity, wit and gloom.

Unfortunately there’s only an article in Italian so far, but this masterpiece in conjunction with the temple at Segesta, the cathedral at Monreale and the Amphitheater at Taormina is another one of the many reasons why Sicily is such a great place to visit, with probably some of the highest density of “Western civ”-relevant sites anywhere!

7 Matt F August 7, 2009 at 3:51 pm

An intellectual’s blog post about “the best of Sicily” that doesn’t include Archimedes?

8 Yan August 10, 2009 at 7:35 am

Horowitz opened his concert in Moscow with a splendid Sonata in E major by Domenico Scarlatti, the son of Alessandro Scarlatti. Until reading this post, I had always thought that Domenico Scarlatti was a composer of the romantic era because of the way Horowitz played his Sonatas.

Here are many nice recordings of Horowitz playing (Domenico) Scarlatti

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