Rosa Balistreri beyond the borders at the Salina Doc Fest


By John

A tribute to the Sicilian storyteller par excellence on the penultimate day of the seventeenth Salina Doc Fest, founded and directed by director Giovanna Taviani and dedicated this year to the theme “Woman Beyond Borders”. Rosa Balistreri from Licate will be remembered this evening, in the Piazza di Santa Marina Salina, with the screening of the documentary «Rosa. The Song of the Sirens», Isabella Ragonese’s directorial debut. The Palermo actress will receive the Omi-Fer Srl Award during the evening, followed by the show «Terra ca nun senti», by and with the singer from Catania Etta Scollosupported by the Cuntista from Trapani Gaspare Balsamoalready protagonist of the festival preview with his show «Omu a mari», from «Horcynus Orca» by Stefano D’Arrigo.
A tribute to one of the first Sicilian women “beyond all borders”, as underlined by Etta Scollo, who will alternate the performance of some songs for voice and guitar – including «Terra ca nun senti», «Lu muccaturi», «A curuna», «Quannu moru» and «Cu ti lu dissi» – to special readings by Balsamo, with the focus on the relationship between Balistreri and the poet from Bagheria Ignazio Buttittawith which the artist established an intense partnership (among the masterpieces «I Pirati a Palermu» and «La Ballata del Prefetto Mori», the latter with music by Ennio Morricone).

«Giovanna – says Scollo – asked me to use my version of “Quannu moru” for her film “Cùntami”, which also featured Gaspare. Together we created a concert at the festival for the presentation of the film in 2021, and from there the idea of ​​doing something as part of the festival was born. Consistent with this year’s theme, Giovanna wanted to resume the discussion on Rosa, with this tribute which will be funny but in some way also sad, since it reflects the artist’s history from a musical and acting point of view. She is an illiterate woman but with a great desire for knowledge.”

In fact, the story of Rosa is interesting, as she seems to have started singing the Sicilian tradition rather late, in the period in which, in Florence, introduced by the painter Manfredi Lombardi, he became part of a group of Florentine and Sicilian intellectuals, including Buttitta and Ciccio Busacca, former collaborators of Dario Fo. The artist’s encounters with «A curuna» and «Canti della terra e del mare» by Alberto Favara, taught to him by Giuseppe Ganduscio, Paolo Emilio Carapezza, Pasquale Marchese and Buttitta and Busacca themselves.
«From these ancient writings he was able to understand the vocality, performance style and feeling of the eighteenth and nineteenth century peasants who were the protagonists of the songs – says Scollo –. This was Rosa’s genius, which was not always recognized, in addition to the merit of inspiring artists who today continue the tradition of cantu novu ».

«In the show I will ironically play Buttitta, with his stone voice, typical of strong people from the common people – Balsamo anticipates –. We will focus on this relationship because, creating the show these days in Salina, the element that is most exciting us is the relationship between the two of them. We are creating a mirror dramaturgy, between Rosa Balistreri and Ignazio Buttitta and Etta and me.”

A game of references to show another side of Balistreri, that is, the ability to address important themes with irony, and give space to those who in the collective imagination are its author and, with her, the most important popular voice from the 50s to the 70s «A relationship based on a love to the third degree, like the one described by Plato in the “Symposium” – adds Balsamo, who refers to his latest, highly acclaimed show taken precisely from the Platonic dialogue –. From Ignazio’s texts and Rosa’s voice an exceptional artistic union was born, capable of representing the many facets of Sicily that need to be rediscovered.” Music critic John Vignola will introduce the show.