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A sequence of poetry, prose and music on the theme of southern Europe, with readings by Alexandra Gilbreath and John Rowe.

Mezzogiorno is the land of lemon trees as well as the Mafia; it's the land of poverty and of plenty; of Giuseppe di Lampedusa as well as Leoncavallo. For centuries, Europe's beautiful south has held the Western imagination captive; so join Alexandra Gilbreath and John Rowe as they explore a region where Aeneas rubs shoulders with the Vespa.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Tue 29 Dec 2015 16:30

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:00

    R. de Simone

    Jesce Sole

    Performer: Piers Faccini and Vincent Segal.
    • No Format.
    • Tr1.
  • Carlo Levi translated by Frances Frenaye

    The Cemetery, From Christ Stopped at Eboli read by John Rowe

  • 00:04

    Giuseppe Verdi

    Summer from Les Vepres Siciliennes “Ballet of the Four Seasons”

    Performer: BBC Philharmonic Sir Edward Downes.
    • Chandos.
    • Tr6.
  • Virgil translated by Robert Fitzgerald

    From The Aeneid read by John Rowe and Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 00:15



    Performer: Spaccanapoli.
    • Realworld.
    • Tr5.
  • From Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi – Matera - translated by Frances Frenaye

    Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 00:21

    Alessandro Scarlatti

    Quando corpus morietur

    Performer: Gemma Bertagnolli and Sara Mingardo with Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini.
    • Naive.
    • Tr30.
  • Peter Robb

    From Midnight in Sicily read by John Rowe

  • 00:26

    Gioachino Rossini

    La Danza

    Performer: Luciano Pavarotti The Ultimate Collection.
    • Decca.
    • Tr10.
  • Giuseppe di Lampedusa – translated by Archibald Colquhoun

    From The Leopard read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 00:32

    Ruggero Leoncavallo

    Vesti la giubba

    Performer: Jose Cura with Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly.
    • Decca.
    • Tr14.
  • Salvatore Quasimodo translated by Jack Bevan

    And your dress is white read by John Rowe

  • 00:36

    Vincenzo Bellini

    Casta Diva from Norma

    Performer: Joan Sutherland and the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Richard Bonynge.
    • Decca.
    • Tr8.
  • Elio Vittorini translated by Alane Salierno Mason

    From Conversations in Sicily read by John Rowe

  • 00:44


    From Four Marian Motets – Maria, Mater gratiae

    Performer: Tallis Scholars.
    • Gimell.
    • Tr13.
  • Elena Ferrante translated by Ann Goldstein

    From My Brilliant Friend read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 00:50


    Mafia leggi d’onuri from Il Canto di Malavita

    Performer: Natino.
    • PIAS.
    • Tr22.
  • Leonardo Sciascia translated by Adrienne Foulke

    From To Each His Own read by John Rowe

  • 00:56

    Nicola Porpora

    Alte Giove from Polifema

    Performer: Bejun Mehta with Concerto Koln conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado.
    • Archiv.
    • Tr12.
  • W H Auden

    Good-bye to the Mezzogiorno read by John Rowe

  • 00:01

    Etta Scollo

    Sicilia Mia – poem by Ibn Hamdis translated by Toti Scialoja

    Performer: Etta Scollo.
    • edel Classics.
    • Tr10.

Producer's Note

A land of lemon trees, blue sea and and pulverising sunshine but also a land of ruined civilisations, sickness, and the Mafia. If you were making a map of the Mezzogiorno you would probably include  Calabria, Campania,  Abruzzo, Basilicata, Puglia, Molise and Sicily – but something would still be missing. Mezzogiorno is more than a matter of geography – it’s a question of history and sensibility. It’s a kind of Camelot where the past lies buried in the present; where sharp sensuality is matched by a vivid sense of mortality; and where the pagan meets the Catholic…. its boundaries following the traditional fault line between  the rich North and the poor South in Italy.

This week’s edition of  Words and Music is devoted to an exploration of  the Mezzogiorno with the help of some of Italy’s most brilliant writers and musicians  and with some who, although not born there, have fallen under its spell. The cast includes Leonardo Sciascia, Elio Vittorini, Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Carlo Levi  and W H Auden as well as Bellini, Leoncavallo,  Alessandro Scarlatti and Gesualdo, so book yourself an early summer holiday and take off for the beautiful, multi-faceted South with the actors, John Rowe and Alexandra Gilbreath.


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