Amount Of Italian Culture, Music

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From 1876 to 1924, more than 4.5 million Italian immigrants arrived in America, bringing their culture which encompassed traditions, food, literature, and music. The influx of immigrants had a significant impact on the growth of New York City during the nineteenth century due to the rising immigrant population. Italian music has since become a widely loved genre with diverse subgenres that have influenced other forms of popular music. During my research, I faced no difficulties exploring live musical performances in locations like Little Italy in New York where street musicians can often be found, especially during holidays or the San Gennaro Festival. Moreover, numerous restaurants in Manhattan’s Little Italy offer live entertainment where performers frequently interact directly with customers at their tables. However, comparing Italian musical traditions to the Italian-American performances I observed posed certain challenges.

When researching Italian music, it can be difficult due to the large number of composers and genres. To narrow down my research for this paper, I suggest that students consider the type of performance they are studying. I was unsure whether the musician would be a Classical Italian performer or an Italian American artist. From what I have observed, it appears that most performers in Little Italy, Manhattan are Italian-American.

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When Italians came to America, they faced discrimination from German and Irish communities. As a result, neighborhoods primarily inhabited by Italians or those with Italian heritage became known as “Little Italy’s”. One such community is located in Lower Manhattan called Little Italy, New York. This neighborhood used to have a significant number of Italian immigrants but now is renowned for its Italian restaurants, bakeries, and shops. It also hosts the San Gennaro festival. Little Italy stretches from Mulberry Street to Canal Street where Chinatown begins.

During my Thanksgiving break visit to Little Italy, New York,
I had dinner at La Mela restaurant.

La Mela is an Italian restaurant that offers a family-style dining experience along with live music. The musician who performs at our table is Larry Luger, a Manhattan-born artist with roots in Cosenza, Italy. In 1920, his grandmother and mother immigrated to the United States from Cosenza. Luger’s mother settled in the Five Towns area of Long Island when she arrived in America at the age of seven, while his grandmother remained there until her passing at the age of 106.

During high school, Luger discovered his passion for music and began playing various instruments and performing gigs locally and across New York City. He furthered his musical education at Lehman College and received private instruction from two renowned musicians – studio guitarist Allen Hanlon and Dr. Michael Stancarone.

Throughout his adult life, Luger has pursued a professional career in music, showcasing a diverse range of genres including jazz and Italian-American tunes. For the past eight years, he has entertained guests with Italian-American music at La Mela Restaurant, even attracting famous American singer Tony Bennett. Additionally, Luger is part of a trio that performs at the Hotel Algonquin.

He currently has two albums out. Luger discussed with my family the impact of classical and folk Italian music on popular music in America. The tarantella, an Italian folk dance, is characterized by a lively tempo and traditional dancing. Larry explained to my family and me how the tarantella, a dance originating from Italian peasants, played a role in the birth of rock and roll. Italian music has existed for centuries and through immigration and cultural diffusion, the tarantella, along with other genres, influenced rock and roll. “Everything has its origins,” Luger said. He believes that his love for jazz music and Italian-American music are closely connected because all types of music influence each other. One fascinating aspect of Luger’s music is that when I inquired about the Italian music he performs, he corrected me, stating that it should be referred to as Italian-American music since Italian music encompasses a wide range of styles.

The writer expressed their passion for playing musical instruments and singing but acknowledged that they do not possess the opera voice necessary for authentic Italian music. Opera, which originated in Italy during the 1600s, is closely associated with classical Italian music. When thinking about this genre, Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), one of the most renowned composers of Italian opera, comes to mind. His compositions are known for their emotional depth, melodious melodies, and dramatic characterizations. Verdi revolutionized Italian opera by seamlessly combining music and drama. Throughout his career, he composed more than twenty-eight operas. One notable performance in late 1800s New York City was Verdi’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Alongside Mozart, Wagner, and Puccini, Verdi’s works are frequently staged in opera houses worldwide.

Italy’s influence on European music greatly impacted American culture, especially in New York City. NYC has been a leading force in American music since the mid-19th century, with the establishment and flourishing of opera houses, concert halls, conservatories, and orchestras. The Park Theatre in NYC hosted the first Italian Opera called Il Barbiere di Siviglia in 1825. During this period, theater groups showcased English, French, and Italian works that contributed to the growth of Italian musicians in NYC. The “Golden Age of Opera” started after the Metropolitan Opera house was destroyed by fire in 1891, leading to increased popularity for French and Italian operas within NYC. Luger fondly remembers watching Louis Prima perform his famous song “Just A Gigolo” on television during their childhood.

He believes that Prima is superior as an entertainer compared to Frank Sinatra. Joe Pass, one of Luger’s favorite jazz guitarists, passed away a few years ago. Joe Pass, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennett are famous Italian-American artists in the United States. Like Luger, these artists incorporated jazz and Italian music into their work. Pass, Sinatra, Martin, and Bennett revolutionized music in the United States. Tony Bennett’s father immigrated from southern Italy to the US, shaping his upbringing with jazz music and leading him to sing in Italian restaurants in Queens. The fusion of jazz and classical Italian music helped create what we now know as Italian-American music. In Italy, there are ‘gruppi folcloristici’, traditional musicians and dancers who perform, often for tourists. Luger noted that these artists do not perform songs like ‘Just A Gigolo’ and ‘That’s Amore’.

Italian-American music is what tourists expect to hear when visiting Little Italy, Manhattan; opera is what they expect to hear in Italy. The music of Italy ranges across a broad spectrum of opera and instrumental classical music and a body of popular music drawn from both native and imported sources. In comparison to Classical Italian music, Luger’s Italian-American music is sung in English with a few Italian words or phrases presented in the song’s lyrics. Italian-American style of music is not sung in an opera voice. Most Italian operas of the 19th century were inherited from the Bel Canto tradition, which is typically melodic with librettos that featured both tragic and comic elements; Italian-American music uses simple harmonies, and are structured in two sections, a refrain and narrative verses. Italian music is still evolving and many different sects of it have derived—from opera, Italian folk music, Italian-American, Italian techno, to instrumental classical. As with all music influenced by immigration, Italian music will continue to expand, evolve, and remain a prominent part of American culture.

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