FROM THE MAIL TO BERGAMO. “Who has Bergamo, tonight, is Italy that has suffered, that has been wounded, that has cried. Bergamo represents the whole of Italy, the heart of the Republic that bows to the thousands of dead ». Now it is a question of «looking ahead. With the will to change and rebuild that other generations have had before ours “. On the staircase of the monumental Cemetery of the martyred city, Sergio Mattarella opens the simple, touching ceremony of commemoration of the victims of Covid.
The choice of place says it all. Places speak and cry. The cemetery of Bergamo was the backdrop to the most terrible images of the pandemic, those of the parades of military trucks loaded with corpses that were carried away for cremation, serial death, anonymous death of the victims that no one could greet. And we saw her church crammed with coffins, almost one on top of the other, in the tragic days when more than she could leave, even more than she could have imagined. Officially, the death toll is six thousand in the province and 670 in Bergamo, but everyone knows that the statistics are unreliable and, as the mayor, Giorgio Gori has always said, the deaths were certainly more.
This time the places speak and cry with music. The people of Bergamo chose the one of the most illustrious fellow citizen, Gaetano Donizetti, who lost a sister to the cholera, the nineteenth century virus, and wrote this unfinished Requiem in D minor for the death of Bellini. The nation is represented by the President of the Republic. The community, by the mayors of the province, about 230 out of 243, with their tricolor strip. The distancing has forced painful choices. The relatives of the victims are not there, with general regret and some irritation. Instead there is Luca Fusco, representative of the “We report” Committee, who asks to investigate the failure to establish the red zone in Alzano and Nembro, who came despite having declared that he did not want to share “the same physical space” with the president of Lombardy, Attilio Fontana. Fontana’s response: “We will not overcome pain with hatred.” In his brief speech, Mattarella invites us to “reflect on the shortcomings of the system”, but without forgetting “how much positive things have manifested themselves”.
But it is not the day of controversy. It is that of tears and regrets, a sober and modest memory as it is in the character of these people. The tribute is proudly “local”: Donizetti from Bergamo, director Riccardo Frizza from Brescia, who also took Covid, and then the Orchestra and Chorus of the Donizetti Festival, the two female soloists from Brescia, the middle Annalisa Stroppa and the soprano Eleonora Buratto, bass player from Bergamo Alex Esposito. On stage and in the audience there is no one who has not lost a friend or relative. The emotion is very strong. Who knows if on television (live on RaiUno) it was perceived as here, on the lawn in front of the Famedio. And the audience data will be interesting today. A Requiem Mass is not exactly a prime time program, but this time music is a means and not an end, it helps to think, to reflect and also, let’s face it, to indulge in the bittersweet catharsis of crying.
The images are very strong. The Tricolori are hung on the columns of the Famedio, on the steps of the flames. The President arrives at the church and lays a crown for the victims, in front of the plaque dictated by Ernesto Oliviero, the founder of Sermig. Then he moves to the esplanade. “Brothers of Italy” resounds: the heart of the Republic, in fact. Mattarella sits in the front row: the only indication arrived from the Quirinale, that his chair was the same as all, a normal plastic garden armchair. The door of the Famedio opens and the director Francesco Micheli, the artistic director of the Donizetti Festival, reads the Farewell to the mountains of the “Promessi sposi”, “because Lucia is one of us – he explains after the concert, still moved – and Manzoni has told how nobody torments him of having to leave without being able to express a last goodbye. The departure is a metaphor for death, as the song is that of the scream of those who remain ».
Music, in fact. But in the era of the epidemic. The performers wear the mask and the choristers, heroic, keep it even when they sing, the winds are isolated from the plexiglass booths. The battle is not known to be won. On the lawn, as the sun sets, it is very hot. When the violins and Piero Pretti attack the beautiful «Ingemisco» (which falls to the tenor, as in Verdi’s “Requiem”), under the mask we all have a wet face, and not sweat. As usual, Shakespeare had found the words to express what we can’t say: “Isn’t it strange that a sheep’s gut can pull the soul out of a Christian’s body?” —