I have an Italian last name and live in South Philadelphia. So everyone thinks I was born and raised here. Not so. My Mother’s family (and me with it) hails from the Midwest and her Scots-Irish ancestors reached these shores in the early 1600’s. But everyone’s gotta come from somewhere and that’s why when my Mother’s relatives were bragging about their DAR memberships, my Father would proudly announce that he could trace his family “all the way back to the banana boat in New York Harbor.”
The Sicilian half of my family got most of my attention during my childhood, maybe because they were louder than the W.A.S.P. half. My mother would go around saying things like “That’s just not done,” and dispensing other mots of wisdom that I did not begin to comprehend until I reached adulthood. The Sicilian food was better anyway.
The 9th Street Market in South Philadelphia is commonly called “The Italian Market.” It was predominantly Italian at one time, but starting in the 70’s, there was an influx of immigrants from Southeast Asia. People began arriving from Mexico and Central America about 20 years ago. The market and the surrounding neighborhood is a heady mix of restaurants, cuisines, cultures, ethnic groceries, shops, bakeries and more.
What does that have to do with Cavalleria Rusticana? It started when my friend Doris asked me to join her and another friend for a musical program called Honoring Our Ancestors, presented by the Our Market program and Orchestra 2001, and held in the 9th Street Market this past weekend.
Orchestra 2001 presented a great program of music from Central and South America, Asia, and Italy. The last work was Intermezzo from Cavaleria Rusticana, which is the quintessential Sicilian opera. The story goes like this: Mama loves boy more than anything. Boy doesn’t listen to his Mama. Boy breaks Mama’s heart. Boy dies. We all cry to some of the most beautiful operatic music you will ever hear. Listen and see if you agree.