A book reveals the "Bohème life" of the great librettist: rebel, Garibaldian, radical journalist, in his works he gave prominent roles to women

"Luigi Illica was the man of no" says Giangiacomo Schiavi speaking of the librettist and journalist to whom he dedicated the intense and highly sought-after biography Genio Ribelle. La vita da Bohème by Luigi Illica, presented in Castell'Arquato on July 8 at the end of the Illica 2023 Festival.

Rebellion is actually a keyword to understand Luigi Illica and the revolutionary scope of his work.

Sixteen-year-old, he runs away from home and is sent on a merchant ship by his father, with an attempt to instill in him obedience and discipline. He then rides the protests of the young Garibaldians, directs the radical newspaper Don Quixote , and collaborates in La Lettura, the cultural insert of the Corriere della Sera directed by Giacosa from 1901 to 1906 And finally, she rebels against the condition of women confined to brothels, representing them as heroines in her works, 'Mimì', 'Tosca' and 'Butterfly'.

How the book Genio ribelle: la vita da Bohème by Luigi Illica was born

The book Rebel genius: the bohemian life of Luigi Illica was born from an idea of Gilda Bojardi, Councilor for Culture and Tourism of the Municipality of Castell'Arquato and Director of Interiors.

Already during the Illica 2021 Festival, Bojardi had invited the Corriere della Sera columnist Giangiacomo Schiavi to a debate on the role of writer of the Arquatese librettist, an opportunity to stimulate the journalist's curiosity.

It was decided to involve the IULM University of Milan, in the person of its Rector Gianni Canova, to create a book that traced the avant-garde nature and the rebellious genius of Luigi Illica.

“I invited Gianni Canova to dinner, who welcomed with great enthusiasm the idea of supporting the author with two students from the Master in Journalism of the 'University IULM, Leonardo Rossetti and Gabriella Sicilian”, explains Bojardi.

“The students appreciated the proposal and did their utmost in the research with dedication and interest, guided by Schiavi. This book also came to life thanks to the support of the Donatella Ronconi and Enrica Prati Foundation”.

During the presentation of the volume, on 8 July in Castell'Arquato, after a welcome from Mayor Giuseppe Bersani, Gilda Bojardi emphatically recounted the genesis of the volume and introduced the students Rossetti and Siciliano, who they greeted and thanked the audience from the front row.

The President Donatella Ronconi was represented by the Vice-President Alessandro Miglioli, who recalled how the Foundation is always in favor of wide-ranging initiatives, capable to give value and recognition to the territory and its excellence.

The genesis of the research on Luigi Illica

"One day Marco Paolini, visiting Castell'Arquato to collect the Illica Prize, asked a middle school boy who Illica was and the boy replied: 'the electrician!'", Giangiacomo Slaves.

The sentence, taken from the incipit of a booklet on the figure of Illica and created in 2016 by Fabrizia Boiardi for the Pro Loco of Castell'Arquato, opened the debate by provoking a spontaneous laughter from the audience, and then leaving room for a series of anecdotes .

The book is the result of research conducted by Giangiacomo Schiavi at the Corriere della Sera archives, the Archiginnasio Library of Bologna, the Passerini Landi Library of Piacenza, the Ricordi Historical Archive, the Civic Collection of Bertarelli Prints, the Sormani Library and the Teatro at the Scala in Milan, the Illica Museum of Castell'Arquato and the collaboration of some experts of the medieval village.

For the accurate examination of the multifaceted role of the Arquatese librettist, Schiavi received the Illica Award for the journalism category, conferred on him during the Assignment Ceremony of the previous evening, Friday 7 July . Award received for the work with the Illica Festival and for the research conducted at 360°, supported by the students Rossetti and Siciliano, who in the book highlight Luigi Illica's "pirate correspondences".

It is in the correspondence with the publisher, Giulio Ricordi, that Illica's personality and professionalism are reconstructed, of which - in the trio with Puccini and Giacosa - the creative impulse and sharp and revealing writing stand out.

See also: Illica Festival 2023, “the Award Winners”

Giangiacomo Schiavi

Giangiacomo Schiavi then accompanied the public through the phases of the Arquatese's life, tracing the stages in Castell'Arquato, Bologna and Milan, thanks to the alternating interventions of Carlo Fontana , President of Impresa Cultura Italia, former Superintendent of the Teatro alla Scala, Gianni Canova and Massimo Baucia, Conservator of the Ancient Fund of the Passerini-Landi Library.

Fontana delved into the theatrical legacy of Illica, whose masterpiece "L'ereditaa del Felìs" was staged on November 29, 1962 at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan, directed by Virginio Peucher, while Canova recalled the modernity of the Illica-Giacosa couple, comparable "to the modern couples, Mogol-Battisti for music and Fruttero-Lucentini for writing", also underlining the importance of letting young people learn in the field through experience.

In his last speech, Massimo Baucia shared the richness of the Illica Fund of the Passerini-Landi Library in Piacenza and deepened Illica's correspondence with Tebaldini and Arturo Toscanini, emphasizing the idea of the librettist, also here forerunner of modern times, of the possible cinematographic rendering of the work.

The current Director of Libertà Pietro Visconti, a newspaper from Piacenza which already in 1915 gave space to Illica's correspondence, concluded the meeting by complimenting the work done and the importance of the book, an important legacy and starting point for further developments for the Piacenza area.

Free copies of the book are available at the Municipality of Castell'Arquato and at the headquarters of Editoriale Libertà in Piacenza.