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The Soundtrack of Italian American Cinema: A Talk by Mark Rotella (Tue Dec. 6, 2022)

The Soundtrack of Italian Americans: A Talk by Mark Rotella
Moderated by Teresa Fiore (Inserra Endowed Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies)

Tue. Dec. 6. 2022  3:00pm – University Hall 1040 

Shifting attention from cinema as image to cinema as sound, the talk uses the soundtrack of the film Moonstruck by Norman Jewison (1987) as a launching pad to explore the role of music in several films about the Italian American experience. A classic romcom that has gathered renewed interest during the pandemic (see NYTimes article), Moonstruck embraces classic songs like That’s Amore by Dean Martin as well as arias from operas (Puccini’s La Bohème) that will stand as examples for the adoption of evergreens by Italian American crooners or excerpts from operas in other films such as Raging BullThe Godfather, or A Bronx Tale. The same way Italian American films have written American cinema at large, Italian American songs have both reflected and defined the rich tapestry of American music in unforgettable ways.

Designed in connection with “Italian Americans in Film,” a General Education course offered at MSU since 2012.

Mark Rotella

Mark Rotella is an American author and Senior Editor at Publishers Weekly. He graduated from Columbia University in 1992 with a B.A. in Russian Literature. Rotella’s first book, Stolen Figs: And Other Adventures in Calabria (2004), recounts his travels to Calabria, the region in southern Italy from which his grandparents immigrated.

His second book, Amore: The Story of Italian American Song (2010), tells of the era in American popular music during the mid-20th century dominated by Italian-American singers such as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennett. He also wrote the introduction for the 2006 paperback edition of Carlo Levi’s memoir, Christ Stopped at Eboli. He has published nearly four dozen articles in a wide array of outlets including The New York Times, New York Times Book Review, The L.A. Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Vanity Fair, Saveur Magazine, and and has appeared on National Public Radio outlets across the USA (on flagship shows such as All Things Considered and the Leonard Lopate Show), CBS’s The Insider, Entertainment Tonight, and ABC News. After teaching at Goucher and Lehman Colleges as well as in the MFA Program at Columbia University, Rotella is Visiting Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at Montclair State University, where he was also appointed as Director of the Coccia Institute for the Italian Experience in America as of Fall 2020.

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“It’s A Wonderful (Italian-American) Life” by Mark Rotella, (Dec. 2012).

“’Amore’: Italian-American Singers In The 20th Century” by Mark Rotella, (Oct. 9, 2010)

“Living With Music: A Playlist by Mark Rotella” The New York Times (Oct. 6, 2010).

Big Night: Soundtrack and Silence” by Andrea Sciarambella, ReelRundown. Nov. 23, 2020.