The Italian Chazanut
The Italian Chazanut Roudtable is a project of Italian Jewish music and liturgy established in memory of Erna Finci Viterbi z’l, whose love for tradition and dedication to learning have profoundly contributed to shape the center’s principles. This year is held in collaboration with Kehilah Kedosha Janina.
Ashkenazi Songs From the North of Italy
Rav Elia Richetti and Dr. Francesco Spagnolo
This program features one of Italy’s leading cantors, Rabbi Elia Richetti, performing a selection of Ashkenazi synagogue songs from an array of Jewish communities in Northern Italy. Throughout his life, Rabbi Richetti has preserved the music of Gorizia, where part of his family came from, and learned the traditions of Trieste and Verona. The performance, presented in conversation with musicologist Francesco Spagnolo (UC Berkeley), will also include excerpts of other Italian traditions of Ashkenazi origin, such as Venice and Casale Monferrato. Ashkenazi Jews settled in Italy since the early modern period, and preserved original musical traditions documented in written and recorded sources since the 18th century.
Elia Richetti (Milan, 1950) was trained as Rabbi, Cantor, Sofer, and Mohel in Italy and Israel. Rabbi Richetti has been the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish communities of Trieste (1979-1989) and Venice (2001-2010), and Deputy Chief Rabbi of Milan (1989-2001). He served on the Milan Beth Din, as president of the Italian Rabbinical Assembly, and as a member and sofer of Beth Din of Central and Northern Italy. He is a leading expert on many Italian liturgical traditions, with a particular focus on the Ashkenazi minhag.
Francesco Spagnolo (PhD Hebrew University, 2007) works at the University of California, Berkeley, as the Curator of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life and an Associate Adjunct Professor in the Department of Music. His research focuses on the musical history of the Italian synagogue. He is the author of Italian Jewish Musical Traditions (Rome-Jerusalem, 2001) and, most recently, of The Jewish World (Rizzoli, 2014).
Each year, Centro Primo Levi invites a guest cantor to lead a ceremony of music and singing from the Italian and Mediterranean Jewish traditions. The material selected for each program will be published and recorded. Publication and ceremony will focus on a theme and/or section of the siddur.
Publications, recordings and essays produced for this program will be available through a website designed to provide tools to those interested in learning, practicing or simply enjoying this art, including scholars, musicians, cantors and bar/bat-mitzvah students wishing to include some of this beautiful music in their liturgical repertoire.
The online resource will be structured as a virtual siddur and machazor (prayer book) in which the essential daily and festive liturgy is organized in chapters, each featuring regional variations of piyyutim, cantillation and melodies as well as extra-liturgical repertoires.
Sharing and participating were among Erna’s most cherished values and she regarded them as indispensable foundation of human relations and endeavors.
Partaking in the communal prayer through the knowledge of its musical canons and variations has been an essential component of Jewish life for centuries.
The liturgical canons that flourished in small communities throughout the Mediterranean reflects travels, trades and exchanges. The resulting tapestry of sound and inflections is an invaluable treasure that is still preserved within local communities and can become an inspiration outside of its native environment.
This project, made of books and music and conceived as a “portable school,” is dedicated to Erna’s life and her long journey through countries and cultures that enriched her vision and strengthened her identity. May her memory be of guidance to future generations.
The Italian Chazanut Roundtable was established through the generous support of Sara Wolf Hallac, Toby Wolf, Jeff Keil and Danielle Pinet.