A little bit of Salento, Italy, is coming to Boston.
As part of the Year of Italian Culture, La Notte della Taranta is bringing its unique, Southern Italian sound to the Outside the Box festival. Slate for July 13 to 20, it is the largest free entertainment event in the city this summer, with more than 200 performers participating.
Not just an orchestra but also a foundation and festival, La Notte della Taranta is dedicated to preserving pizzica, a type of music in the tarantella family. “It is a genre of music once used to cure people — above all women — bitten by a poisonous spider called taranta,” Artistic Director Sandro Cappelletto explains. “Characterized by the constant rhythm of drums, it’s made to inspire dancing, and captivates the body and all the senses.”
Each year, the pinnacle of pizzica performance occurs in August at La Notte della Taranta. Founded in 1998, the festival takes over Grecìa Salentina, an area along the heel of Italy’s boot where ancient Greek traditions and the Grìko dialect live on today.
The festival, which is dedicated to giving new life to the traditional music of Salento, boasts more than 300,000 spectators each year, according to Cappelletto. Though there are events across the region, it all culminates on the last Saturday of the month in the town of Melpignano with Il Concertone, a massive concert that is recognized as one of Europe’s greatest musical events.
Each year, Il Concertone is led by a Maestro Concertatore, a role that in the past has been filled by internationally renowned musicians such as Stewart Copeland from The Police and pianist Ludovico Einaudi.
Singer and musician Mauro Pagani, who served Maestro Concertatore from 2007 to 2009, will travel to Boston for La Notte della Taranta’s concert at Outside the Box. Though a smaller than normal Orchestra Popolare will accompany Pagani, Artistic Director Capelletto assures that the group’s high standard of performance will be on full display.
“The audience at Outside the Box should expect a concert characterized by a passionate, rhythmic energy that is irresistible and very sensual,” he says. “It’s a rhythm that calls for dancing.”
The musicians of La Notte della Taranta are looking forward to bringing their unique sound and energy to Boston – and of course, getting the crowd up on their feet. As Capelletto explains, he and the others at the organization felt Outside the Box combined with the Year of Italian Culture provided the perfect opportunity to share “the beauty of the pizzica with a nation where the world’s music cultures come together.”
“This music is the child of Salento, yet it speaks a language that everyone can understand when listening to it,” he notes.
Still, Capelletto admits that performing this traditional, regional music away from home has its risks. “You can’t take anything for granted and you must be capable of understanding, in the moment, to what extent the audience can follow you; to what extent you can take them,” he explains. “One thing is certain: we will give it our all.”