A chat with Festa Italiana headliner Patrizio Buanne
As a fan rooting for Argentina in the World Cup, last weekend was likely a little rough for Italian crooner Patrizio Buanne. This upcoming weekend, however, is shaping up much more nicely.
The world renowned performer – who's sung for the Pope, a U.S. president, royal families and most importantly, Jimmy Fallon – is the featured headliner at this year's Festa Italiana.
Festa begins Friday, July 18, and Buanne will take the main stage on Saturday and Sunday nights at 9 p.m.
Before Festa kicks off, OnMilwaukee.com got a chance to chat with Buanne about his musical inspirations, his love of languages, what's next for him and why Argentina was his World Cup pick (hopefully he's emotionally recovered from Sunday afternoon).
OnMilwaukee.com: Judging by the links on your Facebook page, it looks like you're rooting for Argentina in the World Cup?
Patrizio Buanne: Yes, I am. I'm supporting Argentina for many reasons. First of all, my mom – before she was married to my dad – she was married to an Argentinean gentleman, so I have two half-sisters that are basically half-Argentinean. So that's one reason.
The second reason is that my football team is Naples, and one of the heroes of my generation, when I was a kid, was the great Diego Maradona, who was basically the Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson of the '80s and '90s, the absolute soccer hero of the time. He was just an amazing player.
The third reason? I guess I love empanadas? (laughs) And I think 50 percent of the Argentinean population is of Southern Italian descent (Note: some estimates put the number of Argentines with Italian roots as high as about 60 percent). These are all the little reasons that make me want to root for Argentina, but I think Argentina is going to have a hard time.
OMC: You're a massive language junkie. You love languages, you've studied them for much of your life and you once aimed to be an interpreter. What was the hardest language for you to learn when you were studying to be an interpreter?
PB: I think Polish was the most difficult one. One of my half-sisters married a Polish guy, so I heard through him the Polish language at home every now and then. I used to date a Polish girl, and then I ended up singing for the Pope when I was 17 in Poland. So there were all these little indicators that made me want to study the language, and as an interpreter, nowadays, to say, "I'm an interpreter; I speak English," well, everybody speaks English. Nowdays, you would study Arabic, you would study Russian or you would study Chinese.
I wanted to learn Polish because it would come in handy. And when you study Polish, you can understand some of the Russian and some of the Serbian or Croatian or Slavic languages. It's like when you speak Italian, then you can understand some Spanish or Portuguese because it's a Latin language.
So Polish was very difficult. But saying that, I spent six years studying French, and I have not had the opportunity or possibility to speak it very often. So I would say, although it was easy in school to learn French, it's probably pretty weak now because it's all about the pronunciation. With Polish, it's going to sound weird when you learn it, but you remember the words and carry them with you forever. With French, you think you'll never forget it because it's so similar to Italian. But then the French are not really helpful when you speak to them and you don't pronounce it right and then they give you a hard time.
OMC: Do you still have any desire or passion at all to be an interpreter someday?
PB: You know what, I don't think so. I do think that it's fun to speak all of the languages and to be able to communicate with people from all over the world. I was brought up with languages, so it comes natural for me, but then I guess I took for granted what it means to communicate and that it was easy for me. To answer your question though, no, I wouldn't want to be an interpreter anymore because I found my place in this universe, which is that I want to sing and travel the world and be with musicians and be creative in that field. But if somebody out there needs help or somebody to jump in and translate something, I'm happy to do that.
OMC: Your Facebook page lists several influences on your page, ranging from several different kinds of music: Italian singers, Frank Sinatra and all across the board. If you had to pick one main influence on your life and sound, who would you pick?
PB: Elvis Presley, that's for sure.
OMC: Why him?
PB: All the influences you find, what they all have in common – other than they're all talented (laughs) – is that, with seemingly the smallest amount of effort, they are able to create an atmosphere of show talent. That means great voice and to respect your audience.
I have no problem with any genre of music – any hard rock or rappers or anything – but I get annoyed when the industry invents people or creates trends that have no quality. It comes across as very offensive.
I think it's important that an artist shares his opinion, but for me, as an artist, I want to make your day better. I want to talk about the great things. I don't want to lie to you, but I want to make you feel good because I'm an entertainer. An entertainer is supposed to put a smile on your face and make you emotional, not just to talk about the negative things we see all the time when we switch on the news. That's out there anyway, so having somebody all the time putting the negative out there, I hate that.
OMC: There are many misconceptions about Italian music: what it is, what it isn't and what's popular. There's this mindset that it's just opera or very classical music, but that's a very narrow generalization of a whole spectrum of music.
PB: That is correct. I mean, the truth is that, with Italy being an ancient country, it's automatically classical. I mean, today, The Beatles are classics. I wasn't born when The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and even Elvis were playing, so for us, they are classical. You can go back even further to opera, but Enrico Caruso was the first recording artist back 100 years ago. So you see that recorded opera is not that old. So what is classic? Everything we create today, in 60 years, will be classic.
So my point of view is that I don't want to change anything about what people know. I'm not the guy who comes out and says, "No, that's not true." (laughs) I'm saying, "Yes, that's true, but there's also more." It's like people who are interested in the culture, they want to know if there's more than just gnocchi and spaghetti Bolognese. Is there something more? There is! There is so much more.
I'm basically keeping the tradition of the Italian songbook. There's an American songbook that is sung by whoever out there – Buble and all these guys. I have nothing to do with that; I'm singing the Italian songbook. I'm singing all the songs that every Italian pizzeria and restaurant knows. But I'm not singing it like a wedding singer with a keyboard; I'm coming with an orchestra. You can sing mainstream music that is not opera, but on a different level, up on a different notch. Give it a little more quality. It's not what you do; it's how you do it.
OMC: What's next for you?
PB: Well, you're actually the first person in the U.S. and the first journalist who's going to receive this message. I have a new manager, Brian Avnet. He used to manage Frankie Valli, and the last thing he managed was Josh Groban. I'm releasing a new album probably in October, and I'm working with Brian on my career in America. So to answer your question with more detail would be difficult because we are still kind of figuring out where this is going to fold together.
I am not very big in America; I'm big in Australia and South Africa and parts of Europe and Asia. All those millions of albums have been sold, but not in America. But he's going to help me break into the American market. We want to get into the movies; that's why I'm out in Los Angeles. I want to do some movies, and I want to record again in the U.S. There's a lot of things that we're working on at the moment.
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