As part of its ongoing celebrations as European Capital of Culture, the Italian city of Matera is to host three days of live programming from state radio channel Rai Radio 3 between 11 and 15 September.
In its ninth year, Materadio will take place not only in the evocative squares of the city centre, but also at a new venue in the shape of the Cava del Sole - an imposing quarry at the entrance to Matera, carved from tufa limestone.
Against this unique backdrop, the channel’s presenters will introduce special guests, speakers and musicians for a series of events streaming live around the country.
Brought together under the theme ‘The South’, events will explore the traditions, beliefs and changing landscapes of a conceptual south, transcending geographical boundaries and following the routes that unite and transport people.
Activist and trade unionist Aboubakar Soumahoro – one of many special guests attending the events – will be in conversation with writer and activist Goffredo Fofi, looking at the ways in which the Mediterranean region has become a place of uncertainty, where refugees are too often denied the shelter they need.
This theme is explored further in ‘629. Men in Cages’, a theatrical project that tells the story of the 629 people on the ship Aquarius who were denied refuge in June 2018.
In a concert held in the quirky surroundings of the Essenza Lucano museum, a showcase for the region’s famed Amaro Lucano liqueur, singer-songwriter Teresa de Sio is set to evoke the sounds of the south in a concert titled ‘Reason and Feeling’.
Other music highlights include ‘Concerto Italiano’, an hour of ancient music for flute, violin, cello and harpsichord, and two ‘Music Lessons’, which look at the dialogue created between musicians, as they inspire and are inspired by one another across the ages. The first features music by Mozart and Haydn; the second the music of Beethoven and Brahms.
As part of Radio 3’s cultural series called ‘Filo Rosso’ (Red Thread), the story of Italy’s southern regions is told, over these three days, via eight traditional objects, ranging from maritime items that shaped the very history of the Mediterranean – nets, the compass, coral and amphorae – to everyday objects such as lamps and candles.
I Pupi (‘The Puppets’) will look at the history of these curious, almost life-size, marionettes, part of a long tradition of storytelling in theatre. The use of pupi in the telling of medieval chivalric tales soared in popularity at the beginning of the 19th century, and remains popular to this day. In 2008, they were recognised on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Historians Alessandro Vanoli and Amedeo Feniello will be accompanied by guitarist Carlo Mascilli Migliorini on this journey through the stories of eight southern objects, ending with Le Valigie (‘Suitcases’). Reaching far beyond the physical aspects of travel, speakers will talk about the lives and dreams that migrants and refugees throughout the centuries have carried with them in their pursuit of a new and brighter future.
Other events to look out for include the live streaming of ‘Hollywood Party’, a regular Rai Radio 3 show in which pundits and guests talk about cinema and the latest releases. Any discussion of movies has particular resonance for Matera, whose turnaround in fortunes came partly as a result of the sudden interest in the city as a film location.
Many of the city’s most breathtaking buildings are carved from the rock that forms the side of a deep ravine, and until just a few decades ago, most of Matera’s inhabitants lived in cave dwellings, preserved and indeed refurbished in the present day. This has made the city a perfect stand-in for ancient settlements such as Jerusalem (it most famously starred in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ).
More recently, however, Matera was the location for the latest Bond movie, No Time to Die (to be released in 2020), and 007 in his various incarnations, from 1953 to the present day, forms the theme for this special edition of Hollywood Party.
In keeping with the theme of bringing cultures together, various concerts featuring international musicians will take place as part of the Materadio programming. An especial highlight promises to be the performance of Norwegian jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek, who will be joined on stage by another world-class musician, Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu.
Bridges are being built, too, between Matera and comparable cities around the world. ‘Matera and Bamiyan, Twins in History’ compares the fortunes of two cities that suffered hardship and whose fortunes were later turned around. Bamiyan in Afghanistan famously saw its two giant, 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, but has seen its archaeological park return to life in much the same way that the Sassi cave dwellings of Matera have shaken off their roots in poverty to become attractions in themselves.
Homage is paid to Italian personalities from astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, to author Andrea Camilleri and cyclist Fausto Coppi, and to traditions such as the ‘pizzica’ – a local folk dance, a night of which will be performed by La Notte della Taranta orchestra in the Cava del Sole.
The programme ends on Sunday 15 September, with a lunchtime ‘Gran Finale’ in the Piazza San Francesco, in which Italian folk group Modena City Ramblers hands over the metaphorical baton of European Capital of Culture to Galway, Ireland, which will hold the title in 2020. Known for their Celtic influences, the Ramblers will be joined on stage by Irish folk musicians Gearóid Ó Murchú, Ruairi Liam Mac Con Iomaire and Rebecca Ní Éallaithe, fresh from their performances at Traidphicnic, Galway’s main festival of traditional Irish music.
These are just some of the latest fixtures in a year-long programme of exhibitions, performances and talks that is projected to attract over a million visitors to the city over the course of 12 months.
The best way to enjoy everything the city has to offer this year is with the Matera 2019 Passport. For €19 you can not only access the year’s events for free, but also enjoy unlimited public transport. If you are only in Matera for a short time, a one-day Passport is available for €10.