The Malta Independent 1 February 2023, Wednesday
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Christmas Eve Concert - A concert that did us proud

Malta Independent Wednesday, 29 December 2010, 00:00 Last update: about 11 years ago

On Christmas Eve, those of us who did not go out and celebrate, watched Malta being done proud on RAI 2’s Concerto di Natale with Mara Venier.

This was the 18th such concert but the first one to be held outside Italy and, like other Italian television successes, the first time outside Italy had to be in Malta.

It was not just the location (the Mediterranean Conference Centre) nor just the shots of Malta at the beginning, but also the inclusion of so many Maltese singers in the line-up, from Ira Losco to Maria Abela, not forgetting the choir of Maltese children and the Voices choir in the background. And, of course, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.

It was a concert shot by Italian experts and condensed by other Italian experts (the actual concert lasted some two more hours) and the slick switching of cameras was something that our local boys are not yet up to.

It is good that people in Malta seek this kind of international links. The relationship of Maltese with RAI is a long-standing and very fruitful one, going back at least to the time of Malta’s independence in 1964 when Prime Minister Aldo Moro sent his television greetings.

So too the relations with Italy’s prime television shows, from Buona Domenica to Giochi senza Frontiere to whatever else.

There was a time when Malta for Italians was an ‘irredenta’ part, the part not yet rescued, when the Maltese considered themselves as ‘cousins’ over the seas. Those days, fruit of Italian empire dreams, are over, and those of Maltese anti-colonial ambition-led supporters of anything Italian. Then came the war and Maltese were killed by their Italian ‘cousins’ so the loving relationship was broken.

But not for long: the end of the war saw a renewal of Maltese travel to Italy and the sprouting of multiple links between the two countries. Then came Independence (after Malta wisely chose not to become part of the British nation) when Malta could relate to its greater neighbour as an equal.

The years that followed were years of even greater friendship, when Italy mediated so that the British could cough up more money for the naval base, when Malta stood to be the springboard for many Italian initiatives in the radio and television field (links with Rizzoli) and when Malta was more involved in Italian internal politics than most people realise.

The other side of Malta, at that time not in government, also forged close links with Italy, and it was from Italy (or rather Sicily) that the first independent television broadcasts were made. Malta even kicked out Flaminio Piccoli, head of the Italian Christian Democrat party, while it cozied up to that great statesman that was Bettino Craxi on multiple levels.

Then Malta, with rather debatable Italian help, became member of the EU and of the eurozone, as was now not just a peer sovereign state but also a partner inside the European community and many times the only member state that backed up Italy as in the recent debatable dealings with Libya over the flux of illegal asylum seekers.

At the same time, as was revealed lately, Malta is contesting Italian claims over disputed potential oilfields in the sea.

On the people to people level, the relationship with Italy has never been stronger, what with the many twinning agreements with Maltese local councils, the presence of Italian television in every home, not to speak about the Maltese fixation with Italian football clubs.

This relationship can still go further: many Maltese, not just the small girl in the Concerto di Natale, become tongue-tied when spoken to in Italian, and although many Maltese well-understand Italian, many are hard put to string together two sentences in Italian. The relationship is still very much one-sided.

Nevertheless, and over and above all this, Malta has become a welcome surprise to many Italians. The facility of cheap air links between different parts of Italy and Malta afforded them a first visit to these islands. If Malta’s tourism offer contains a not more than average return quotient, then we may expect many repeat tourists from Italy, just as the ‘Englishness’ of Malta has already proved to be a potent attraction to Sicilian tourists in its own right.

All this may be over and above the simple broadcasting of a concert from MCC to the entire Italian nation (and also through the Italians in the world, thanks to satellite).

It was a good thing this concert was brought to Malta and succeeded so well. Like other similar initiatives in the past, may the future be filled by other ventures in the sector.

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