Tag Archives: I promessi sposi

Mona Lisa Covergirl

Emma Barron’s just-published Popular High Culture in Italian Media, 1950-1970 (Palgrave, 2018) is an essential and engaging contribution to the study of Italian mass culture. The book’s subtitle, ‘Mona Lisa Covergirl’, points to the originality of its theme: how Italian high culture was deployed to create a distinctive form of mass culture in the post-1945 expansion of television and popular magazines. Pasolini and Quasimodo providing advice to readers of Tempo (Pasolini: ‘The letters are enjoyable: some of them even give me a profound joy, even if as brief as a flash’),  Mike Bongiorno promoting knowledge of the classics through Lascia o raddoppia? (15 million viewers weekly), Il barbiere di Siviglia as the first opera to be transmitted on Italian tv (1954, conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini), Giacomo Puccini endorsing Odol mouthwash (‘Lodo l’ODOL, LO DOLce licor che LO DOLore del dente scaccia di sovente’), Shakespeare’s lines used to sell pasta (Barilla), liquor (Amaretto di Saronno) and chocolates (Baci Perugina), I promessi sposi drawing mass tv audiences (19 million) and readerships (magazines, fotoromanzi, comics) – this study of the intertwining of the classic and the contemporary provides a fresh and productive account of the development of Italian mass culture.

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