Damian and Tara Savarino speak with The Bridge Online
courtesy of Damian Savarino
|Damian Savarino, senior lecturer in music, hold his son, Dominic, outside the family homestead where Nona, the oldest living woman in the family and her son live today. They stayed with one of Damien's father’s cousins a few blocks away.
Damian: Sicily was surprising. We knew it was going to be a beautiful place… tropical in climate, but it’s so much more than that. It’s hard to describe. . . the culture, the people— being mostly Italian but also claiming a lot of diversity because it’s so close to the African coast, there are a lot of influences that are really hard to describe that are intermingled with their Italian culture. They have their own Sicilian dialect. There’s a lot that really interesting about the island itself.
Tara: The language was wonderful. It being Sicily, the people didn’t speak English. That was wonderful! Luckily our relatives spoke very pure Italian and slower, without the dialect.
Damian: So we could understand.
Tara: We were thrown into this situation…Richard had the least Italian experience out of the three of us. At every meal he’d be sitting there with two dictionaries and we would just— with our dictionaries—struggle through, pantomiming what they couldn't translate.
Had most of your experience with the Italian language been through music—singing opera? Was your vocabulary limited?
Damian: I had never studied Italian formally. But I had extensive experience with the repertoire and with the language as a singer. Tara studied it formally. She had more to draw on grammar-wise than I.
Tara: I lived in Italy for a while during college. I did an abroad program. That was close to twelve years ago, so when we first got there I was the one people would come to do the translating. By day three everyone started picking up the language.
Did your familiarity with other romance languages help?
Damian: That helps. If you had Latin or Spanish you can often times work your way…
Tara: It was interesting to observe the roles of women in the town. At first it was difficult or sort of out of their comfort level to come to me with translating issues or questions. Women weren’t out in the piazza. But I would be out at lunchtime walking with our son and there would be forty older gentlemen all dressed in their suits, taking their walk...
Damian: smoking their cigars
Tara: You wouldn’t see women out in that particular piazza, but it was fine,
Damian: : They weren’t offended by it, but it certainly caught their attention.
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