In her bilingual musical for young adults, Simona Rodano breaks artistic boundaries while tackling a topic of importance and poignancy.
One well-worn cliché where adventurous artists are concerned centers on how they “follow their own muse.” But Simona Rodano is far more driven than that. Working within the four disciplines of music, theater, environmental science and education — spread out over two languages no less — this native of northern Italy has created what she calls an “edumusical” titled “Sempreverde: Evergreen.”
Where anything environmental is concerned, Rodano knows whereof she speaks: A scientist by training, she deftly avoids the trap of sounding too apocalyptic or preachy. “Sempreverde” targets young audiences with a straightforward theme. The mission of the heroine, Sempreverde (Evergreen) is to persuade her antagonist Spreco (Waste) to reuse and recycle.
In “Sempreverde,” Rodano has created a modern fairy tale. That’s only appropriate, given that Rodano has an alter ego known as The Italian Fairy or La Fata Italiana, who performs children’s shows.
In fact, you could characterize Rodano’s career as something of an enchanted tale, but one propelled by hard work and vision. Her many awards include the IBLA Grand Prize Award at Carnegie Hall; the Italian American Association of Educators Award; the Columbia Association of U.S. Customs Award as International Singing Sensation; and even an honorary citizenship in Little Rock, Arkansas.
On the performance side, Rodano has spent ten years on Italy’s RAI TV in the variety show “Ci Vediamo in TV.” On stage, she’s played Grace Farrell in the Italian adaptation of “Annie” and Baroness Elsa Schroeder in “The Sound of Music.” Halfway around the world, she’s won the final competition of South Korea’s “Star King” (think “Korean Idol”) with the female trio The Italian Sisters. And recently, she’s toured extensively in her one-woman show “ITALIANA.”
Rodano spoke with Lou&A about the inspiration behind her ambitious new work, her roots in Italy, and the path that led her to a career in the arts, culminating with her latest work.
Lou&A: Tell us about your roots in Italy.
Simona Rodano: I live in New York City. However I travel often to Torino in the Piemonte region where I was born, to visit my mother, my brother and his family. My parents were born in a small town called Asti. They grew up in two small villages near Asti; their parents were farmers.
Lou&A: How did growing up in an Italian household influence your eventual path into the arts?
Rodano: I grew up in a family of musicians. I think I received most of the encouragement from my grandmother, nonna Francesca, and my uncle, zio Pino Reggio, a fine musician and composer. He’s well known in the Piemonte region and Italy due to some of his musical pieces. One composition, “2 Agosto,” is still played by the most popular Italian orchestras and around the world.
My cousin Felice Reggio is a famous jazz musician. I started singing when I was 6 years old by performing at amateur singing contests, at school, at church or at birthday parties and began my professional career in show business at 15.
Lou&A: You have a master’s of science from the University of Torino — and we could’ve well been referring to you as Dr. Rodano. Tell us about that.
Rodano: I’ve always loved both science and music since I was a kid. I was awarded a bachelor’s degree in biology, yet I also studied music and have always sung. After my graduation, I decided to come to the U.S. to start my PhD at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York. Then I was invited to work for RAI a few months after. Science or music? That was the question. I ended up choosing music.
Lou&A: Tell us briefly about what inspired you to create “Sempreverde: Evergreen.” When did the proverbial light bulb go off to do something multilingual, musical and environmental?
Rodano: The inspiration comes from the beauty of the Earth and the strong wish to deliver an important message: We are guests on this planet and we need to respect it. I started writing songs and then developed the idea of staging an educational musical or “edumusical.” It took me one year to develop it. It was an incredible and intense year.
Rodano: First of all, it’s about establishing a strong connection with my land, the place where I was born and raised. Personally and professionally I’ve done and learned so much since living in New York City. I first started writing songs for children in Italian for an international company here. That’s where everything started.
Children in New York grow up in such a varied cultural and linguistic environment, thus learning Italian through the songs I wrote opened up a whole new world for them. My professional experience at the theatre and on TV helped a lot in the creation of a program made for children, schools and families. In 2006, I called that program “The Italian Fairy, La Fata Italiana.”
Lou&A: What do you hope audiences take away from “Sempreverde: Evergreen”? What have you taken away from creating it and performing in it?
Rodano: It’s simple: Learning languages brings peace into the world. I strongly believe that we can inhabit a better world using arts and language exchanges. I’m driven every day by this belief. Creating art can help people to live better and respect each other.
Lou&A: When you look at the path ahead — both for you and in your successful career — what are some things you’d love to accomplish and why?
Rodano: I’m in the process of starting a non-profit called “Arts to Heart,” with the mission of bringing the arts to children and families all around the world. Especially those that don’t have the possibility to access art and explore creativity.
Lou&A: What have been the most rewarding aspects of your work, and how do you connect this back to your heritage and upbringing?
Rodano: Building an audience that is passionate about languages, music, theater and dance. I believe that America is still the land of opportunity. Each one of us can share his or her own story, heritage and passion with others. Arts are a great way to unify people and honor diversity. I will continue pursuing my mission using creativity and music as much as I can.
UPCOMING PERFORMANCES OF “SEMPREVERDE” HAVE BEEN CANCELLED FOR THE TIME BEING. PLEASE CHECK THE WEBSITE FOR DETAILS.
For details, click here.
The above appears in the March 2020 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.