Salvatore Laporta / AP, file
Silvio Berlusconi sings during the final rally before electoral runoffs, in Naples, Italy on May 27, 2011.
By Claudio Lavanga, NBC News
ROME – When Silvio Berlusconi refused to step down at the height of Italy’s economic crisis, he was compared to the Emperor Nero, who is said to have watched Rome burn to the ground while playing a stringed instrument.
It now looks like somebody else was playing the guitar for Berlusconi; he was just writing the lyrics.
On Nov. 22, while Italy’s new prime minister, Mario Monti, and his government are trying to save Italy from economic meltdown, Berlusconi will release “True Love,” his latest CD of love songs.
The question is: Is Italy ready to face the music?
‘Stay with me…’
It is hard to say whether the timing of the release is purely coincidental, as the record label claims, or an attempt by the outgoing prime minister to soothe the pain of millions of Italians who will be hit by tax hikes and spending cuts by serenading them with love songs he wrote during the past two years.
The CD is the fourth record he has produced with Neapolitan singer and guitar player Mariano Apicella, who since 2003 has been considered the personal minstrel of Berlusconi.
The records never made it in to the billboard charts, but Berlusconi and Apicella’s improvised concerts, some of which were performed in the former prime minister’s summer villa in Sardinia in front of a selected audience of friends, became instant Youtube hits.
Playing along with Berlusconi has provided a fast track into his business and political empires. His pianist, Fedele Confalonieri, became the president of Berlusconi’s powerful media empire, Mediaset. But with Berlusconi slowly fading away in the political spectrum, Apicella might have jumped on this bandwagon a little too late.
In a curious way, some of the titles on the record seem appropriate for a politician in the dying days of his career.
“Stay With Me” sounds like a last, desperate appeal to the electorate, as well as the political allies who eventually lost faith in him. “Stay with me, hold me tight, shower me with kisses. Stay with me. Fill me with love, please stay,” the song goes. The song “If I Lose You” has a similar refrain.
Another song, “Come What May” (Cascasse il mondo), sounds almost like the dignified acceptance of what the future may hold. With three ongoing trials that could lead to long prison sentences, it might not be the brightest of futures.
And yet most are just plain, simple love songs, some sung in Neapolitan, from a man who claims he never lost a sense of joy in life. He certainly never hid his love of sheer hedonism, even while holding the most prestigious office in the Italian parliament.
ke mito di uomo...
The release of his latest contribution to the world of music represents a full circle in the life of Berlusconi. While he was a young student, he paid for his studies by working as a crooner on cruise ships. (Click to see a good pic from the Guardian).
Even while he was a successful businessman, and later prime minister, he never missed a chance to show off his vocal skills, entertaining his many guests with his singing.
With more time in his hands and very little prospect of becoming prime minister for the fourth time in the next elections, will Berlusconi go back to his original passion and become a full-time singer?
Lucio Dalla, one of Italy’s greatest songwriters, has no doubt: “Nobody can question his skills. He sings very well. He is in tune and very melodic.”
As for love itself, in all of its forms, there is no doubt that it has always been at the center of Berlusconi’s life. Whether it be the affection many Italians showered on him for 17 long years, the allegedly sex-fueled parties he hosted in his private villas, or his troubled marriage with Veronica Lario, the beautiful former actress who divorced him recently, claiming she couldn’t live with a man “who consorts with minors.”
“True Love” seems an appropriate soundtrack to a remarkable career – however it ends.