Between the heavyweights of Saturday-night noir viewing on BBC4 (The bridge, The Killing, Spiral), Inspector Montalbano (set in Sicily, based on the novels of Andrea Camilleri) makes an alluring interlude.
Music enriches some of the great Italian films, including La strada and Cinema Paradiso. The instrumental soundtrack for Montalbano, by Franco Piersanti, grows on one. But it’s well worth staying tuned in for the final credits, featuring the haunting songs of Olivia Sellerio (playlists here and here), moving on from the more traditional styles that feature so strongly in collections of Italian folk music.
And here’s the opening of the prequel series Young Montalbano:
She also sings Fabrizio De André’s Bocca di rosa, with a cameo on marranzanu jews harp:
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From an earlier generation a great Sicilian singer was Rosa Balistreri (1927–90), who escaped a life of poverty, violence, and intolerance to work as a maid in Florence in the 1950s (thoughtful article here). Championed by Dario Fo and Leonardo Sciascia, she returned to Sicily in 1971. Unconcerned with “fidelity” to a notional tradition, her songs, issued on the Teatro del sole label (playlist here), often suggest parallels with fado (click here and here) or rebetika.