By Tetiana POLISHCHUK, The Day
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day
“NICOLA FRANCO BALLONI (LEFT) HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN NUMEROUS EDUCATIONAL, ARTISTIC, AND CULTURAL PROJECTS. IVAN VAKARCHUK, UKRAINE’S MINISTER OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE, AND PIETRO GIOVANNI DONNICI, ITALY’S AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE, ARE IN THE CENTER”
Quotidiano "Den" ("Il Giorno" / "The Day), September 22, 2009
Many Ukrainians were saddened to learn that Nicola Franco Balloni, director of the Italian Institute of Culture in Ukraine, is finishing his activities in Kyiv. Balloni’s name is associated with numerous educational and artistic projects, as well as joint events involving prominent cultural figures and scholars. He has also contributed to the improvement of Ukraine–Italy relations. Some readers may remember that thanks to Balloni music fans in Ukraine got acquainted with Stradivari’s legendary violin, cinema buffs—with Sophia Loren, and those interested in history—with a copy of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. There have also been many other events that have left an indelible trace in Ukrainian souls.
Thanks to the Institute of Culture, which Balloni headed for several years, Italians learned more about Ukraine, in particular the truth about the 1932–1933 Holodomor. On the other end, in Ukraine, new translations of Italian writers appeared; exhibits and concerts of popular bands were held. Today the language of Alighieri Dante, Francesco Petrarch, and Giovanni Boccaccio is being taught in universities in Lviv, Odesa, Kyiv, and Mariupol. The entire list of significant events is very long indeed.
With his time in office about to expire, Balloni met with Ukrainian colleagues—university rectors from Odesa, Mariupol, and Kyiv. Ivan Vakarchuk, Ukraine’s Minister of Education and Science, was awarded the Star of Italian Glory order for his special merits in the development of Ukrainian–Italian cooperation in education and promotion of the Italian language. This highest reward from the Italian President was presented by Pietro Giovanni Donnici, Italy’s ambassador to Ukraine. In the evening the National Opera team had a surprise for their big Italian friend. They performed opera buffa L’elisir d’amore by Gaetano Donizetti. This was the last joint project of the Institute and the National Opera.
“We are greatly saddened that Mr. Balloni is leaving Ukraine. Thanks to him the best samples of Italian classics appeared on the playbill of our theater,” Petro Chupryna, general director of the National Opera, told The Day. “Today we have seven operas in our repertoire that were staged by Italian directors jointly with Ukrainian musicians and singers. Mario Corradi staged La Gioconda, Turandot, and Faust, Italo Nunziata—Manon Lescaut, Un Ballo in Maschera, Macbeth, and L’elisir d’amore. Let me also tell you that the premiere of Turandot in Kyiv was broadcast on the Italian TV, and the festivals Viva Verdi! and Italian Opera on Kyiv Stage increased the number of classical art fans in Ukraine.
“I hope that the seed that we have sown together on the artistic field will not dry up after Balloni leaves but will grow just as well. Hopefully, by the end of this theatrical season the dream to present Kyiv opera fans with La Cenerentola by Gioachino Rossini will come true. I do hope that in a few years Mr. Balloni will come back to Ukraine because people in Ukraine respect, love, appreciate, and wait to see him again.”
Academician Mykola Zhulynsky stressed that he had the honor to express gratitude to Balloni on behalf of the President of Ukraine for all his efforts to improve cultural cooperation between Italy and Ukraine. Moved to the depth of his heart, Balloni said in Ukrainian: “In L’elisir d’amore, the protagonist, Nemorino, says these words: ‘A tear rolled down my cheek…’ I am deeply moved. After I working in Kyiv for years, I learned more about Ukraine, came to love your culture, art, language, and people. I am leaving, but I leave a part of my heart in Ukraine. Good-bye!”