Everyone present judged the “Cantabimbo”, a singing competition for primary school children held at Bagni’s Teatro Accademico last night, an unqualified success. Organized by the Pro Loco with the patronage of the comune this was its first year. Attending a sequence of sometimes squawking and out-of tune kids doing a bit of karaoke to the delight of their doting parents might seem, at first, a slightly uncomfortable way of spending a late Sunday evening. As it turned out, we thoroughly enjoyed the well-organized and lively show. This was its third, the finalists’, night and each child sang a song (often about animals like speeding tortoises, road-safety conscious camels and repentant mosquitos) accompanied by a cartoon projection of the ditty and another screen closing up on them. There were three adult contributions: one by Bagni di Lucca’s illustrious resident tenor (who sang “con te partirò” to much applause), another by a very talented 14-yeat old girl whose showbiz future may be easily assured and, lastly, by the presenting duo (who turned out to have very good voices too). Bagni di Lucca’s “big”, including the mayor, the cultural assessor et al. presented the three top prizes after the jury’s decisions, the first of which went to a justly-deserved rendition of a ballad about the three ships captained by Columbus on their way to discover a new continent.
The great thing about the whole evening (which ended with a shower of balloons from the boxes) was that it was organized completely by residents of Bagni di Lucca and was of a remarkably professional standard – some said even better than the TV version of this event.
It is sad to reflect that allowing children to appear publicly on stage before an unvetted audience at such a late hour (the show finished well after 11 pm) would be regarded as impermissible in such neurotic countries as the UK. But then they would also have considered banning the children’s fashion parade in Lucca’s main square, which I witnessed a few years ago, and many other similar events where youngsters can show off in public and gain the confidence which will stand them in good stead for their future. Italy is so much more child-centered than several countries in the EC. For example, I remember back in the UK being invited to a restaurant, my hosts assuring me that “the place is nice and quiet – they don’t have children there at all.” Suffice it to say that I did not take up the invitation.
I sometimes think that, at least for me, it might have been more fun being brought up in Italy than in England. Children in the “stivale” are so much the focus of attention (not just to be seen and not heard – sometimes not even to be seen!) If children in the UK were given the same degree of attention as that lavished on pet dogs social life would be so much richer for them. In some respects my residence in Italy is a sort of second childhood – joining in things that I missed out in my growing-up. Among these I include” Carnevale”, “Il paese dei balocchi” and now, “Cantabimbo”!