Stasera in TV: Italian variety television and its stars 1954-74


WEDNESDAY 24 NOVEMBER, 18.00-19.30 CET

Rachel Haworth (Leeds)

This event will be in English.

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Raffaella Carrà, Walter Chiari, the Kessler twins,  Lelio Luttazzi, Mina, Sandra Mondaini, Rita Pavone, Paolo Panelli and Franca Valeri. These figures are some of Italy’s much-loved television stars whose presence on the small screen during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s made them household names for Italian television audiences in the period. Given this status, these stars come to function as cultural symbols and conduits ‘for ideas about gender, values and national identity’ (Gundle 2008) during this so-called ‘golden age’ of Italian television (Lombardi 2014). During this period, the nature of television programming was determined by the desire of the state broadcaster, RAI, to create a homogenous viewing public. RAI’s Saturday night variety shows are prime examples of what Monteleone (2005) calls ‘great homogenizing agent[s] of the viewing public’, which paired ‘the attractive and seductive variety show apparatus with that tried and tested component of popular entertainment […], song’. In this talk, we will examine this television genre in more detail,  taking as case studies selected appearances from the aforementioned variety television stars and analysing their conceptualisation and significance as variety stars in this period. This analysis sheds light on the extent to which these figures functioned as exemplars for models of behaviour that served to promote ideals of italianità and thus homogenize the viewing public in the first twenty years of Italian television broadcasting.

Dr Rachel Haworth is a researcher of Italian popular music and culture of the twentieth century. She is interested in particular in questions of gender, performance, stardom, legitimation and value in the Italian media and popular music contexts. She has published books and articles on Italian singer-songwriters of the 1960s, celebrity scandals, and Italian variety television. Her most recent work focused on the significance of the popular music star, Mina: this research is the focus of the forthcoming monograph The Many Meanings of Mina: Popular Music Stardom in Post-war Italy , which will be published with Intellect in 2021.