We hear Walt Whitman singing, too---opera, that is. As Americans of Italian descent, we are proud that this most American of poets drew his inspiration from Italian opera. Attending free outdoor concerts in New York, Whitman fell in love with the bel canto works of Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and early Verdi. Indeed, Whitman's description of tenor Cesare Badiali can also serve as a vivid self-portrait: "a big, coarse, broad-chested feller, invested, however, with an absolute ease of demeanor: a master of his art---confident, powerful and self-sufficient." As Whitman said, "But for the opera, I could never have written 'Leaves of Grass'."
Bill Dal Cerro
Italic Institute of America, New York
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