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An entrancing evening stroll down the Via Veneto

Special to The Times

Italian contributions to music have been so diverse, so far- reaching, that it would be hard to put together a program of Italian music that wasn’t, at the very least, engaging and entertaining. And “La Dolce Vita: Italian Cool on a Hot Summer Night” at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday night easily fulfilled those expectations.

But the choice of title made it very clear that this would be an evening aimed at little more than taking a stroll down the Via Veneto.

So, it was appropriate that it featured Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performances of Nino Rota’s music (arranged by Henry Mancini) for “La Dolce Vita” and Ennio Morricone’s lovely theme from “Cinema Paradiso” (showcasing violin soloist Bruce Dukov).

The program darkened somewhat with the inclusion of selections underscoring the overdone theme of Italy as the source of gangsters and decadence, via the inclusion of passages from Rota’s score for “The Godfather” (arranged by Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conductor John Mauceri) and Morricone’s main title music for “The Untouchables” (also arranged by Mancini).

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Fortunately for those with an interest in the deeper aspects of Italian culture, the evening also included Verdi’s “Aida Sinfonia,” the lovely but rarely heard overture composed (but not used) for the opera’s Italian premiere in 1972, as well as “The Pines of Rome” (with accompanying fireworks).

Rounding off the evening, there was the entrancing but far too brief appearance of guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli -- the latest in a long line of superb vocalists with Italian roots.

His 23-minute, six-song program was the high point of the concert, and it was appropriate that his set peaked with an atmospheric rendering of Bruno Martino’s “Estate,” an Italian song that combines lyricism, bossa nova rhythms and jazz emphasis into a beyond-borders musical expression.


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