Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Welcome to the inaugural newsletter of the 3MBS Dante 700 Festival.

Q What’s the worst thing about a 7 day lockdown?

A The seven weeks it takes to be lifted.

Bearing in mind the number of changes that have been made to the Out of Exile lecture series, we thought we would keep in touch you with you via fortnightly newsletter. The COASIT lecture series has been postpone to March-April 2022. Each newsletter we will bring you:

A new episode of our Dante Detective streaming series- bringing you the inside story on many of Dante’s characters.

New insights into the music that Dante inspired from the 5 part streaming series-Dante in Music.

A "Lovely Link" we have found that will entertain and delight-whether it be a manuscript library, a place Dante visited or one of the fascinating events in Dante’s life.

Next week: Monday September 13 at 5pm is the Festival opening, tune into the 3MBS Dante 700 broadcast series on 3mbs digital, 103.5FM or streaming on

You will be able to hear the music that Dante inspired during our regular programs by your favourite, or soon to be favourite, presenters. Follow this link to discover the Essential Dante playlist.

The highlights of the week includes two talks by our international patrons. On Wednesday 15 September from 7:00pm hear Leslie Howard AM, on what inspired Liszt about Dante, followed by the Dante Sonata and other Dante music by Liszt performed by Professor Howard himself. Presented by Ric Ataide.

Then you can hear from from Federico Bardazzi, conductor ensemble San Felice, and director of the Florence opera network on Thursday 16 September 7pm in the Early Music Experience with Mark Shepheard. Mark will play excerpts from the CD set La Musica nel tempo di Dante (Music from Dante’s time), a research project with Dr Bardazzi , Sister Julia Bolton Holloway and others to celebrate the 750th anniversary of Dante’s birth in 2015.

Dante depicts Francesca da Rimini as an adulteress in his imagined Hell. Wikipedia suggests she was a contemporary of Dante’s but since there are only sketchy historical fragments to attest to her existence at all, she must have come to Dante’s attention via anecdotes, and these evidently made quite an impression on him. I am interested in the role he has given her in his story. Is she simply a device to balance Beatrice or perhaps a cautionary tale of how literature can lead good wives to sin? Why does he point his finger at the story of Guinevere and Lancelot in particular? Based on Dante’s depiction, artists, writers and composers have been inspired to recreate his Francesca. In preparation for our program Dante in Music 2: Francesca da Rimini, Margot and I listened to every possible musical rendering to choose who we thought was the best version of Dante’s Francesca.

Take for example, the most famous operatic Francesca, cast for soprano with libretto by Gabriele D’Annunzio and music by Zandonai. Here’s the beautiful aria Paolo, Datemi pace performed by Mirella Freni

Or did we finally prefer Granados’ Symphonic Poem II: Paolo e Francesca – a setting of Dante’s own words, composed for mezzo soprano? (the singing starts at around the 7 minute mark)

Well, I argue that a character of noble rank needs vocal gravitas, so a mezzo soprano is more appropriate. Also, Dante lets Francesca speak and state her case, another reason for more vocal “grit” – and I’m not biased by the fact that I’m also a mezzo soprano!

The inciting event that preceded Paola and Francesca’s adultery was the reading of the Arthurian Romance in Italian called Il Galeotto. In Francesca Da Rimini: A Study in Scarlet Margot Costanzo Asks the question would Paolo or Francesca have been able to read? Would there have been a single book in their fortress in Ravenna?

It turns out that we discovered the Biblioteca Malestestiana Novello high up in the hills of Cesena behind Rimini., Click on the link, to take a tour. Search the catalogue. Created in 1465 it was the first civic library created in Europe, it has been jealously guarded and still contains its original catalogue of books. And do they have a copy of Galeotto that Paolo and Francesca could have been reading at the time they were murdered (somewhere between 1283 and 1285)? An email request has been despatched! And the result is in!

Sadly no. The Director of the Library returned our email promptly, relishing the enquiry from afar. I can feel a lot of Australian visitors making the visit up the hills.

Time to research the da Polenta side of the family.

The Dante Detective

Francesca da Rimini: A Study in Scarlet

From Inferno, Canto V

Killed with her lover Paolo by her husband and Paolo’s brother, Gianciotto, decide if Francesca is young Juliet impressed into a dynastic marriage or a guileful femme fatale.

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