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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 13:33 GMT
Berlusconi CD stirs mixed emotions

By Tamsin Smith
BBC reporter in Rome

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, well known for causing discord with his outspoken comments, is surprising the Italians with some unexpected harmony.

He has just released an album of Neapolitan love songs written with previously unknown singer and guitarist Mariano Appicella.

At the album's launch party in a smoky jazz club outside Milan, there is free flowing champagne and an awful lot of excitement. Enthusiastic applause greets Mariano Appicella when he takes the stage. He looks slightly overwhelmed.

Mariano Appicella
Appicella sings Berlusconi at the album launch
Mariano used to play and sing in restaurants until he was discovered by the Italian prime minister.

Since then he has become Mr Berlusconi's personal musician, often travelling to his holiday home in Sardinia to entertain the prime minister's guests.

"Last year he listened to some songs I wrote but didn't like the lyrics so he suggested he write some and we do an album together," said Mr Appicella, who has written the music.

The lyrics are pure Berlusconi.

The Italian prime minister is no stranger to the music business - he started out as a Sinatra-style singer on cruise ships. But how does he measure up as a songwriter?

"I think Berlusconi is a very good musician with a natural touch," said Mr Appicella. "He loves music so much and the words he writes are about life and love... you see the real man."

These are Neapolitan love songs, with titles like My heart in my throat, Without you and This false goodbye.

Romantic

The sentimentality is pretty well captured by the album cover. Two silhouettes holding hands on a beach walking into the rosy glow of a sunset. But will people buy it?

"I don't like it. I wouldn't buy it for myself. Perhaps as a Christmas present for my grandmother or uncle," said Alessandro.

He should spend more time sorting out the mess this country is in
Maurizio
"It's not my type of music, but I think Appicella has a lovely voice and the words are so romantic," says Lucia.

"I never knew that our prime minister who is normally so cunning could be so romantic. I almost don't believe it."

So should a prime minister be spending his time writing music instead of governing the country?

"Why not? I think it's beautiful," says Lizabetta. "It shows that he is a man like any man with hobbies and passions. Why shouldn't he write songs?"

Maurizio disagrees. "Why does he do this? He should spend more time sorting out the mess this country is in. That's my opinion."

Musical motives?

But with media attention focused on the album because of the high profile songwriter, is Mariano Appicella worried that people will buy for political interests?

"I think it's bad if they do that," he said.

"People should buy it or not buy it because of the music not for political reasons."

But of course any publicity is good publicity and this album, with the prime minister's photo on it, is getting a lot.

The verdict here seems to be that this may not be an album on everyone's Christmas list, but it certainly shows a different side to Silvio Berlusconi.




SEE ALSO:
Italian PM becomes love lyricist
30 Oct 03  |  Entertainment
Berlusconi's love lyrics revealed
04 Sep 03  |  Entertainment
Profile: Silvio Berlusconi
02 Jul 03  |  Europe


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