La macchietta is the heart of a concert show in the manner of Carosone

La macchietta is a caricature, used in theater and variety shows since the mid-nineteenth century. We find it in Ettore Petrolini, Raffaele Viviani, Eduardo de Filippo, that is, the spearheads of entertainment among their contemporaries; it allowed the characters they played to spread and remain etched in the national culture. After the success lasted more than a century, at the end of the 1960s la macchietta disappears from Italian music; Renato Carosone and Fred Buscaglione are the last great artists to use it with great success.

The various uses of caricature in Carosone and Buscaglione

Renato Carosone and his sextet were modern interpreters of this tradition and in their concerts, in addition to the music performed to perfection, there was a show inside the show.
Sometimes la macchietta was used to better describe the lyrics of the song: with a few moves Gegè di Giacomo could transform a white napkin into a turban to interpret “Caravan Petrol“, or chew a gum during “Tu vuo ‘fa’ l’americano” to be playing it during the double bass solo. There are many gags tested in the various performances that managed to convey the sensation of play to the spectators and to cross the border, sometimes non-existent, between concert and theater.

Luckily we have evidence of their art. “E la barca tornó sola”, one of Renato’s first hits, was a dramatic song from 1954 interpreted by Gino Latilla and Franco Ricci, which the sextet passed into farce. The video in which Gegè di Giacomo turns into a comare who makes the socks and Piero Giorgetti gargles in front of a storyteller’s painting is a treasure of comedy and musical genius together.
Fred Buscaglione also used the speck to immortalize his most iconic character, the homegrown gangster on celluloid. But also to mock the best known gigolo of the century, Porfirio Rubirosa (who in the song becomes “Porfirio Villarosa”).

The smash Canta Napoli

The Carosone sextet goes beyond the interpretation of the most popular macchietta of the moment to transform their own concert into a theater. Absolutely the greatest of their inventions, for originality and success, was the cry “Sssh … Canta Napoli!” at the beginning of the songs.
This real trademark of Carosonian music was born, of course, by chance.

It is Carosone himself who tells it to his biographer Federico Vacalebre: it all happens during a concert in Milan in the early 1950s. The audience of one of the hottest night clubs in the city center is so excited that Gegè, before singing “La Pansè“, shouts: “Sssh, canta Napoli, Napoli in fiore!”
The success is immediate, obviously, and the genius of Carosone is just as fast, pushing Gegè to continue to do so in the songs he himself sings, inventing a new adjective each time.
In “Caravan Petrol” it is “Napoli petrolifera”, in “Pigliate ‘na pastiglia” it is “Napolis in farmacia”, in “O pellirossa” it is “Napoli tatutata”, and so on.

In a concert show by Los Carosones inspired by this era, la macchietta cannot be missing; it would be like trying to put together a puzzle missing a piece. The use of caricature becomes an excuse to take ourselves less seriously and let go. In our version of “Tu vuo’ fa ’l’americano“, for example, we have replaced the character who imitates the American with an Italian who has just arrived in Barcelona, who decides to stay and turn into Catalan. We could not miss the mockery (“but you were cheering Real Madrid!”), which often arouses great laughter among the public. Those laughter are the Carosone’s legacy that we guard jealously.