Sandro Bolchi – Mina, being fat is not a sin – Corriere della Sera 23.08.1978

By Sandro Bolchi – Corriere della Sera
23.08.1978

ROME – “I know, I am fat, but so is Fitzgerald. Is it my fault that these days at French cologne I prefer deep-eyed broth? I don’t want to fly, otherwise I would hire a hot air balloon that would lift me skyward, and if a mischievous kite gave me too hard a pat with its wings I would glide into the sea, blowing for the fishes my last song “
Lady Mazzini,” who smiles as she speaks, enjoys hiding in certain old zimarre where chili can dance the tango without being seen or rebuked, and from which sprouts an increasingly solemn, generous, white-clad face, tanned by a 1960s moon.
Now that summer is hunkering down to make way for bushier, hairier seasons, we find that Mina has not come out of the trunk she brought on vacation, perhaps so as not to trip over the hams or tarts that invade it.
She accuses us of forgetting her. Or it is she who pretends to forget about us because she imagines us satiated with that liana-like voice of hers, with the arcane hisses that evoke the moans of a snake, or the swish of the arrow inside the blowpipe.
Unfortunately, the almost ungodly, maddening eagerness to sing everywhere seems to be exhausted; at the “Bussola” in Viareggio, as in the streets, when dawn becomes hesitant for fear that the sun will open it with too much fury; or at a friend’s house, after a game of poker, and you long for the taste of a certain dirge, to be performed with your mouth closed; or on the beach, to make you fall in love with those low, black notes, still warm from congealed sand; or in an arena in front of thousands of people who have decided to make a night of it, as patient as the Indians when they light fires in front of the fort.
To listen to her we are left with the records or the jukebox near which I met her when she still called herself Baby Gate. Many years ago, one night, near Novara, among those roads parched with frost and with the dim grass raking among the stones. Suddenly an immense nightclub appeared to me, almost an ice spaceship with silver portholes and aluminum walls. A Hollywood monster from which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers could emerge and dance through the low, gloomy clouds like comforting angels. Instead they were greeted by a stunned voice, ripping the air as if it were a grandmother’s rag, a voice of an animal lost who knows why in that desperate langa. In the steel tent, almost in the center, was a jukebox that looked as if it had been lowered from Las Vegas, all quilted with colored stars, naked little women, top hats wrapped in tinfoil.

“Who is singing?” asked a boy with pimples that looked like red light bulbs.
“Baby Gate. It’s a stunner.”
“And who is this Baby gate?”
“A girl from Cremona who wrestles with common sense, kicks if you want to placate her, maligns notes, crushes them. She screams her joy of life, of being elsewhere….”
Yeah, Cremona. Immediately its listless squares appeared to me, the bad moods that seem to bounce from wall to wall, the small gardens where a mouth harmonica tries to soften those who sit down to take the cooler, and the scent of nougat that, even in summer, manages to plaster the trees.
And I was not surprised that a city so quiet and distant, full of silences and dead souls, had thrown that hopeful voice outside the walls.
“But is she also beautiful?”
“She will be very beautiful because she needs to grow, to stretch, to make her hands thin and her face painful.”
“What if she gets fat?”

The boy, who had the intelligent face of someone who sniffs things out long before time, took me under his arm and led me out of that shanty. “Even Callas, even Stignani, even Tebaldi. All fat: and all great. I come here from time to time when I get a notice that there is a record of a new singer. But I love opera, do you understand? And I tell you that this Baby Gate has within her the unconscious desire to be Leonora in Il Trovatore, too.”
I saw Mina, many years later, passing in the gallery in Milan, among a pair of dull-voiced tenors, aphonious even in the lapels of their coats. My friend from Novara was there, too, and he stared at her until she disappeared in Piazza della Scala, inside a flickering, scattered mist


He did not recognize me and whispered to another, “Her name was Baby Gate, today she is Mina. Look how thin she is: she has such long legs that come out of her throat. Do you want to put Milva, Patty Pravo, Greco, Vanoni? They just sing well. Mina manages to bite into the music with her African beast teeth, without ever hurting her.”
Then he saw me, tried to remember me, without succeeding.
“She would be a great Leonora. Verdi, for me, you have to bite it slow and heartbreakingly, in a small room; that’s how I enjoy it. A piano and a woman to sing in my ear. Like shells, you know? So everything becomes sea. Here, Mina has this power. Just don’t get tired, don’t get bored, remember to love this long voice on which the fierce regret of certain years walks…”

He disappeared and in the large gallery, barely moved by a few chilly shadows, suddenly dropped-perhaps from the ajar shutters of a window-“the sky in a room.”

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