ROME (AP) – Italy said goodbye on Sunday to the coronavirus that was dead with a spooky Requiem concert performed at the entrance to Bergamo Cemetery, the worst-hit province at the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe.
President Sergio Mattarella was the guest of honor, saying that his presence made it clear that all of Italy was resigning to honor the dead of Bergamo, “the thousands of men and women killed by a disease that is still very unknown and continue to threaten the world. “
To respect the rules of social distance, the guest list for the open-air evening concert was limited to Mattarella and mayors of Bergamo’s 243 cities who acted as representatives of their communities. RAI state television, which broadcasted the concert live, said some health workers and representatives of families who have lost loved ones from the pandemic were also invited.
Apart from the soloists and conductor, masks were ubiquitous, including for the choir, and the wind instruments were mounted behind plexiglass. The orchestra played the unfinished funeral mass of Gaetano Donizetti, one of Italy’s most important 19th-century composers, born in Bergamo.
Bergamo registered his first positive case on February 23, and had registered a 571% increase in deaths in late March compared to the five-year monthly average. In mid-March, images of an army convoy hauling away chests as Bergamo’s cemetery and crematoriums were full, epitomizing the horrific toll of the virus in northern Italy.
Many of Bergamo’s more than 6,000 dead have never celebrated a funeral in their honor, causing their families to lose the opportunity to say goodbye. Mattarella said he hoped the Requiem event would help them remember their loved ones, even though Italy is taking stock of what went wrong in Bergamo and beyond, as health care in the region was overrun by the tsunami of the sick.
“Remember means to reflect with utmost precision what did not work, the shortcomings of the system, errors to prevent recurrence,” said Mattarella. “At the same time, it means recalling the value of the positive that was shown,” he said, referring to the “extraordinary humanity” of doctors, nurses, civil protection crews and volunteers.
One of the invited guests to the concert was Luca Fusco, a Bergamo native who set up a Facebook group early in the pandemic to collect testimonials from Italians whose loved ones had died. The group, “Noi Denunciaremo” (we will disapprove), now has nearly 60,000 members and has fought a legal battle to find justice for the dead and determine if any system errors or political decisions have contributed to the serious loss of life .
Some members of the group protested outside the cemetery on Sunday behind a banner that reads “Truth and Justice.” Critics accuse the organizers of creating a purely political spectacle without the real victims of the crisis.
Fusco, whose father died during the pandemic, said the victims’ lack of relatives was “like a wedding without the husbands.” But he said he hoped that the presence of Mattarella would enable grieving families to “nurture the hope that the entire political elite is not willingly trying to hide.”
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.