Crossroads of Culture 200 Years of Canadian Immigration (1800-2000)
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Carenza Collection of Italian Recordings

In November 2000 an important collection of Italian music records was donated to the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC) by Frank Carenza. This collection of approximately 30,000 recordings is now preserved and made accessible to the Canadian public through exhibitions, research and the Museum's catalogue on the Internet.

Frank Carenza was born in Canada. In 1927 his parents left Apulia, a region of south-east Italy, to immigrate to Canada. From 1950 to1974 Mr. Carenza hosted a radio programme for the Italian communities of Niagara Falls, Toronto and Oshawa. This was during the period when immigration was at its height. Songs of emigration were a favourite of Mr. Carenza's "Weekend in Italy " radio audience. The programme served to meet the Italian newcomers' need for a familiar cultural environment as they strove to adapt to Canada.

Mr. Carenza and his wife Rose imported many records from Italy. They also traveled to Italy 13 times in order to build the collection, which includes rare folk music recordings from all over Italy, operas, traditional regional music, Italian pop music from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and much more. It took them over 50 years to collect the LPs, 78s and 45s that hold the history of Italian music during most of the twentieth century.

The collection's value lies in the number of recordings, its comprehensiveness, the period it covers and the rarity of some of its items. The recordings are in impeccable condition because Mr Carenza often bought two copies of a recording, one for playing and one for safekeeping.

He stated that "this collection was put together for Canadians and I believe Canadians should have access to it. This is my life's work - not a question of money. I think of the cultural value of this music, and you can't put a price on that."

It contains the first recordings of a young Enrico Caruso in 1902, the first 10-inch records ever released in Italy, the only song ever recorded by movie star Gina Lollobrigida, and virtually everything recorded after 1945 by Italian-Canadians and, in New York, by Italian-Americans. More than a third of the collection is devoted to opera, with recordings of some of the greatest operatic performances from various countries, by the genre's most famous stars.

Dr. Mauro Peressini
Curator, Southwest Europe and Latin America

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