The Southern Cross : February 2011
The Southern Cross February 2011 Page 21 www.adelaide.catholic.org.au feature By Rebecca DiGirolamo Most parishioners at the Holy Name Church in St Peter's sit blissfully unaware most Sundays that among them is one of Adelaide's very first international pop stars. He has sung in London and Rome and before Holt, Menzies and Dunstan and the Kremlin at the height of the Cold War. Just a few weeks ago, at the age of 80 years, Dino Prizzi was on stage singing Italian ballads to a Gold Coast crowd. And he will do so again in August. "If I didn't have my voice, life would finish for me," says the veteran crooner. He wipes a tear or two from his eyes. Dino lives alone in his Magill family home. His wife died five years ago from Leukaemia. He now spends his time running the Dino Prizzi Australian International festival of Italian Song. It's a competition held annually in Adelaide for the past three years founded by Dino to raise the profile of young Australian singers, musicians and composers. "It's great encouragement for young people because music is life." Born in Sicily, Dino migrated to Adelaide in 1952 with the promise of returning home after two years of work abroad. In Italy, Dino worked in the Carabinieri -- a military body charged with police duties among civilian populations. But winning a singing competition in 1953 in Whyalla, where Dino was working as a boilermaker, changed his course and Dino gave up a return to active military life for one on the stage. The competition prize was a 12-month scholarship at the Elder Conservatorium of Music in Adelaide. For the next few years, Dino sang his way across every Adelaide radio and television station, nightclub, dinner dance and formal function, performing to Prime Ministers Robert Menzies and, in later years, to PM Harold Holt and SA Premier Don Dunstan. "They all give me courage and said I would make it." A talent scout whisked him away to London where he performed contemporary songs and Italian ballads before embarking on a singing tour across Russia, which lasted four years. "I performed for many (Kremlin) ministers at the time," says Dino, who is fluent in Russian. He has lived in London and Moscow and travelled through Canada, Europe and the United States before returning to Adelaide in 1971. But with virtually no work for an Italian singer, he began performing as a regular on cruise ships. Torn apart from his wife and step-son, he returned to Adelaide. "I'm a singer, what else could I do?" So he forged himself a career in Italo-Australian culture. He managed the inaugural Miss Italy Australia in 1981 and spent 31 years involved in the beauty pageant held for Australian women of Italian heritage. In 1992, the first Australian, Erika Verolin, won the Miss Italia Nel Mondo under Dino's reign. He also founded and presided over Australia's first Association Nationale Carabinieri in Congedo and managed to record three albums. In 1986, he received the Knight of Grace from the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta and in 1989 Pope John Paul II issued Dino a certificate in recognition of his humanitarian gifts. "Singing and performing...it's in my blood," says Dino. "It makes me happy." He is currently a volunteer presenter on Radio Televisione Italian Adelaide (531am). One of his biggest fans is 60 years his junior. "I think he's great," says Mia Vassallo. The 20-year-old songstress was the 2010 winner of the Australian International Festival of Italian Song and, as part of the prize, travelled to Italy and performed on Rai International. Rai International broadcasts the best programs of Rai Radio televisione Italiana, as well as original programs made for Italians living abroad. "Being a volunteer at the (Italian) Radio station and giving his time, especially at an age where you don't have to do it, is amazing," she says. "He does it just for the love of music." ̨ Youth aged 15-27 interested in entering the Australian International Festival of Italian Song can email prizzi@adam. com.au Ididit my way THE DINO PRIZZI SHOW: St Peter's parishioner Dino Prizzi came to Australia to make a few dollars and ended forging a long and distinguished international singing career. Photo: Stephen Gray Left: Dino in front of a Channel 9 TV camera before appearing on the Ernie Sigley Show in 1972 and, above, the album cover for the song which won him first prize in the 9th San Remo Music Festival in 1959.