Circus and Pagliacci shout “Vittoria!” The Sferisterio cinema enchants the audience

MACERATA OPERA FESTIVAL – The experiment of combining film and opera met with the approval of the public who reciprocated with thunderous applause at the premiere. On the one hand the sweetness and refinement of Chaplin, on the other the testament of the Commedia dell’Arte. The tenor Fabio Sartori is magnificent

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An overview of the Sferisterio last night

from Marco Ribechi

Successful experiment. The Circus & Pagliacci conquer the audience of the Sferisterio bringing home abundant and sincere applause, a real ovation for the tenor Fabio Sartori. There was expectation and trepidation for the “second premiere” of the Macerata Opera Festival, proposed as a real artistic challenge: knowing how to combine two of the most celebrated and loved visual arts ever, cinema and melodrama, on the same stage. The arena has thus returned to its old love for cinema, considering its past as a place for film screenings. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s work “Pagliacci”, normally associated with Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, this time was introduced in a rather innovative and bold way by the screening of a silent film, The Circus, signed by Charlie Chaplin in 1928. A combination that , at least at first sight, it would raise legitimate questions but which in the night of the arena has been able to develop with extreme coherence, even going beyond the boundaries of one and the other expressive form, transforming itself into a real artistic investigation.


The mayors of the province of Macerata yesterday in the arena

In front of the eyes of the mayors of the province (read the article) the Sferisterio is set up with a large cinema cloth affixed to the wall and surrounded by luminous balls. On the stage, on the other hand, almost in every space, a scenography that strongly recalls that of the avant-garde film of 2003 Dogville by Lars Von Trier, where the environments were identified by marked perimeters on the floor and by some distinctive furnishing elements. The first glance therefore leaves no doubt: the relationship between live acting and recorded image will be developed throughout the evening and represent the magnifying glass with which to understand the choices of the director.

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To open the night is Charlie Chaplin whose hilarious feats are accompanied by the orchestra in the performance of that original score saved and rediscovered by the baton of the evening, Maestro Timothy Brock. It is therefore an absolute world premiere whose effect is sublime: it really seems to go back in time to the years in which sound took its first steps in a cinema made of great acting expressiveness. Being able to appreciate a soundtrack played live by an entire orchestra, in the case of the Form, is not an experience that happens every day. The strokes, the bells, the variations all appear extremely marked, revealing, as the artistic director Paolo Pinamonti wished, the strong continuity that exists between the camera and musical accompaniment. The synchrony between images and sound is formidable and, together with Charlot’s amusing gags, it constituted a mix of extraordinary success. At the end of the screening, open stage applause.

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After the film, however, it is time for the opera. During the interval, while the spectators are still intent on chatting and strolling around the arena, some extras begin to enter the scene that populate the entire stage-city with a cinema in the center of the square. We are roughly in the same years as the film just seen, the time distances are already canceled. If the inhabitants of the village are kidnapped by the images they see projected on the canvas (selected by the director Alessandro Talevi himself) the same cannot be said of the show staged by Pagliacci’s company which only arouses yawns and distractions. The events of Colombina, Pagliaccio, Taddeo and Arlecchino are in fact opposed to those projected by the cinema and the clash appears unequal: while the company of comedians is destined to decline, the great technological innovation of the time will forever replace the Commedia dell’Arte, leaving the actors in oblivion. Even visually, the contrast between the company and the spectators is drastic: on the one hand the bright and gaudy colors of the actors, on the other the gray plate that smacks of the suburbs that characterizes furnishings and characters.


The defeat of the theater is also evident in the behavior of the spectators who slowly leave while Nedda, Canio, Silvio and company are intent on developing their personal and scenic drama. Only the final anger and violence will again attract the attention of the public who will return en masse to the scene at the moment of the settling of scores with blood. Here the concluding words of Canio “The comedy is over” totally go beyond the individual dramas to put the final point not only on love affairs but more generally on the whole theater, defeated and swept away by the cinema. The final massacre with which the show ends is emblematic in this sense: Canio, as per the libretto, kills Nedda and Silvio in jealousy, while Tonio, based on the director’s free interpretation, enters the scene armed with a gun to kill all the others and take off. life in perfect pulp style.

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It is the final testament of the Comedy destined to die out over the coming decades. After the massacre, only the applause remains. Those paid to the whole cast, to the director, to the director, and in particular to Fabio Sartori in the role of Canio / Pagliaccio, author of an exciting and rare skill. Just as it happened for Valentina Carrasco’s Tosca cinephila (read the article), it is cinema that acts as a counterweight to the work, once again its boundaries have been upset, the opera composition has become a soundtrack highlighting a new and unexpected facet of that total spectacle called melodrama.

(photo Sferisterio / Luna Simoncini)


Timothy Brock



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