SPOLETO DAY 4
Debussy, A Roman Ampitheatre and The Tempest.

SEE THE WORLD AND SEE WORLD THEATRE

A very hot day which started for me with a lunchtime piano concert in the Teatro Caio Melisso, an opera house originally built in the 17th century and remodelled and renamed after a Spoleto writer in the 19th century. It is on a much grander scale than the Bevagna theatre, and as the second opera house in Spoleto it was instrumental in Menotti’s decision to reside in Spoleto and to establish the festival here. The photos show the highly decorated cloth and the Roman theatre masks on display in the foyer. The music was charming and included works by Debussy and Satie.
The remainder of the afternoon, I devoted to locating the Roman ampitheatre. In the heat I walked for ages thinking I was going to discover a ruin similar to the ampitheatres in Greece, but not so. As I got to the lower part of the town, I could trace the town wall, discovered the empty moat and some Cyclopean walls similar to those on Agamemnon’s palace. Walking alongside the city wall, it eventually became evident that this was a part of the ampitheatre and that what I was looking at was a colosseum type of building that presented spectacles including the martyrdom of St Gregory.
Anfiteatro Romano – MySpoleto
http://www.myspoleto.it/citta/…/Anfiteatro-Romano.html – confirms it was a site for gladiatorial games and seated 10,000 people!
I’ve taken a photo of the street sign because it took me so long to find, but what a find, a colosseum/ampitheatre that is in the process of being restored. It is not in my theatre research unless I can establish that plays were performed here, but a gem nevertheless. Other photos are of the walk and the shady respites along the way.

The 1st century AD ampitheatre beside my hotel, had not only collapsed in the terrain but had been engulfed in the adjoining monastry and then a prison until 1954. It has finally been restored and unveiled as a ballet and concert performance space.
penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/…/Spoleto/Spoleto/Roman/theatre.html elucidates on the rarity of the paving on the stage, which I have not seen, as it is well covered.

So where does this lack of continuous theatre performance lead me? … to Merida in Spain! Closer to Lisbon than Madrid, it is the site of one the most authentic extant Roman theatres in Europe with all the features of the changes in theatre architecture associated with the Roman developments in theatre. I will be visiting it on the last leg of my journey to see Apuleius’ The Golden Ass. And although I knew of the existence of the theatre, my discovery of The Merida Classical Festival came as one of those freakish things that happen when one is surfing the web. So it this site that I will be exploring in the link between Greek and Roman Theatre long before Italian theatre developed its mystery plays and of course, Commedia del’ Arte – all of which came later- and which in due course, I will explore.

But for now, back to Spoleto and the main reason I am here, even if it is yet another variation in the development of theatre, is to See the World and See World Theatre.
And here, on Day 4 I witnessed exactly that.

Irina Brook is the daughter of the esteemed director and theatre academic, Peter Brook, and as well as being an actress in her own right, she has become an esteemed director, working with Mnouchkine and in developing her own works.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irina_Brook provides a good overview of her work.
With an early evening tempest hitting Spoleto, I borrowed an umbrella and headed up the hill to San Simone to enter the dilapidated medieval church that is now mostly used for performances. And what a great space to house Brooks’ Island Trilogy: The Tempest, The Odyssey, and The Isle of the Slaves.
This evening I was seeing The Tempest and as soon as I entered the dark and gloomy space, I could see the Mnouchkine influence. Pockets of the huge church were scenic display areas. One was a beached and overturned row boat over which young children were playing. Another was a deckchair, a beach umbrella and a young piano accordionist providing jaunty tunes while we queued for the scaffold seating before us and lastly, a somewhat insignificant ladies dressing table and mirror with an empty suit case strewn on the sandy floor.
Sand was everywhere and as we made our way into the playing space we were on an island. One of the players was cooking a meal amongst the immense paraphernalia on a kitchen table. A young woman was writing on a pillar and two surly males were huddled in a corner, one trying to unravel a fishing net, the other being incredibly still.
When the play flew into action, Prospero, is an Italian restauranteur, Ariel, his flashy Maitre D, the fishing net unraveller is Caliban and of course the beautiful young woman writing poetry on the wall is his daughter Miranda.

The play, in French with Italian surtitles, plus some English is a magical romp that only occasionally uses the Shakespearean text and often injects other Shakespearean and Byronic quotes. It is all a truly delicious, magical mayhem. The cast is wonderful, especially Miranda and Caliban and the range of genres that the work employs ranging from hip pop to waltz to replay parody a la Buster Keaton was a delight….in fact it was one delight after another. I congratulated Ms.Brook after the show and she told me it had been 2 years in development in France and that The Odyssey had been 10 years in development. What a marvellous accomplishment. I see both The Odyssey and the Isle of the Slaves on Day 6. I can’t wait to see how she again utilizes the space and how the actors adapt so quickly to two new plays. This production of The Tempest is a must see and I hope it gets picked up for the Melbourne Festival some time soon.

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