Spoleto Festival, Italy.

See the World and See World Theatre

Spoleto, set high in the hills of Umbria couldn’t represent a greater contrast from Greece. Arriving in this Roman town with it’s winding streets, tall stone buildings, magnificent architecture, plazas, and beautiful pot plantings on a busy Sunday afternoon, one was struck by the sophistication of the place boasting one of the finest art festivals in the world. Spoleto, The Festival of Two Worlds. The bunting promotion in association with Mercedes Benz in the central plaza states ‘ Art or Nothing.’
A browse through the historical literature reveals that the city has a pre-Roman existence going back to the 10-11 century BC. It was a colony in 241BC and a municipium in 90BC.
In the light of this knowledge I am interested to trace the origins of the local ampitheatre to explore the theatre productions which took place here. A small Roman theatre abuts my hotel.
Please forgive my getting so absorbed in my research that I tend to overlook expressing the sublime beauty of the countryside. The light here is soft and often hazy and on several occasions there has been afternoon thunder and light rain. The sophistication of the place extends to the attire of the locals. They are so well turned out. Even the young concierge in the hotel looks like he has stepped out of a high couture journal. Magnifico!
Women are highly adorned with jewelry, impeccable make up and casual doesn’t seem to be part of the dress code. I wonder how they manage the cobble paving in their smart shoes…
I had intended to have a little rest in Spoleto after the somewhat hectic pace in Athens and the plays I have chosen to see are well spaced throughout the week. However, as always, I couldn’t help myself, and on Day 2, I found myself at an exhibition production of the European Youth Theatre featuring students from the Conservatoire National Superieur D’Art Dramatique. It was a dramatic adaptation of Dostoyevski’s 1877 short story,The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.
The play took place in a crypt of one of the many churches and grand public buildings. I hope the photo shows the beauty of the vaulted ceiling.
It’s always good to support newcomers to the craft and throughout the festival, Spoleto provides the opportunity for European Acting Academies to present their talent. As well as encouraging new talent, I always make a determined effort to see I work I don’t know, as was the case with this Dostoyevski. It’s about his realization, since a small child, that he was ridiculous and that ultimately there is nothing worthwhile in life and therefore he must commit suicide.
Presented as a 3-hander, by the plays’ end the actors had managed to seduce sufficient numbers of the audience to take their places in the playing space, and then exiting, thus making them (the audience/everyone/ tout le monde) ridiculous. Being in French it was relatively easy to follow the narrative.
Back at Hotel dei Duchi for dinner, I’m watching the palest of sunsets disappearing behind the Umbrian mountains. The Golden Hour has been magical and the light here is soft an enchanting. It is a soft landscape particularly after the ruggedness of Greece. The light is more gentile and the sun
a little kinder.
Once more, I am reminded of my thesis and how art, whether theatre, painting, music, dance, literature and even cinema, is born out of place. I’m very excited to explore Spoleto and the festival offerings. Clearly it is a very important event in the year and as yet I’m having difficulty in identifying the locals from the art lovers coming from afar. There is so much going on in a quiet and unassuming way, everywhere you turn you find plazas set up for events, some of them free and at all times during the day and evening. Some events are even out of Spoleto in the countryside.
Finally, I feel compelled to make a comment with regard to a comparison of the Spoleto Festival we used to have in Melbourne,which from my memory was more of a street festival. This is not the case in Umbria.

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