Prima Fila (2011)

©Marco Cola

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Site-specific work commissioned by Container12 Festival in Brescia, Italy, 2011. The site is an upper rehearsal & set-building room in Brescia’s Teatro Grande:  17th century opera house that was once home to Commedia Del-Arte, with its iconic satiric characters, simple plots, masterful improvising performers, out-sized humor, & organized mayhem. Commedia plays addressed issues of the day, & audiences were notoriously raucous. Peasants sat in the balcony & often threw rotten food if they didn’t like the show or disagreed with its views. Far cry from today's well-behaved opera audiences!

We were inspired by the site, with windows over-looking ancient Brescia rooftops, thick wood ceiling beams, old posters for well-known Italian operas, & ghosts of performers past.  

And we were inspired by Commedia’s process: great improvisers working with scores.

The evening begins with performers restless in the windows & trying to break away. Then a series of escapes into wildly contrasting ‘movement characters’ & structured improvisations. At intervals, a one-minute raucous busy interlude, seemingly improvised, repeats exactly as before, a controlled repetitive chaos. Two 17th-century ghosts hover, one on the ceiling, commenting about the unfamiliar contemporary performance world he's seeing; the other singing opera on the balcony -- her pitch sliding as if she's flying in the wind -- & wandering through the space as she speaks about lurching through time, about being a ghost among the living, & living among ghosts.

At the end, in a faraway room, three Commedia characters animatedly hold forth -- a distant memory -- to fading sounds of an organ-grinder.

Created in collaboration with Manuela Bondavalli, & with dancers & actors of Container Arti Performative, with additional performers by invitation: Angela Belmondo, Laura Bertini, Francesco De Gennaro, Mariasole Dell'Aversana, Yvonne Ng, Enrica Olivari, Claudia Rossi, Gabriella Tanfoglio & Lara Tovazzi.

Great Italian reviews! currently awaiting translation --