Friday February 20 at 8:30 p.m.
Saturday February 21 at 6 p.m.
Le sorelle Brontë [world premiere]
libretto by Bernard de Zogheb
written by Stefano Valanzuolo
directed by Davide Livermore
music research, composition and orchestration Andrea Chenna
cast Alfonso Antoniozzi, Davide Livermore, Ekaterine Bugianishvili, Perrine Madoeuf, Cristina Alberto
Angela Nisi, Inna Savchenko, Maryse Pires da Silva, Oxana Mochenets, Anna Bessi, Mara Bezzi, Giulia Alberti
musicians Angelo Conto, Diego Mingolla
conductor Andrea Chenna
set designer Barbara Delle Vedove
costume designer Clara Mennonna
lighting Nicolas Bovey
produced by La Biennale di Venezia, Teatro Regionale Alessandrino, Moz-Art Box Portici, Associazione Baretti
in collaboration with Fondazione del Teatro Stabile di Torino
Happily projected into the somewhat snobbish dimension of domestic entertainment, Le sorelle Brontë may practically be considered to be vaudeville, appearing explicitly out-of-date thanks to the choice of subject, the very era of production and the fact that it was written in lingua franca, that sort of commercial Esperanto popular in the Mediterranean ports since the Crusades, which survived through the end of the past century, particularly in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Alexandria of Egypt.
This was the native city of Bernard de Zogheb, a very mysterious figure who in 1964 published the libretto for a musical opera that would never be staged in public: Le sorelle Brontë. The story, conceived under the Mediterranean sun, takes place in the foggy English moorland and narrates the adventures of three famous writers and sisters, whose life was rather stark. A setting that is clearly distant from the author’s condition, which is as alienating as the language he takes into consideration. Everything contributes to keeping the product on the edge of a subtle irony: de Zogheb himself indicates the thousand musical references that should accompany the play, deliberately mixing cultural and popular, kitsch and sublime.
The outcome, as we have said, is reminiscent of operetta or vaudeville. But a large part of the Italian audience will think of the play on musical theatre developed, more or less at the time de Zogheb was writing his libretto, by the Quartetto Cetra on television. Like in the celebrated parodies of the classics of literature staged by the popular quartet – such as the Count of Montecristo or The Three Musketeers – the songs are sometimes meant to be allusive, sometimes to create an atmosphere, other times to serve as a rhythmic carpet that serves to give form, not without some excess of parody, to the demential epic of the Brontë Sisters. The whirlwind of musical, literary and theatrical disguises reveal the comic and grotesque sides of a work, which after nearly half a century, has been brought back to the stage.
The play presented at the Biennale is the end result of the seminar for singers and actors conducted by Stefano Valanzuolo and Davide Livermore last November, during the International Theatre Workshop.
Considered the “last cosmopolitan intellectual” of Alexandria of Egypt, Bernard de Zogheb (1924-1999) descended from a Syrian Lebanese family that moved to Egypt during the French occupation. In Alexandria of Egypt, the centre of a sumptuous and sophisticated Colonial life, as well as culture and literature, Bernard de Zogheb attended and animated cultural circles, elegant cafés, theatres. Leaving Egypt in the Sixties, de Zogheb spent twenty years between Morocco, France and Greece, working in tourism and journalism. In the Eighties he returned to Alexandria, where he exhibited his landscape watercolours.
But it was in his comic operettas that de Zogheb was successful in infusing his eccentric aristocratic spirit. Adapted to popular melodies, the librettos are written in the “macaronic” Italian of the Mediterranean cities, Alexandria in particular, and intended for the exclusive circles of friends and intellectuals that de Zogheb socialized with. La vita alessandrini, Le vacanze a Parigi, and Fedra are some of the titles he is famous for; discovered by American poet James Merrill, de Zogheb’s delicious operettas were produced in New York in the Sixties and early Seventies.