Teatro Fondamenta Nuove
Sunday February 22 and Monday February 23 at 8:30 p.m.
Orlando [world premiere]
from Orlando by Virginia Woolf
adapted and directed by Stefano Pagin
with Stefania Felicioli, Michela Martini, Massimo di Michele
original music Gabriella Zen
set designers Matteo Torcinovich, Marino Ingrassia
art director Gaia Dolcetta
costume designers Gaia Dolcetta, Stefano Nicolao
tailoring Nicolao Atelier – Venice
production Teatro Fondamenta Nuove, Teatro Stabile del Veneto, La Biennale di Venezia
in collaboration with Comune di Venezia – Assessorato alla Produzione Culturale
In Virginia Woolf’s literary production Orlando (1928) – inspired by the figure of her friend Vita Sackville-West with whom Woolf had woven a complex relationship – is a truly singular episode.
In the first chapter we find ourselves at the end of the sixteenth century, during the era of Elizabeth I, and young Orlando experiences a beautiful and painful love story with Sascia; in the second we are at the beginning of the seventeenth century, with a still young Orlando who gets his first taste of the hypocrisy of the literary world, experiences lust (after love) and is sent to be the ambassador to Constantinople. Among the Turks, after untold dissipation, he wakes up as a woman and experiences delicious adventures with the gypsies. Upon her return to England, it is the early eighteenth century, in the new society of Pope and Addison, with Orlando still intent on composing the poem The Oak Tree, but also dedicated to nightly escapades. The fifth chapter places Orlando and England under a heavy cloud; it is the era of crinolines and Victorian morality and poor Orlando is herself forced to be married. In chapter six we return to the present, in the post-Edwardian twentieth century that swept away the abhorred Victorian nineteenth century.
Stefano Pagin’s production does not hinge – like Sally Potter’s film – on biographical narration. Orlando here becomes an allegory of love and of the artist and the adaptation into a play circumscribes his exploration of these themes – love and eroticism – developing the entire part about Orlando (man) and Sascia, Orlando (woman) and Shelmerdine.
In the theatre adaptation of the book for two actresses and an actor, the stars of the show are again – after their successful La buona madre at the 2006 Theatre Biennale – Stefania Felicioli and Michela Martini, actresses who have worked with the great Italian directors – Sequi, De Bosio, Castri, Ronconi and Strehler. With them, Massimo Di Michele, who has acted, among others, under Tonino Conte, Marco Bernardi, Krzysztof Zanussi.
The theatre “score” will be complemented by an original score by composer Gabriella Zen, who previously held a seminar with the director during the International Theatre Workshop in November 2008, a premise to the play that is being presented today. In her compositions, Gabriella Zen works along the same lines as the adventures of the protagonist. Just as Orlando never dies, traveling across the eras and the countries of the Mediterranean, the music morphs similarly from the sixteenth-century notes of the Renaissance courts to the pop sounds of the British new wave of the Eighties.
We will attempt to read Orlando through the myth of Aristophanes – explains the director. During Plato’s Symposium, the playwright Aristophanes stands up to speak and expresses his opinion about love by narrating a myth. Once – he said – there were perfect beings, men and women who had four hands, four arms, two faces, they were two men and two women united by one head only. There was a third type, the hermaphrodite, who was made of a male and a female also joined at the head. “They were terrible, with great strength and vigor, and great pride, in such measure that they sought to attack the gods”. Zeus then decided to divide them into two to make them weaker and harmless. Since then, men have always been in search of their ancient perfection. Those who were joined to a man look for a man, those who were joined to a woman look for a woman, and the hermaphrodites seek the opposite sex. Aristophanes believes that love is the desire for unity with one’s beloved, who is not just anyone, but the same person we were originally tied to.
Reading and re-reading Orlando by Virginia Woolf over the years, I have always had the same impression, that the mystery of this novel could also be interpreted through myth, or through the “hero’s trial”, or sentimental education, like a fable of initiation. I have always had the impression that over Time and Space, Orlando sought his other half, to return to his self, and the History and Space sought on the contrary to make him lose his way, offering false models, disguises very similar to those of the ancient unity. We will attempt to highlight the search for the other half of one’s self by splitting the roles – lover and beloved will be the same person throughout the centuries – and by the change in sex.