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la Biennale di Venezia
Main Visual Sezione Teatro EN (new)


40th International Theatre Festival


20th February > 8th March 2009


Teatro Toniolo (Mestre)

Tuesday February 24 at 8:30 p.m.
Otello, Tragicommedia dell’arte [world premiere]
written by Roberto Cuppone
directed by Michele Modesto Casarin
with Marta Dalla Via, Manuela Massimi, Stefano Rota, Roberto Serpi, Stefano Tosoni
live music by the Gruppo Calicanto
drawbar organ, mandola, lute, bagpipes Roberto Tombesi, bass Giancarlo Tombesi, clarinet, ocarina, gralla Francesco Ganassin,
percussion, guitar Paolo Vidaich
voice Claudia Ferronato
costumes Licia Lucchese
sets and masks Stefano Perocco di Meduna
production Pantakin da Venezia, La Biennale di Venezia, in collaboration with the Comune di Venezia – Assessorato alla Produzione Culturale
in collaboration with the Comune di Mirano
with the support of the Regione del Veneto
The Moor of Venice appears in the guise of the Commedia dell’Arte in the version of the famous Shakespearean tragedy offered by Pantakin da Venezia, a company that works between tradition and a renovation of the language of theater. Grown out of a branch of the Tag Teatro, the Venetian company has been dedicated for over ten years to research into the Commedia dell’Arte, understood as a terrain that is favorable to an interdisciplinary experimentation of the arts of acting.
At the 2006 Theatre Biennale the company won the Leoncino d’oro Agis award with their production of Il Corvo by Gaspare Gozzi. In Othello, the well-assorted group of artists from the Pantakin enjoy the fundamental contribution of Roberto Cuppone, the author of the play, and Michele Modesto Casarin, who is its director. 
Five actors, fourteen characters and six “languages” recount the highest and most difficult moment in the balance between Christianity and Islam, between the West and the East in the Mediterranean: the tragic events of the year 1571, from the conquest of Famagosta to the revenge at Lepanto.
The place, the same context: the island of Cyprus, which is so symbolic today.
The plot of Pantakin’s new project is the same as always, by Giraldi Cinzio later borrowed by Shakespeare: an impossible love, a friend who betrays, an “anthropological” jealousy, a tragic epilogue. It is the story of Othello, Desdemona, Iago that has emerged unharmed through four centuries of adaptations, with its fascination and allure intact.
The methods: typical of popular epic, between laughter and tears, chronicle and comedy, as only the characters of the commedia dell’arte are capable of.
“Speak of me as I am”, is Othello’s last wish before he kills himself. An impossible wish, because in the theatre, Othello’s is the story of a paradox.
But who is the Moor really? Nobody is more Venetian than he, and at the same time nobody is more Christian than he who was once an Infidel. In Othello, the emblem of a mysterious nature yet to be explored overlaps with a more courageous and desperate defense of western values. The ideals of Stilnovo and the ghosts of desire are the two faces of a dramatic love, that does not tolerate shadows and light.
No actor, either white or black, has the physique du rôle to incarnate this paradox, on his face both melanin or makeup, both nature and artifice inevitably appear as an approximation, or even an ideology or a smug lie. Othello can only be a mask of prejudice, practiced or suffered. A fixed idea, a stereotype, like all classifications, both comic and tragic together.
For an actor, however, no trick is possible. Perhaps the most effective way of representing him is with a mask.
Every mask expresses a prejudice, a license both exhibited and suffered, a ghost, something politically incorrect. What would happen if the Moor, the Virgin, the Traitor, the Victim, become just masks? Will their unexplainable drive to repeat their verdict make people laugh or cry?
Othello’s Venice is the place where East meets West. This “theatre” of langues and paroles has since then inspired one of the highest instances of Italian literature. In the topos of different lenguazi, masks contain polyglotism and through them perhaps that concrete music of the Mediterranean languages might once again be heard.
The Moor is also the figure of the returning soldier; he is the one who fought in Cyprus perhaps (in the legendary outpost of Christianity) and goes back there to govern an unstable balance of civilization. In this labyrinth of ideals and interests, between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, among the warrens of History and the waves of legend, why is the Convert the one who tips the scale? Is this perhaps a lesson for our contemporary times?
Roberto Cuppone