Luca Ronconi and Sergio Escobar are the two new directors of Milan's world famous Piccolo Teatro, one of Europe's leading theatre institutions. The Board of Directors, chaired by the Dean of Milan's Bocconi University Roberto Ruozzi, eventually reached an agreement July 14, over the men who will lead the Piccolo Teatro in the post-Strehler era.
Ronconi, currently at the head of Rome's Teatro Stabile, will be the artistic director, while Sergio Escobar, whose contract at the head of the Eternal City's opera house is expiring, will be the managing director. The appointment of Ronconi and Escobar leaves Rome's main theatre institutions without a leadership.
Last December's sudden death of Giorgio Strehler, the co-founder with Paolo Grassi of Milan's world famous theatre, marked the crucial point of a crisis that began in 1996 when Strehler resigned from his life-long position of director. Strehler's resignation came after a dispute with former Milan mayor Marco Formentini, a member of the Northern League party, over the opening of the new 900-seat Piccolo Teatro, which was eventually completed in June 1997 after a troublesome 20-year-long construction. Jack Lang, France's former Minister of Culture, became the new director, but always considered Strehler the true deus-ex-machina of the institution.
Luca Ronconi, 65, is one of the most acclaimed directors both at national and international level: after acting with a number of companies, he turned to direction in 1963 with a version of Goldoni's La Buona Moglie (The Good Wife).
In the course of the mid and later 1960s, he evolved a distinctive and highly theatrical production style with mountings, particularly, of Renaissance drama, including Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and Richard III (starring Vittorio Gassman) and Tourneur's The Revenger's Tragedy. Perhaps his most ambitious work of the 1960s was an inventive and stunningly spectacular stage adaptation in 1968 of Ariosto's epic poem Orlando Furioso, which he co-scripted with the poet Edoardo Sanguinetti. The range of his work in the 1970s, 80s and 90s has been considerable, including productions of Aeschylus' Oresteia, Middleton's A Game at Chess and Ibsen's Ghosts, plays which reflect an apparent preference for classic or neglected drama, of a kind both intellectually challenging and likely to permit the highly imaginative stage reorchestration that is a hallmark of his work. His most recent works include Pirandello's I giganti della montagna (The Mountain Giants) in Salzburg, Victor Hugo's Ruy Blas, Euripides' Medea and the stage adaptation of two novels, Gadda's Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana (That Awful Mess on Via Merulana) and Dostoevski's The Brothers Karamazov.
In 1991, in an old factory warehouse in Turin, he staged an epic production of Karl Kraus' The Last Days of Mankind, employing more than 60 actors and a full-scale train. His latest mounting of Pirandello's Questa sera si recita a soggetto (Tonight We Improvise) opened in Lisboa last May and toured in various European capitals.
Sergio Escobar, 48, has been at the head of Rome's Teatro dell'Opera since 1996. Between 1979 and 1990 he worked as marketing director and assistant to the general director at Milan's Teatro alla Scala. In 1990 he was appointed general director of Bologna's opera house and in 1995 he moved on to Genoa, where he directed for 2 years the newly restored Teatro Carlo Felice.
-- By Stefano Curti