Milan's venerable Piccolo Teatro, one of the most influential theatre institutions in Europe, is slowly coming out of a two year long crisis that reduced its presence both at a national and international cultural force.
The recent and sudden death last December 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 last June after a troublesome 20 year-long construction. On Jan. 13, 1997 Jack Lang, former French culture minister, became the new director, but always considered Strehler the true deus-ex-machina of the institution.
Last week Italian Minister of Culture Walter Veltroni appointed the new Board of Directors of the Piccolo Teatro: Corriere della Sera theatre critic Giovanni Raboni, theatre entrepreneur and director Emmanuele Banterle and actor Luca Barbareschi. President of the new Board is Roberto Ruozzi, Dean of the famous Milan based Bocconi University.
A top agenda item of the new Board is the appointment of the new director, who will lead the Piccolo Teatro in the post-Strehler era: according to rumours in the Italian press, possible candidates include German director Peter Stein, theatre critic Franco Quadri, theatre managers Ivo Chiesa and Walter Le Moli and director Luca Ronconi, currently at the head of Teatro di Roma.
In spite of all the political trouble, the Piccolo Teatro is struggling to carry on its activities. After the successful sell-out run at the New Piccolo Teatro of Mozart's masterpiece Cosi fan tutte, now officially dedicated to the memory of Giorgio Strehler, the Piccolo Teatro recently unveiled Piccole Grandi Magie, the second step of Strehler's Progetto 2000 which includes over 20 shows, concerts and ballets to be hosted in three different theatres from March 25 thru July 10: via Rovello's old Piccolo Teatro, via Rovello's Teatro Studio and largo Greppi's New Piccolo Teatro. Piccole Grandi Magie opens today, March 25, at the New Piccolo with Argentine dancer Julio Bocca's Ballet Argentino.
The Italian version of Harold Pinter's latest play Ceneri alle ceneri (Ashes to Ashes), directed by Pinter himself, will run from Mar. 31 thru April 9 at the old Piccolo Teatro. Adriana Asti and Jerzy Stuhr play the roles of Devlin and Rebecca in a show which marks Harold Pinter's first Italian direction. Ashes to Ashes originally opened on 12 September 1996 at London's Ambassadors Theatre.
From April 15 to April 30 at the old Piccolo Teatro, the popular comedian Claudio Bisio plays Monsieur Malussene, a monologue written by Daniel Pennac, the creator of the popular character Benjamin Malussene featured in many of his best-selling books.
Young Slovenian Emil Hrvatin will direct Mattia Sbragia and Lino Troisi in his own play Giulio Camillo - Memo 1.0: costruzione del teatro, dedicated to the mysterious and fascinating figure of the 15th century Italian historian Giulio Camillo. The show will be performed at the Teatro Studio from May 5 thru May 17.
Carlo Goldoni's Arlecchino Servitore di Due Padroni (Arlecchino, The Servant of Two Masters) together with Le Baruffe Chiozzotte (The Chioggian Squabbles) and Pirandello's I giganti della montagna (The Mountain Giants), has been one of Giorgio Strehler's most successful shows, a true manifesto of his theatre, in which he sought to recuperate the masked tradition of the "settecento" for modern audiences. Performed all over the world since 1947, Arlecchino Servitore di Due Padroni returns once again on May 5 to the via Rovello stage, where it was originally produced, for a three weeks run thru May 24.
Another highly acclaimed show in the Piccolo Teatro's repertory is Eduardo De Filippo's La grande magia (The great magic), which was originally directed by Giorgio Strehler in 1984. The show will be revived at the New Piccolo Teatro from May 14 to May 31 with scenes by Enzo Frigerio and costumes by Luisa Spinatelli. Carlo Battiston will reproduce Strehler's original direction. La grande magia will feature Renato De Carmine, Giancarlo Dettori and Eleonora Brigliadori in the leading roles of Otto Marvuglia, Calogero Di Spelta and his wife, Marta Di Spelta.
From June 4 to June 19 the New Piccolo Teatro will host Robert Wilson's first Italian language show La donna del mare (The Lady from the Sea). Written by Susan Sontag and taken from Henrik Ibsen's play, the show is co-produced by Emilia Romagna Teatro, Teatro Comunale di Ferrara and Change Performing Arts. With costumes by stylist Giorgio Armani and music by Michael Gulasso, La donna del mare will feature Dominique Sanda, Philippe Leroy and Umberto Ceriani.
Piccole Grandi Magie will be closed by the worldwide acclaimed production of Chekov's The Cherry Orchard directed by Lev Dodin, which eventually arrives to Italy, playing at the New Piccolo Teatro from July 7 thru July 10. Coproduced by Paris' Odeon-Theatre de l'Europe and St. Petersburgh's Maly Theatre, the show will be played in Russian, with Italian subtitles.
Strehler's Progetto 2000 includes also a number of concerts with hosts such as the European Youth Orchestra and pianist Radu Lupu (Apr. 9), films and ballets (Carolyn Carlson's Dall'interno will play at the New Piccolo Teatro from June 29 thru July 3).
The complete programme of Piccole Grandi Magie is available at the Piccolo Teatro's website at www.piccoloteatro.org. For tickets, further information and credit card booking it is possible to contact the box office at +39 2 72.333.222.
--By Stefano Curti