The programme of Verona's 50th Shakespeare Summer Festival was officially unveiled April 1 by its director Giampiero Savorelli.
Since its first edition, back in 1948 when Roberto Simoni mounted Romeo and Juliet and Giorgio Strehler featured as an assistant director, Verona's summer festival has hosted the most important Shakespeare productions from Italy and abroad, featuring actors such as Vittorio Gassman, Carmelo Bene, Giancarlo Giannini and Vanessa Redgrave and directors such as Franco Zeffirelli.
Following an extensive tour around the UK and visits to Bogota, Rotterdam, Brussels, Tokyo and Singapore, the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Romeo and Juliet will open the Festival, enjoying its last performances in Verona -- the original setting of Shakespeare's greatest love story -- July 1-5.
Set in a small town in northern Italy, just before the First World War, RSC's Romeo and Juliet is directed by Michael Attenborough and features young English actors Ray Fearon and Zoe Waites in the lead roles.
Robert Jones has designed a set of stripped Tuscan walls, decaying and rotting, with brick and tile on the floor, one isolated pipe and a tap where women sit to do the washing in alabaster bowls. "Instead of two wealthy households," writes Attenborough, "the Montagues and Capulets are two families in a town divided by blood loyalties. I see the central challenge of the play as taking the audience on a journey, which involves them suspending their knowledge that these two people will die. You become so involved in the joy, vigour and excitement of their relationship that it seems unthinkable, unimaginable".
Romeo and Juliet, as well as the other productions included in the programme, will be performed in the magnificent setting of Verona's open air Roman Theatre, on the banks of the River Adige, only a few yards away from the world-famous balcony where Juliet is likely to have pronounced the immortal line "O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?"
The Verona Shakespeare Festival programme also includes new Italian productions of Hamlet, directed by Tato Russo, (July 22-25), and of The Taming of the Shrew directed by Gigi Dall'Aglio, with Michele Placido and Elisabetta Pozzi in the lead roles, (July 30-Aug. 8). A musical version of the Bard's Twelfth Night in an unconventional mounting by Beni Montresor, with a cast of young actors and featuring music by Rossini in a new pop version by Pietro Messina will open Aug. 28 and run thru Sept. 5.
The Verona Shakespeare Festival programme also includes a puppet version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, featuring the celebrated Colla Company (June 11-14), and two ballets, Swedish Cullberg Ballet's latest production of Tscajkovskj's Sleeping Beauty choreographed by Mats Ek (July 15-18), and Verona Arena Ballet's mounting of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet choreographed by Robert North (August 16-22). For further information and a schedule of performances call the organising committee at Comune di Verona (+39 45 80.77.111).
--By Stefano Curti