The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri is considered to be the greatest epic poem to come out of Italy. It is made up of 100 cantos and 14,233 verses. The poem represents the culmination of the medieval world-view and is divided into three sections: Inferno or Hell; Purgatory, where souls go to be purified before they can venture into Heaven; and Paradise or Heaven where God and the Virgin Mary live.
It is a highly complex work in which the structure is mathematically determined and the language is of a Tuscan origin, and helped set that dialect as the Italian standard of speech and writing. You might think it should be called a tragedy, but that title was reserved for works written in Latin. So what we have is a “comedy,” or a work written in everyday language, which contemplates the way the universe is set up and the importance of love – in that love only exists in Paradise.
Any sane person would think making a representation of this monumental and often impenetrable work was a hellish proposition, but not the artists who collaborated on La Divina Comedia L’Opera. They delivered a spectacle to enchant the ears, eyes, and heart.
Like its source material, the opera that results is also monumental, lasting three hours. It has a cast of 60: 24 singers, 20 ballet dancers, and 10 acrobats, plus six leading actors with a Griffin thrown in for good measure. They auditioned 2,500 applicants and chose the all-Italian cast. It has played in Rome before 150,000 and is now playing in Milan. I hope it travels the world
The skills of all the participants are first rate: great singing, impressive dances, enthralling gymnastics, and a gorgeous mise-en scene. The often-thrilling music was composed by Marco Frisina. The soaring score runs the gamut between Gregorian chant to blues and rock and roll.
The libretto is by Gianmario Pagano by way of Dante. The choreography is by Anna Cuocolo, and gymnastic choreography is by Francesca Romana Di Maio. The set is by Antonio Mastromattei and consists of a revolving ring, which can be raised or lowered to create uphill roads, 16-plus hanging pieces of cloth, and a huge cyclorama, against which is projected truly amazing and impressive moving artwork designed by projection designer Paulo Micciche.
The 600 gorgeous costumes are by Alberto Spiazzo, and the versatile lighting design is by Maurizio Mottobbio. All this takes maestro Marco Frisina and two directors, Elizabetta Marchetti and Daniele Falleri, to create this remarkable pop opera.
The leading actors are Vittorio Matteucci, a full-voiced, well-known singer, as Dante; Lalo Cibelli with a wonderful basso voice as Virgil; Manuel Zanier as a powerful Francesca; and sweet-voiced Stefania Fratepietro as Dante’s beloved Beatrice. All the singers have rich, expressive voices.
Special mention must be made of the creator of the fantastical creatures including The Fates, Satan Himself, and the above-mentioned Griffin. They were all designed by Oscar–winning Carlo Rambaldi (E.T. – The Extraterrestrial, King Kong, and Alien) and executed by Sergio Stivaletti.
There are nine Circles of Hell, The Terraces of Purgatory, and the Spheres of Heaven to get through, but it is well worth the trip. The story is difficult to comprehend at times, even for Italians. I don’t speak Italian, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The creative team consists of people from television, film, theatre, opera, special effects, and ballet companies, who have put together a fantastical spectacle – only in Italy.
At Pala Sharp; April 24, 25, 26, 27 and May 8, 9, 10, 15, 16
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