The distinguished Tullio Solenghi directs the most renowned comedy of Aristophanes, Lysistrata, produced by the National Institute of Ancient Drama (Fondazione INDA) of the Syracuse Greek Theatre Festival, featuring the awarded Elisabetta Pozzi as Lysistrata in a production of superb cast and collaborators.
As the Peloponnesian War rages, keeping the men away from their homes, Lysistrata convinces the women of Athens, Sparta and other cities to take matters into their own hands. During the women’s assembly, Lysistrata suggests that they abstain from their marital duties, in the form of a sex strike, until a peace treaty is signed from both war fronts. Even though there are some initial reactions, the women are finally convinced by Lysistrata and the Spartan Lampito and come together in devising their plan. Their action has immediate results and the men’s reactions are many and varied. After setbacks, conflicts and negotiations, peace is finally achieved.
WITH ENGLISH AND GREEK SURTITLES
Federica Carrubba Toscano
Giovanna Di Rauso
Margherita Carducci, Elisabetta Neri, Federica Carruba Toscano
Riccardo Livermore, Francesco Mirabella
Andrea Di Falco
Lysistrata is the only comedy written by Aristophanes named after its protagonist; in this case its female protagonist. This choice is not random, as Lysistrata is one of the most resoundingly dominant characters on the varied scene of Attic comedy. The plot is well known. Lysistrata convinces all the Greek women whose fathers, husbands and sons are periodically involved in war, to take part in a sex strike in order to persuade them to end the war.
However, alongside this main storyline, there is another one that I find even more revolutionary, and which makes Lysistrata the first true heroine of female emancipation. This event is the moment in which the women occupy the Acropolis, with the aim of confiscating the financial resources needed to continue the war, and which shows a first bold example of female governance. This is a very important fact when placed in the historical context in which the story is set. In Greece, in the 5th century B.C., the state was organised with a clear distinction of roles between men and women, a structure that generated an equally rigid division of space between exterior and interior, between civic and domestic. The threshold of the house was the boundary between the two spheres of competence; the man was entrusted with the political leadership, administration and military defence of the state, and the woman, segregated at home, was taking care of the domestic economy and raising children, yet she was receiving no form of authority within the society. Lysistrata is important above all because of this, because with her brilliant resolution she succeeds in subverting, albeit temporarily, this rigid establishment, exhibiting for the first time a sort of upside-down healthy universe.
In the reading of the play that I want to give, these two parallel tracks run constantly throughout the narrative arc, supported by an extraordinary comic mechanism that absolutely must be maintained in all its effectiveness. A comedy in every aspect, with jokes, comic timing, situations, characterisations, worthy of the best tradition of comic theatre, which is often unfairly subordinated to dramatic and tragic theatre, so here it has an occasion for fundamental redemption.
The added value of finding ourselves in one of the places that was often the scene of narrated events, the splendid city of Syracuse with its historic theatre, although eliciting an initial "tremor from veins and wrists", stimulates us to seek that essential empathy with the public, just as at its debut back in 411 B.C. when Lysistrata, with all her comic/revolutionary strength, appeared for the first time to the astonished, yet amused audiences of the time.
The very essence of the cycles of classical plays performed in Syracuse has been forged not only by the words of the great playwrights of the past but also by the faces, voices and gestures of artists who have left their indelible mark on both theatre and history.
The Greek theatre has been revived by artists like Annibale Ninchi, Elena Zareschi, Vittorio Gassman, Valeria Moriconi, Salvo Randone, Glauco Mauri, Elisabetta Pozzi, Lucilla Morlacchi, Giorgio Albertazzi, Ugo Pagliai and Piera Degli Esposti; directors of the calibre of Irene Papas, Krzysztof Zanussi, Mario Martone, Orazio Costa, Antonio Calenda, Luca Ronconi, Peter Stein; as well as translators and ‘re-writers’, scholars and artists like Pier Paolo Pasolini, Edoardo Sanguineti, Salvatore Quasimodo, Vincenzo Consolo, Dario Del Corno, Guido Paduano, Maria Grazia Ciani, Umberto Albini and Giovanni Cerri.
The art of theatre and the emotions evoked by these classical plays when performed “at the most important classical theatre in Europe” are rendered possible by more than 400 people, who are the backbone of INDA: the craftsmen who built the sceneries and make the costumes in the INDA workshops and who look after the theatre every year.
Even though INDA is over 100 years old it is especially relevant to young people since the Academy of Ancient Drama trains children and students as of the age of five and the International Festival of Classical Theatre for Young people at the Palazzolo Acreide hosts thousands of students from all over the world every year on the steps of the Greek theatre of Akrai for a festival full of youthful ideas and enthusiasm.
A timeless festival at a unique theatre where the show goes on for more than a hundred years; an event that makes Syracuse the focal point of the revival of ancient drama through continually new perspectives: the brainchild of Count Mario Tommaso Gargallo who founded INDA, the National Institute of Ancient Drama in 1913. A wager placed on the 16th of April, 2400 years after Polis, at a meeting of the aristocracy and the wealthy citizens hosted by the local nobleman led to the return of ancient drama at the Syracuse Greek theatre. Since then, it has seen the best actors from the national and international scene performing in front of thousands of spectators from May to July. The very first production was Agamemnon by Aeschylus, directed, translated and scored by Ettore Romagnoli, stage-designed by Duilio Cambellotti and costumes by Bruno Puozzo. Although the play by Aeschylus was the first step, the trail blazed by INDA for over a century includes mythical heroes like Medea, Oedipus and Antigone, as well as the introduction of comedies in 1927 with The Clouds by Aristophanes, taking the lead.
While the classical plays in the Greek theatre of Syracuse are reinvented every year, the memory of the event that accompanies thousands of spectators from all over the world is preserved in the archives of INDA. The archives were declared as archives of particular historical significance and interest by the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities and contain a vast collection of papers, images, sketches and other material at the Palazzo Greco, the historic seat of INDA. The activities of INDA, that was previously a public institution and became a Foundation in 1998, are not limited only to the staging of classical plays at the Greek theatre of Syracuse, the International Festival of Classical Theatre for Young People at the Palazzolo Acreide and the Academy for Ancient Drama, but also extend to the organisation of a broad spectrum of events, conferences and debates all over Italy. Since 1931, INDA has been publishing “Dioniso”, a journal of studies on ancient drama, the chief editor of which is currently Guido Paduano. “Quaderni di Dioniso” is a publication linked to the scientific approach of the journal and containing the minutes of conferences organised by the INDA Foundation as well as monographs on topics connected to classical theatre and its rebirth in modern times.