admin On maggio - 10 - 2016


By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Umberto Giordano’s four act opera ‘La cena delle beffe’ (The Jester’s Supper), adapts Sem Benelli’s 1909 play of the same name. The story, set in Florence at the time of Lorenzo de’ Medici, accounts the rivalry between Giannetto Malespini and Neri Chiaramantesi for the affections of the beautiful Ginevra. Neri and Giannetto Malespini exchange increasingly malicious pranks, before Neri is lured into murdering both Ginevra and, unwittingly, his own brother.

Undoubtably, Alessandro Blasetti’s 1942 film is the most known adaptation of the play, since it won controversial fame for featuring one of the first  nude scenes in Italian cinema. However the opera’s neo-romantic florid verse and violent plot, have attracted the attention of a variety of distinguished artists who have embraced it in diverse ways. Sarah Bernhardt played Giannetto during 1910’s Parisian representation; Carmelo Bene staged two theatrical performances; not to forget that the Plymouth Theatre in New York City saw John Barrymore play Giannetto Malespini along with Lionel Barrymore in the role of Neri Chiaramantesi.

Carlo Rizzi elegantly conducted the renewal of the opera, that premiered in Rome’s Teatro Argentina in 1909, and was later glorified by Arturo Toscanini in 1924 at La Scala.

The real deal of this Milanese revival, is the mise en scène. Director Mario Martone (equally active in theatre, opera and film), has undertaken extensive research for a new production which bears a collage of references to the silver screen. 15th century Florence gets reshaped into a gangster thriller, set in mobster Little Italy during the 1920s.

Cinema rules. The gaudy atmosphere of Louis’ Restaurant for Tornaquinci’s dining room recalls ‘The Godfather,’ whereas the tension of what occurs in Ginevra’s bedchamber evokes the master of suspense: Alfred Hitchcock. Kristin Lewis’s Ginevra combines the prima donna aura, voluptuousness and tragedy of diva Marilyn Monroe, whilst tenor Marco Berti and baritone Nicola Alaimo, in the respective roles of Giannetto Malespini and Neri Chiaramantesi are overwhelming. Berti shows great stamina, every high note ringis out with ease, but also with great intensity. Alaimo, on his side, displays an Al Capone allure with his mighty stage presence.

Mario Martone — recognised for being an educational and thorough historian in his storytelling — stages an exceptional “Mafioso Supper”, that utterly enhances Umberto Giordano’s verismo.

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