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Shakespeare's plays undergo a double transformation when they are performed both by a different theatrical genre and in a language other than English. Author Susan Young investigates such a double transformation in this study of the performance of Shakespeare by Italian puppet theatre. The work is essentially a catalog of Shakespearean performance in Italian teatro di figura, which was compiled in order to record information that was widely scattered in Italian archives or retained only in the memories of surviving practitioners.
Some seventy productions, dating from the late eighteenth century to the present, are recorded. In some cases, the only trace remaining of a production is a fleeting, unsubstantiated reference, but in many cases, it was possible to provide detailed information. The book supports its data with extensive photographic documentation of surviving puppets and stage designs, many of which are held in private collections or specialist museums. Also included are transcriptions of two previously unpublished manuscripts of adaptations of Shakespearean texts for puppet theatre, performed in 1881 and 1906.
Much can be gleaned from the stage directions in these fascinating documents about the techniques of theatre with marionette. It is also apparent that these productions were a heady mixture of Shakespearean characters intermingled with stock comic masks of Italian tradition, displays of virtuoso technique, music, and dance. The texts are of considerable linguistic interest, combining as they do an elevated, archaic Italian for the Shakespearean characters with colloquial language or dialect for the masks.
The production catalog concludes with a detailed reconstruction of a notable production of The Tempest, which inaugurated the thirty-third Venice Biennale. It was staged by the long-established company of marionettisti Carlo Colla e figli, who based their production on a translation of the original into Neapolitan dialect by the renowned Italian actor and author Eduardo De Filippo, who had made a sound recording in which he spoke all the parts, save that of Miranda. The resulting production was, technically and artistically, a tour de force, and the critical response was very favorable. The complexity of the stage effects and the marionette was such that the production, once dismantled, is unlikely to be re-staged. There existed no detailed written record of the production, so the writer's account has made good this lack by means of interviews with members of the company and a search of their archives and press reviews.
About: Shakespeare Manipulated examines the links between William Shakespeare and the Italian theatre of marionette, burattini, and pupi, both during the dramatist's lifetime and in the production of his works in Italy within the genre of teatro di figura.
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