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The Historical Archive of the INDA - National Institute of Ancient Drama
A unique inheritance: over 100 years of performances of classical plays
A timeless celebration, held in a unique theatre that has welcomed performances for over a hundred years. To turn Siracusa into the heart of an event by breathing life back into ancient drama and allowing it to be shaped in countless different ways: this was the idea that inspired the count Mario Tommaso Gargallo and led to the founding of INDA - the National Institute of Ancient Drama - in 1913, now a non-profit organisation. The nobleman gathered a group of aristocrats and wealthy people togther who, on the 16th of April 1914, helped him bring the classical plays of Ancient Greece back to life at the Greek Theatre in Siracusa, 2400 years after the Polis. Since then, the best national and international artists have performed in front of thousands of people, from May to July, every year. Aeschylus’s Agamemnon was the first play to be performed. The artistic direction, the translation and the music were assigned to the Greek scholar Ettore Romagnoli, the stage set was designed by Duilio Cambellotti, and the costumes by Bruno Puozzo.
Agamemnone di Eschilo, 1914, Ph. credits - Archivio INDA
Agamemnone di Eschilo, 1914, Ph. Credits - Archivio INDA
"Though the classical plays were first born in 1914, it is from 1921 onwards that they receive their blessing from audience, critics and institutions alike, and start to become a tradition."
“The theatre of Siracusa, built on the orders of a poet prince, Hieron I, patron of the arts and culture, on the picturesque slopes next to the Temenite hill; that a brilliant architect, Democopo Myrilla, raised as a work of extraordinary beauty, will see performed on its stage that hellenic drama so distant from us, which contains the life of mankind and that powerful tragedians have passed down so as to be known for centuries. No other place could better have contained this noble commemoration: here, in this magnificent theatre, whose stone benches still tremble with the emotion and vibrate with the sentiments of the audience who loved art and life: here, in front of the splendid harbour. In the verdant meadows crossed by mythical Anapo and his sweet Ciane, surrounded by the memory of its past all-Greek grandeur, a tragedy by Aeschylus, Sophocles or Euripides will find its proper home and its highest, truest expression.” Mario Tommaso Gargallo, Transcript, April 6th, 1913.
Palazzo Greco, sede dell'INDA
Though Aeschylus’s work was the first step, the path shaped by INDA in over a century has also touched the stories of Medea, Oedipus, and Antigone.
Seven years after “Agamemnon” debuted, despite the long break caused by World War I, Mario Tommaso Gargallo decided to return to the grand idea of performing classical plays at the Greek Theatre in Siracusa. He chose to maintain continuity with the first performance of 1914, and produced the second tragedy in Aeschylus’s trilogy, “The Libation Bearers”. The translation and artistic direction were once again entrusted to Ettore Romagnoli, the chorus and musical interludes to Giuseppe Mulè, and the flyers, stage design and costumes to Duilio Cambellotti.
The artistic secretary, Vincenzo Bonajuto, wrote “Seven years ago, Aeschylus was reborn, surrounded by a cosmopolitan, most modern audience, and next spring the great tragedian will live again… There is great anticipation for this celebration of art, which attempts to renew the enthusiasm for ancient tragedies, nowadays almost unknown, or unable to be appreciated in their entirety. Today, when the decadent audiences are becoming more used to grotesque limps and colourful adventures, it is necessary to revive their tastes once more, so through Art we can go back to admiring the infinite beauty of what lived centuries ago, approaching it like someone who is tired of drinking water tarnished by mud, who climbs up to the spring to drink purity once more… and Siracusa is preparing feverishly to set a spiritual feast this spring, for those who in every corner of the world, feel the nostalgic yearning for pure and true Art. The founder, the man who has not given up at any moment, like all those who have an ideal to pursue and are men not marionettes, the man who works and studies, organises and prepares, that man is Mario Tommaso Gargallo. A man and a nobleman. A superior man, someone who still hears the calling of Art, true art, not the one that whines on many stages today, and who feels it like one of those passionate love stories that consume you until they are satisfied.” V. Bonajuto, Il Teatro all’aperto. Arti grafiche Editore Roma 1924.
Il comitato fondatore, Ph. Credits - Archivio INDA
The INDA Foundation has an area dedicated to the conservation of its documentary, printed and artistic heritage, which is accessible on request to students and scholars who carry out research on ancient theatre and the classical world. The nucleus consists of the library/archive, which contains a vast collection of books, specialised magazines, collections and documents belonging for the most part to the production of the classical representations at the Greek Theatre in Siracusa, or to the intense conference activities carried out by the institute over the years.
The patrimony of the Foundation is an important source for the historical study of INDA, of its stagings in an open-air theatre, of the great themes in the history of the classical tradition, as well as the first step in a conversation on the importance of the Ancient inheritance for the modern world.
The 100-year history of the Institute is recorded in an important collection of documents, pictures, sketches and materials that make up the precious Archive of the Foundation, which has been recognised as of particularly important historical interest by the Executive Board of the archives of the Ministry of Culture, following a proposal of the Regional Archivist Superintendence.
Ifigenia, 1930. Ph. credits - Archivio INDA
The INDA Foundation enhances the existing heritage by making it available through an online catalogue, and is hoping to expand it through new acquisitions, so as to consolidate its place as the Archive and Library of Studies on Classical Theatre, by offering researchers, entertainment professionals, Universities and students valuable tools for work, analysis, and insight in a highly-specialised field.
The Library of the INDA Foundation, established in 1927 and today at Palazzo Greco, the historical headquarters of the Institute, houses a wide range of books and papers relating to the specific study of Ancient Theatre. The book section ranges from the works of authors of Ancient theatre (Greek and Latin), Medieval and Renaissance theatre, to essays on classical philology, theatrical architecture and scenography. The section dedicated to Sicily, its archaeological ruins, folklore and history is particularly interesting, while the magazine section includes a conspicuous and important collection of periodicals, both Italian and foreign, relating both to theatre and to classical subjects.
The INDA Library, with its treasures and the document Archive, with its video and photographic libraries, its volumes of press reviews, the collections published by the Institute (booklets, theatre programs, volumes of the magazine Dionysius) constitute a valuable aid for those studying ancient drama and its interpretation in the modern era. Being able to preserve and allow access to this legacy, which is one-of-a-kind, for future generations, is of crucial importance.
The archive can be visited by appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Responsabile del Patrimonio scientifico e artistico e della comunicazione alla Fondazione Inda, è laureata in Storia dello spettacolo e in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali. È stata aiuto regista al Dipartimento Scuola Educazione della RAI. Per il Teatro Bellini di Catania ha curato l’organizzazione di manifestazioni artistiche ed è stata direttore artistico del Medfest di Buccheri per diverse edizioni.