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I am Water
March 22, 2022
Crowned Idols
April 1, 2022
Le Nuvole 2021 - Ph. © Franca Centaro


Light as clouds but as complex as existence

During the warm evenings of this past August in Siracusa, ‘The Clouds’ by Aristophanes reappears in the theatre, invoked by the direction of Antonio Calenda. Gracefully dressed in colourful puffy tulle fabric, dancing against a simple stage-set of neoclassical taste, they guide us lightly to a complex experience of existence.
‘The Clouds’ under Calenda are “a Brechtian, surreal, uneasy and crudely comical version”, to use the director's own words, in which the Ancient Comedy written around the time of the Peloponnesian War, is dressed in modern clothes, where Past and Present shake hands warmly in a mixing of stories of the past but which are still relevant today.
The performance starts and an upside-down world briefly eludes the rules of everyday life, allowing the audience to be entertained by that carnival-like hilarity which challenges the fear of existential problems and an uncertain future. It is that famous “onomasti komodein”, the comical mocking of Socrates which builds up, line after line, a “present” composed of many contradictions, in which, almost out of necessity, tradition and innovation, old and new, different generations clash, with deforming results. It is in the dialogue between Worst Speech and Best Speech that the whole match is then played. The nice citation of La Signorina Felicita by Guido Gozzano, inserted intp the text translated by Nicola Cadoni, reaffirms the weight of a final battle with a given result:
“Smell of the Shadows! Smell of the Past, smell of desperate abandonment!”
Le Nuvole 2021 - Ph.F.Centaro
Le Nuvole 2021 - Ph.F.Centaro
The story of Strepsiades, a farmer plagued by debts, still tragically makes us laugh as it did in 423 B.C. when Aristophanes brought it to life during the City Dionysia, evolving without any doubt from an Aeschylean memory. After succeeding in ‘initiating’ his son Pheidippides in the arts of the Sophists, taught to him by a grotesque Socrates, for the sole purpose of defying laws and justice, he will be punished. He won’t pay his debts, but he’ll get a beating at the hands of Pheidippides, demonstrating how the Worst Speech, which he wanted so badly, is clearly not the best deal after all.
This is who we are, this is what we do once we notice that a man falls for dishonest actions, we persuade and push him to head towards ruin. That way he realises that it is better not to lose his fear of the gods.” This is what the chorus of Clouds says, after witnessing the loss of all morals and after participating in the defeat of the Best Argument; words which lack nostalgia are a brutally wise testimony to the inevitable evolution of ethos towards new horizons.
There would be so much more to add to these thoughts, but as we should leave some surprises to the performance, we’ll share just a few details which were widely appreciated.
The dizzying references that Aristophanes made towards facts and people from his Athenian present, aren’t wasted here and provide an opportunity to remind us of the exhilarating facts of another country which is also looking for a new “ethos”, like Italy, a country in which perjuries are still commonplace, as in “He who had sworn on the immaculate heart of [Athena] that he would never have made the government fall”.
Le Nuvole 2021 - Ph.F.Centaro
Le Nuvole 2021 - Ph.F.Centaro
After Livermore and Padrissa’s productions for the Greek theatre, even Bruno Buonincontri’s stage-set for Calenda is a challenge for the spectator. Refinedly Neoclassical, it demands that we complete an act of truth: it falls on the new spectators of The Clouds to colour the pure white of the porches and masks with their own thoughts. Perhaps the breeze that blows amongst the Clouds is - but it would be nice to ask the director - a nostalgic re-evocation of the enlightenment as found in the works of Giuseppe Parini. During the long evenings of Siracusa, Parini’s “Il Giorno'' could recall the study of the ancient world which could restore a moral accent to the arts lost in frivolities and ignorance.
Le Nuvole 2021 - Ph.F.Centaro

She teaches history of art, is President of the Association SiciliAntica for the province of Siracusa. She took care of the formation and applied teaching of cultural heritage, she worked in an Ethnographic museum in Noto, was expert on the subject at the Faculty of Architecture, curated various publications on the theme of technological innovation applied to cultural heritage. She writes for SiracusaCulture.