Divina Commedia: la prima giornata

“First the literal sentence and after that its allegory, that is, the hidden truth”.

From Dante’s 13th letter to Cangrande della Scala

On the first day of Dante’s journey in the Inferno, as Benedetto Croce said, we find ourselves “in a forest that is not a forest, and we see a hill that is not a hill, and we see a sun that is not the sun, and we meet three beasts that are not three beasts”.

This perceiving and not perceiving is represented by two “paths”, one visual and one aural. They accompany Dante’s words in the first seven canticles which, from dawn to dusk, chart the first day of the poet’s journey. Obviously, there is nothing realistic in these scenes, but how could realism be possible in the face of the greatness of this language?

The principal interpreters of the Dante’s word — Dante, Virgil, Beatrice and Francesca — dress in ways that merely allude to a fixed time or recognisable iconography (hence the timeless elegance of Giorgio Armani’s costumes), while minor characters — Charon, Paolo, Ciacco, Minos, Cerberus and Pluto — do not have physical descriptions but are merely bearers of words.

For a total understanding of the text, listeners must pay extreme attention to the language, and not just the allegorical aspects, to overcome semantic and lexical obstacles in a text that for centuries has been handed down orally.

Luca Lazzareschi plays Dante, Massimo De Francovich plays Virgil, Manuela Mandracchia plays Beatrice and Francesca, and Fausto Cabra plays Minos, Paolo, Ciacco and Pluto, delivering “the literal sentence and the hidden truth”.

This edition of the Divine Comedy was edited by Giorgio Inglese from the edition by Petrocchi, who wrote in his introduction: “the holy week of the 1300s, which we encounter on the first day, symbolises the “present” of a society which, deprived of its guides (the Empire is vacant, the papal throne has been usurped), wanders in the dark forest of sin, submitting to the sad dominion of greed”.

The production includes sophisticated visuals from Loonen-Piccioli which, which avoids the illustrative stereotypes often associated with the Comedy, immersing the visitor in a visual frame of black and white, with rare lapses into red, inspired by the great abstract artists of our time. Franco Visioli’s tapestry of sounds underlines, introduces and traces Dante’s path at the most important stages of his journey. Eternal Dante, in his complex and glowing language, is only superficially obscure. Indeed, the poet is the foundation stone of our own contemporary idiom.


Piero Maccarinelli