First Show: 20/07/2007 - Time: 21.30
Location: Teatro Antico
by Renato Giordano from Petronius Arbiter
with Giorgio Albertazzi and Michele Placido
directed by Renato Giordano
TRIMALCHIO’S DINNER PARTY(
What a night it was, Gods and Goddesses…)
by Renato Giordano
PETRONIUS’S SATYRICON IS THE BEST NOVEL OF ITS TIME AND ONE OF THE BEST OF ALL TIME.
And even if they came from quite different worlds, there is, in my opinion, a great deal of similarity between Petronius and Boccaccio (whose Decameron I recently directed). Whereas Boccaccio’s is a world of sensual vitalism, that of Petronius is an expression of a multiethnic empire aware of its impending collapse. And the centre of this incredible ORGY of colours, tastes, smells, stories, food, angry drunken voices, songs of greatness and of death, culminating in an unexpected “definitive silence”, both tragic and comic, is the episode of Trimalchio’s dinner party.
Whenever we think of a Roman DINNER we are immediately reminded of Petronius and “ Trimalchio’s dinner”, an evening of debauched excess, rich and vulgar, culminating in the mock funeral of the host.
For this production I imagined the figure of Petronius Arbiter, (naturally accepting the identification of the Petronius of the Satyricon with that of the wonderful portrait in the annals of Tacitus,) intent on writing the chapters of his novel regarding the dinner party, while in Cuma, he himself is preparing his own last supper, before taking his life to spite the tyrant Nero.
The end sees an identification of the destiny of Petronius with that of his literary creation Trimalchio, where, as in a famous musical, death becomes simply a non-dramatic sequence of an extraordinary life-show, which has merely reached its inevitable “End”, after an Epicurean feast, which is only in part metaphoric!
Not only Petronius, but many other authors have narrated what happened at dinners in the late Republican and Imperial periods. Martial, first of all, but then Juvenal, Pliny the younger, Cicero and Plautus in the theatre.
The rich food consumed on the couch, wine in abundance, orgiastic music performed by the Syrian “ambubaiae”, female aulos musicians, considered the utmost in sexual music entertainment. And then the gambling, the promiscuity with the dancers of Gades (experts in Spanish dances from which flamenco derives), and the Eastern belly-dancers. Shows with clowns, dwarves and Eunuchs (morions), but also the deep social, political and ritualistic significance of meeting and socialising. Horace writes: “Oh nights, oh dinner of the Gods, where my friends and I ate before the spirit of the house”.
The high point of the ‘dinner show’, the Acroama (delight for the ears), was, however, the dancers of Cadiz. These used rattles and maracas and moved “in such a way as to stir the loins even of the chaste Hippolytus”. And Juvenal spoke of the atmosphere at “certain dinners”: “the clicking of the maracas, the speeches that not even a naked whore in a brothel would utter, the erotic excesses....”
There were also, almost always, declamations and readings (Homer and Virgil were the most popular) by the guests and the amphitryon, or by professional actors.
This production of the “SATYRICON” by Petronius Arbiter NARRATES, principally, THE DINNER PARTY, with original music played live in such a way as to reproduce the spirit of ancient roman music. The flute, the percussion instruments, the lyre, the zither, the organ and even the horn. And working on the musicality of the Latin language and on world contaminations, so strong, I believe in Rome at that time.
The stories narrated in the Satyricon are unforgettable: the matron of Ephesus, inconsolable in her suffering, having lost her young spouse, to the point of leaving herself to die in the tomb of her beloved, but then yielding to the flattery of the guard and to three thieves on the cross. And finally she is prepared to put her beloved husband’s body on the cross in place of one of the thieves whose body had been taken down during the night by relatives. The story of the soldier under fire who stops in a cemetery, undresses and turns into a fierce werewolf; and the other of the invisible witch who puts a spell on a newborn child and who, having killed the courageous Capodacian defender, exchanges the baby for a rag doll. Timeless portraits, cynical, worrying and full of pietas, that stay with us as restless memories forever.
The finale, after food seasoned with putrid garum and watered with honeyed wine, I imagine, as in the “Great feast”, is incredibly Mortal both for the creator Petronius Arbiter and for his creation Trimalchio, while a polyphonic choir sings Petronius’s beautiful lines “Qualis nox fuit illa”…what a night it was...”