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This report is taken from PN Review 37, Volume 10 Number 5, March - April 1984.

Hölderlin, Leopardi and Carnelo Bene Robert Julian

An unusual show is making its way through the major towns of Italy. 'Mi presero gli occhi' is featured on many theatres' lists for this year's stagione di prosa. (The contrasting term 'lyric season' is reserved for the opera.) It is likely to attract large audiences more for the name of the producer and soloist, Carmelo Bene, than for the title 'They stole my eyes'. Bene is one of Italy's best-known and respected actors. He belongs somewhere in the tradition of grands acteurs that includes Garrick and Lemaître. But Bene is also a modernist. Last summer's portrayal of Macbeth, the year before's presentation of Dante and Dino Campana alongside modern Russian poets (Mayakovsky and Blok), taken with his lucid theoretical statements on acting, set him in the world of Beckett and Roger Blin. The title 'Mi presero gli occhi' will not have been familiar to everyone, but the allusion to Hölderlin shows what he is about. The subtitle of his show, 'F. Hölderlin-G. Leopardi- spettacolo concerto in due tempi', is curious, tantalizing.

In parts of Italy, the tradition of oral poetry lingers on. A small reminder of it may be in Bene's description of this 'poetry reading' as a 'spectacle concert'. For he does not make a show in any gaudy sense. In contemporary dress and on an open, dark stage, he stands at a lectern and reads. There is, of course, some music and, as the reading proceeds, a few changes of lighting. Bene's facial movements ...


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