While looking through the Tulane University Carnival collection I found designs by Carlotta Bonnecaze for Proteus in 1897 that brought back memories of an obsession I had in my late teens. Her subject was Orlando furioso the great Italian epic poem of the 16th century by Ludovico Ariosto. It retells the exploits of Roland (Orlando) during the Crusades and was to be the source of many opera libretti during the baroque era. But what got me interested in this obscure (for North America at least) work was a review in one of the many theatre magazines I subscribed to at the time. It spoke of a remarkable Italian environmental theatre production that was touring Europe in 1969-70. It was directed by a young Luca Ranconi, who had his audience move from area to area as the tale unfolded. Often the spectators found themselves surrounded by brave Christian knights battling Saracens, sometimes fighting each other and often dealing with beautiful, but evil, sorceresses. The brave English knight Astolfo even made his voyage to the moon on the back of the hippogrif to regain Orlando’s wits. (As a sidebar according to Ariosto the moon is where all things that are lost on earth end up????). It all sounded fascinating. I had to read this story.
Imagine my surprise (and indignation) when I discovered that my local library didn’t have a copy of this epic on it’s shelves!! Fortunately a friend managed the W. H. Smith Bookstore at the airport where I worked and she ordered a copy – it was not amongst the material favourite by air travellers of the day!!!!!! It proved to be a heavy tome of some 780 pages which in all honesty I made a brave attempt to read but stopped at page 320 when Ruggerio tethered his steed to a talking myrtle tree (Astolfo transformed by the evil…. oh never mind).
So what you ask, o gentile lettore, does this have to do with Throwback Thursday. Well aside from various opera I’ve seen based on Orlando Furioso I was to run across the good Christian knight on several visits to Sicily and the rod puppet theatres in Palermo and Siracusa. And with the often circuitous logic in what passes for my brain I went from the Tulane Collection to my teenage obsession to trips to Sicily to a post I did back in February of 2011 on the Teatro dell’Opera dei Pupi. I thought perhaps it would be worth a revisit to see how these incredible puppets are made and a bit about their history.
A left click on my darling Emanuele Luzzati’s colourful Orlando astride a dragon will take you there:
On this day in 1923: Greece becomes the last European country to adopt the Gregorian calendar.