TOSCA E LE ALTRE DUE Runs 3/20-30 at Dicapo Opera
From March 20 to 30, Kairos Italy Theater (KIT) and Dicapo Opera will present "Tosca e le altre due" (Tosca and The Two Downstairs), a satirical, behind-the-scenes sister-story to Puccini's "Tosca" as imagined by one of the wittiest and most admired Italian playwright and actresses, Franca Valeri. The piece is directed by Laura Caparrotti, Artistic Director of KIT, and its English translation is by Natasha Lardera. Supertitles are by the prestigious Prescott Studio in Italy. The piece will be staged at Dicapo Opera, 184 E. 76th Street, Manhattan.
The play will be acted by Laura Caparrotti and Marta Mondelli in Italian with English supertitles. KIT-Kairos Italy Theater is a rarity: a bilingual Italian-English theater company that presents Italian theatrical works of literary merit. It is named for Kairos, the Greek god of the fleeting moment. The prologue will be acted in voice over by Rocco Sisto. Set design is by Lucretia Moroni.
"Tosca" by Puccini is based on a drama by Sardou. In this well-known opera, Mario Cavarodossi, a painter who has concealed a dangerous political prisoner, is being protected by his lover, a celebrated singer named Tosca. Cavarodossi is tortured to reveal the whereabouts of the prisoner to Scarpia, the chief of police, who has promised to save the painter by a mock execution if Tosca will give herself to him. She ultimately agrees, but stabs Scarpia at the last moment. The execution is, however, a real one and in grief, Tosca leaps from a battlement to her death. The opera debuted on January 14, 1900.
"Tosca e le altre due" by Franca Valeri shares the 19th century setting and events of the opera, but refracts them through two memorable women characters who share them from the outside. The torture's screams and scuffles are overheard from upstairs by the wife of the torturer and the female doorkeeper of Palazzo Farnese in Rome, where the interrogation is taking place. The play is a wry and humorous character study of these two women, outsiders, who are accidentally close to the passions and politics of the story.
In the play, the doorkeeper's lodge of the Palazzo Farnese is dominated by Emilia, a proud Roman woman who is responsible for upholding both the house's decorum and the reputation of the powerful and wicked Baron Scarpia. She is married to Nando, the jailer of the Castel Sant'Angelo; a strong housewife who doesn't get easily upset over the constant shouting and somewhat shady affairs of the Palazzo. The politics of Rome in 1800 are important to keep in mind. Napoleon having invaded Italy, power was shifting between the old royalists (who employ Scarpia) and the young Italian revolutionaries (like Cavaradossi), who wanted Italy to become a republic along French lines. Emilia passionately supports anything Baron Scarpia must do to wield his authority.
One night, a woman named Iride sneaks into the porter's lodge. She is an actress and former prostitute from outside Milan who has come to pick up her husband, Sciarrone, the galley-sergeant and sadistic factotum of Scarpia. Sciarrone is working late at a very delicate job on the upper floor of Palazzo Farnese: he is forcefully interrogating a variety of prisoners, among whom is Cavaradossi, Tosca's lover. His techniques are cruel, but Scarpia knows that Sciarrone's methods, when applied to Cavaradossi, may be an efficient way to shock poor Tosca, whom he desires, into surrendering her body to him.
Emilia and Iride patiently wait for the end of Sciarrone's shift. With the prisoners' tortured screams in the background, the two women keep each other company. Scattered through their dialogue are inserts of the actual opera performance. In the course of the play, all the characters in "Tosca"--including Scarpia, Spoletta, Roberti and Cavaradossi--pass by and are commented on by the two women, whose conversations are a hilarious parody of common people's life. Their gossip reveals the miserable daily struggles of the poor, who must dwell among state secrets that are much larger than they are. The situation peels away to reveal a desperate women's plot. Iride is not there just to wait for her thuggish husband, but to escape from him. A dangerous plan is born free her.
Divided almost like the three acts of Tosca, "Tosca and the Two Downstairs" moves between two Roman settings, the church Sant'Andrea della Valle and the Palazzo Farnese. It starts out deceptively satirical, comical and light, then enlarges into a very profound analysis of its two characters. Emilia, although stern, conservative and protective of her position in the status quo, is revealed to be empathetic to a fault and willing to risk her life to help anyone. Iride, who had escaped a life with no "moral" pretensions, would now rather return to the streets than endure her violent, cruel husband.
The play had its debut on 1978 in Italy with Franca Valeri as Emilia and Adriana Asti as Iride. In the U.S., the play has only been presented by KIT-Kairos Italy Theater, which held a reading at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo' at NYU and at the Ciao Italy Festival in Brooklyn and in 2010 presented the play's American debut at the cell in Manhattan.
"Tosca and The Two Downstairs" is the first play by Franca Valeri to be produced in the U.S. Born in Milan in 1920, she is the first female comic actress and satiric playwright to enjoy steady success from the 1950s to today. Her unforgettable women characters--above all the "Signorina Snob," the satirical portrait of a rich girl from Milan--made her very popular in the 50s. During a career that now, despite the age, shows no signs of slowing down, Ms. Valeri has worked in about 53 films with the most famous Italian directors and actors such as Alberto Sordi, Vittorio De Sica, Toto', Dino Risi among many others. In addition, she has written several screenplays and plays. Ms. Valeri is also an opera connoisseur who has directed several operas and founded a competition for young opera singers. In 2014, she keeps working and writing. She is now 93 years old.
Laura Caparrotti (Emilia/director) has a Masters degree in Performing Arts, Cinema and Theatre History from the University "La Sapienza" in Rome. She also studied independently with Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo and Annie Girardot. After ten years of professional theatre in Italy, she relocated to New York, where she has directed and/or performed at The Kitchen, The Fringe Festival, The Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, the cell, the Flea and Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo', among other venues. She was the Assistant to the Director of the Off Broadway production of Eduardo De Filippo's "Souls of Naples" featuring John Turturro. She is the world-wide representative of the De Curtis Family, and the curator of "Excerpts of a Prince Named Totò," the official traveling exhibition on the Italian iconic actor Totò. She is also a playwright, a journalist, a teacher, a lecturer, a consultant and dialect coach for Italian ("Boardwalk Empire") a curator and a panelist for NYSCA. She is member of the Director's Lab at Lincoln Center, of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the League of Professional Theater Women and the Founding Artistic Director of Kairos Italy Theater. In 2013, she started the In Scena! Italian Theater Festival NY, the first Italian Theater Festival to take place in all five NY Boroughs.
Marta Mondelli (Iride) was born and raised in Italy, where worked as an actress both in theater with her company Chièdiscena and movies (among which "Stai Con Me" with Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Adriano Giannini and "Vieni Via Con Me" with Mariangela Melato). She moved to New York in 2002 where she started a career in playwriting and screenwriting. She acts steadily with Kairos Italy Theater. Her first novel in Italian, "Occhi di cane, cuore di cervo," was published in Italy in 2011. Her first script, "Eve's Story," was finalist in the competition Screenplay Festival 2005. In 2010 she wrote and directed her first feature film, "The Contenders," which won the Aloha Accolade Award for Excellence in Filmmaking at the Honolulu International Film Festival that same year. Her third screenplay, "A Small Accident," received an Honorable Mention at the "Table Read My Screenplay" Contest during the Sundance Film Festival 2011. "The Window," her first play, had a very successful run at the Cherry Lane Theater Studio in January 2014.