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La Cantata Dei Pastori's Italian Holiday Show Opens, Today

La Cantata Dei Pastori's Italian Holiday Show Opens, TodayGo back in time to Southern Italy with Alessandra Belloni and I GIULLARI DI PIAZZA, the renowned Italian music/theater/dance company, when they present their traditional Southern Italian "La Cantata dei Pastori," (The Shepherd's Cantata) a musical family holiday delight.

One performance to celebrate the Winter Solstice, Friday December 22 at 8 PM at Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, between 9th & 10th Streets. The production stars internationally renowned singer and award-winning percussionist Alessandra Belloni. A native of Rome, Belloni appears as Mary, defeating the Devil with her powerful drumming.

The 14-member cast of specialists in Southern Italian instruments, music and dance, will play such traditional characters as La Befana, the Good Witch of Christmas; Mary and Joseph; the Archangel Gabriel (on stilts), Devils, Demons, and the hilarious commedia dell'arte characters who enact this beloved story of the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, and the triumph of good over evil.

The music - tarantellas, villanellas and pastorales - comes from traditional sources, with added original music by John La Barbera and direction by Susan Eberenz . Adaptation and stage direction are by Alessandra Belloni. Songs are sung in Italian and old Neapolitan dialect; costuming and music instrumentation is traditional Southern Italian; narration is in English. After the fast paced, over-the-top scenes of devils, angels, commedia dell'arte, and general mayhem, the play ends with Mary and her infant child, joined by the Company, in a reverent performance of the oldest known Neapolitan Christmas song.

"La Cantata dei Pastori" is set during Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, at which time the Devil dispatches demons to stop the birth of Jesus. Along the way, the holy couple's escapades are entwined with the hapless commedia dell'arte character called Razzullo, a comic mischievous Neapolitan scribe who is always hungry and looking for something to eat. The demons, in the meanwhile, conjure up tempests, dragons, and do all they can to stop the birth, but all are under the protection of the Archangel Gabriel (played here, in traditional style, by Mark Mindek, well known stilt dancer). Mary and Joseph experience funny, outrageous, and dangerous adventures before they finally reach Bethlehem and Good triumphs over Evil!

Cast: Alessandra Belloni - Mary, mezzo-soprano, percussion
John La Barbera - renaissance guitar. mandolin, mandolincello
Susan Eberenz - flute, piccolo, recorders
Wilson Montuori- classical and renaissance guitar, mandolin
Mara Gerety - violinist as the Devil
Serena Davini- percussion and drumset
Giuseppe De Falco - Neapolitan singer/actor as the commedia dell'arte character Razzullo
Joel Briel- La Befana
Mark Mindek - stilt dancer as Archangel Gabriel
James Karcher - sword fighter, principal devil
Francesca Silvano -dancer, shepherdess, devil
Peter de Geronimo - shepherd, devil
Luca Focella - little Devil , shepherd
Luisa Focella -little Angel, shepherdess

The Archangel Gabriel (on stilts) battles with the Devil
"La Cantata dei Pastori" is still performed annually during the Christmas season in the environs of Naples.

The play was written by Andrea Perrucci (under the pseudonym of Casimiro Ruggiero Ugone), a Sicilian-born, Neapolitan-bred poet/dramatist and well known stage director of his day. His play combines commedia characteristics with those of the Italian medieval sacra rappresentazione.

A few of the many HIGHLIGHTS of the show:
I Giullari members are masters of the commedia dell'arte style known as "Lazzi," comedic improvisations in commedia dell'arte style, often including grotesque masks, and outrageous props and effects.

The Archangel Gabriel appears, in traditional style, on stilts, and is portrayed by longtime company member Mark Mindek, who has appeared in Metropolitan Opera productions, Disney Films, and special events around the world. Gabriel saves the day, as he sword fights with the devil, played by James Karcher, actor and fight director whose broad range of credits include appearances as Benedict Arnold on The History Channel to a role in the movie Munich, directed by Steven Spielberg.

The Tempest Scene depicts Mary and Joseph crossing a body of water on their way to Bethlehem and, in true I Giullari di Piazza (the Jesters of the Square) popular street style, their boat is a cardboard cutout fashioned in the shape of a bathtub.

Giuseppe De Falco is a commedia dell'arte master and has a special connection with "La Cantata dei Pastori," having seen annual street productions in his native Naples Italy. ;

La Cantata dei Pastori Pulcinella / Razzullo Performed Live on December 12, 2016, Theater For The New City, NYC
La Cantata dei Pastori Befana / Marenaresca / Tempest
La Cantata dei Pastori Cuncti Simus Angel fights the Devil and the Dragon
La Cantata dei Pastori Mattacino -Angle defeats the Devil
Quanno Nascette Ninno NATIVITY SCENE (finale)

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