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Il Piccolo Teatro Di Milano is Bringing Goldoni Back to Paris in January

November 29, 2008.
Italian actor Lanfranco Licauli, who plays Arlecchino in productions of il Piccolo Teatro di Milano, gave Parisians a foretaste of the Goldoni play, directed by Toni Servillo, coming to the city next January.
This event at La Libreria in rue du Faubourg Poissonnière was part of the weeklong activities showcasing the work of Toni Servillo both in cinema and theater.
The presentation, punctuated by bursts of theatrics by the awe inspiring Licauli, was developed along two lines: the connection with Paris for Goldoni as well as for il Piccolo Teatro di Milano.
Goldoni spent the last thirty years of his life in Paris, until his death in 1793.
Lanfranco Licauli read a passage from Goldoni's Memoirs, written in Paris during the revolutionary years in the mid 1780s.
The Venetian playwright was a fervent student of the works of Molière, who wrote one century earlier and in these paragraphs, read with such vivid melody by Licauli, Goldoni wrote of his reaction to seeing Le Misanthrope performed upon his arrival in the French capital.
He had always admired this piece in written form, but now seeing it enacted for the first time, he was overwhelmed by the brilliance of the Parisian acting tradition.
He noted how the movements, glances, even the silent moments had been studied down to a fine art, yet appeared so natural and effortless.
It made the characters come to life and made the humor of the piece that much more intense.
Upon leaving the theater, Goldoni wondered which he desired more, having his own plays performed in France by such accomplished actors or having it performed in Italian with Italian actors that could perform with such grace.
Il Piccolo Teatro has done both, and there is the connection.
This theater company, founded in 1947 by Giorgio Strehler, has become Milan's premier theatrical institution.
The Piccolo Teatro has put on productions of Brecht, Pirandello, Chekov, and Gorky adapting them all to the contemporary theatrical styles.
In 1983, Strehler was invited by Jack Lang, the French Minister of Culture, to direct the Odéon Théâtre de l'Europe in Paris, a position he served in, along with his duties at Il Piccolo, until his death in 1997.
Strehler created his production of Arlecchino, Servitore di due Padroni for the first season of Il Piccolo Teatro, and this interpretation of the Goldoni play had an immediate success, contributing to a new appreciation of Goldoni then developing.
Not surprisingly, given Strehler's international formation and interests, il Piccolo Teatro di Milano has sought to bring its productions to the widest international audiences possible, and it has brought its Arlecchino to Paris numerous times since then.
However, this time il Piccolo is returning with something different.
Strehler first mounted a production of another of Goldoni's works, Trilogia della Villeggiatura in 1954, and it is this piece that is coming in January.
The original trilogy consisted of three plays, the first one focusing on the preparations for a trip to the seaside by the pretentious city folk, the second about their misadventures there, and the third on the impact that their travels have on their lives afterwards.
Strehler created a condensed version which put all three plays together in one tour de force.
Toni Servillo, who has long experience in theater with Teatri Uniti Napoli, has taken the Strehler version and reworked it in his own way, reintroducing certain scenes and cutting others to showcase Goldoni's work in a fresh way.
This new production has had a sold-out run in Milan and in 20 other Italian cities, and is presently touring Berlin, Bucharest, Moscow and St.
It is presumable that Goldoni would entirely approve of this fresh approach to his work.
After all, Goldoni's importance in theater was as a modernizer; he wanted to modernize the Commedia dell'Arte tradition of comedic improvisation.
He wanted his players to lose the masks and the cliché routines and speak naturally, even as they presented the carefully crafted lines that Goldoni had written for them.
He strove for a more "noble" comedy that would touch people with immediacy and speak with sincerity, but at the same time entertain them immensely.
In his plays there is a mix of mask and plain face that reflects the web of entanglement between the marvelous artifice of theater and the realities of life.
Goldoni plays with this mixture to create scenes where ordinary people confront and subvert the masked absurdities and predictable melodramas of the ridiculously extraordinary.
The multi-layered richness of his social commentary has allowed him to reappear with regularity on the theatrical playbill for more than 200 years, in spite of the faithless vagaries of taste.
La Trilogia della Villeggiatura will be presented at La MC93 Bobigny, from 14-18 January, 2009.
It is directed by Toni Servillo, and will be performed in Italian supertitled in French, by the repertory company of Il Piccolo Teatro di Milano.

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