It is the sixth play by Carlo Goldeni (1707-1793) directed by Vassilis Papavasileiou in his long career in the theater as a director and actor. Faithful to the “comedy movement”, to this often misunderstood genre that delights the human heart, he presents on the Central Stage of the National Theater a delightful show, free from space and time conventions – one of those that you unreservedly recommend to your friends.
Written in Venice in 1757, Carlo Goldoni’s five-act comedy “The Impresario of Smyrna” is a satirical look at the opera market in Italy at the time. Seven theaters operated in cosmopolitan Venice, with theaters established as early as the middle of the 17th century. rules and hierarchy. A numerous world of artists (composers, writers, lyric singers, musicians and actors), theater people and impresarios, of different origins, made a living from the production of performances.
Goldeny knew inside and out the colorful, polyphonic, noisy, competitive and vain world of show-biz of his time. He had suffered from the pressure of profiteering impresarios and theater owners, as well as the vanity of the stars of the day, who fought tooth and nail for the leading position in troupes – even when they were past their age and the roles required younger performers.
The Goldoni intrigue
Ingenious, like all great comic writers, Goldoni resorts to the following intrigue in order to be able to show palpably, with a sharp critical spirit, the extent of the distortions of the theatrical market: he introduces a person who is completely foreign to the artistic world, an ignorant and unsuspecting Turk merchant.
Ali was persuaded to present an opera in Smyrna, without knowing either the genre or the conditions of its production. Astute with impresario ambitions (in V. Papavassiliou’s performance they are delightfully played by Spyros Bibilas and the always lightly accurate Alexandros Mylonas) they market to him some of the available, desperately bereaved, artists who circulate in the city-where-you-are-whatever -statements.
Vassilis Papavasiliou focuses on the inability to communicate between European and Eastern/Muslim worldview and culture. The idea is clear, we are already experiencing its tragic consequences, there is a clash of civilizations. However, because the world of comedy is peaceful, in Goldenoni’s work the rupture is limited to a gentle “sikhtir”: the Turk (excellently played by Themis Panou), with all the authenticity of his ignorance of the lyrical theater and the morals of artists and intermediaries, and his inability to understand a model of life so foreign to his own, he simply gives them up and departs for his homeland.
Three sopranos, from Florence, Venice and Bologna, claim the role of prima donna – at least one (played by Daphne Lambrogianni, at a noticeably slower tempo than the rest of the actors) without even the rudimentary talent. But she is “willing and helpful” to her patrons – Goldoni’s vitriolic reminder of the freewheeling, self-serving morals of the theatergoers of his time. Agoritsa Oikonomou and Ioanna Mavrea are excellent in the roles of the other two sopranos, wonderfully distinct types – the first hysterical, the second a haughty poor diva (you can’t help but laugh at Themis Panou’s Ali when, flirtatiously, he calls her “my toulombaki”) . In the framework defined by the play itself, of the tender look at the light and long-suffering world of the people of the show, the “intra-theatre” reminders are welcome: here too, the popular acting style, linked to Lena Kitsopoulou’s performances, which has been developed by I. Mavrea.
The comedy swirl of the play is based on the competition between the three female singers, which was so beautifully brought out by the directing intellect of Vassilis Papavasileiou, vibrant with youth. Theatrically and stage-wise, the interventions of the innocent but incredibly self-confident castrato (Taxisarchis Hanos is excellent, although the role requires an actor with other vocal characteristics) and the tenor lover of one of the three prima donnas (Laertis Malkotsis is perfect – embroidery the duo with A .Economou). Panagiotis Panagopoulos once again stands out in the role of hotelier.
The “ethnography” of the Theater is beyond historicity, specific place and time, an element that offers unlimited freedom to the director and is duly exploited by V. Papavasileiou. In collaboration with Angelos Mentis on the scenery and costumes, he sets up his show on the Central Stage of the National Theater around a multi-layered, colorful construction reminiscent of De Chirico, Mondrian and pop art, even Haiti. A significant sculpture, adapted to the construction, the “begging hand”.
The different levels and the lighting (designed by Lefteris Pavlopoulos) shape many individual stage locations, a feast for the imagination. The “clash” of cultures is staged through George Doussos’ excellent soundtrack and lighting design – blue for Venice, warm oranges and reds, and “oriental” music, for the Turk’s accommodation.
I exaggerate in positive aggressive determinations but everything is thought out in its detail in this show. The introductory scene is a lesson to aspiring directors about the holistic collaboration that stagecraft needs. The mechanisms of the stage, the actors and mute faces, their voices and movement, the wonderful soprano Vasia Zacharopoulou who leads the audience into the super-historical, imaginary world of the opera’s underbelly, all contribute to the perfection of the conception and execution.
Vassilis Papavasileiou is a modern classic, allow me the paradoxical phrase. He follows the same direction that the bold, innovative Goldenoni took two centuries back, to render/adapt the treasure of tradition to his time. He takes an old work, respectfully and knowingly makes the necessary adjustments (textually too) and delivers it, fresh and appealing, to today’s audience. Celebrating and honoring in its own way the eternal youth of the art of representation, imagination and illusion, freedom, denunciation, understanding and forgiveness: the Art of Theatre.