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Publié par Jean-Guy Lecat

Transformation of the Teatro Argentina in Rome for "The Tragedy of Carmen" directed by Peter Brook :

  • La tragédie de Carmen in Rome : The Teatro Argentina has long been one of the most important venues in Rome. Designed in 1730 by G. Teodoli, it was the direct descendant of Palladio, Theatro Olimpico and the theatre at Sabbioneta, designed by V. Scamozzi, Palladio’s assistant. Its auditorium is not much larger than that of the Bouffes du Nord, though turned through ninety degrees. One of the determining factors of this transformation was the need to do it rapidly: only five days were allocated for the installation of the new structure, the scenic elements, the lighting and the rehearsals. Furthermore, the existing stalls seating could not be removed for what was such a short run: the new stage had to be carefully positioned on supports placed between the rows, and had to correspond to the level of the seats below. This last problem was overcome by making the new rake of benches integral to the playing surface, rising up just before it would touch the seats. The new seating was formed by thirty centimetre steps with a ten centimetre-thick cushion placed all the way along the rim. The slope was contrived to arrive at the level of the first balcony, the heads of the spectators in these seats forming a continuous line with those on the new benches. This final level actually corresponded to that of the foyer, giving the audience who walked onto the sand in order to reach their seats the strong sensation that it was in unbroken continuity with the “real” world of the street. The idea of performing in this space resulted from two factors. On one hand, the space had a very strong presence and the stage/space relation was horrible, while on the other hand the configuration of the space would allow us to put Carmen in the centre of the room as if she was a prisoner of the local society and of a man’s world. The success of the transformation depended on its simplicity and its validation of the existing space: there was a chill from the theatre, as it was being experienced in an entirely new way, but it was the anchoring of this thrill to the demands of the drama and to the integrity of the space which gave it its real force. Some reviewers noted this. Paolo Cervone wrote that, “In this parterre des rois, with so many illustrious names crammed practically on top of each other as in an orgy, happy to perch on a bench with makeshift cushions, one feels the almost religious sensation of attending not a mere performance, but an unrepeatable event.”   
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