Euripides' Electra
Translated into Italian by Umberto Albini and Vico Faggi
Directed by Massimo Castri

December 9, 1993-January 30, 1994
Produced at the Teatro Caio Melisso
Spoleto, Italy
by the Teatro Stabile dell'Umbria

Reviewed by Caterina Barone,
Dipartimento di Scienze dell'Antichita,
Universita di Padova, Padova, Italy
Fax: 049/8284713

The Electra of Euripides is the latest, most appreciable effort of Massimo Castri, a director often occupied with non-traditional readings of classical theater.

The set constitutes an element of strong visual impact: an expanse of earth and stones, divided by the regular furrows of a plow, invades the orchestra of the nineteenth-century Caio Massimo to brush against the audience. It is the dry soil of the Greek countryside, animated by a single olive tree which stands out against the background of a clear sky which changes its brightness and intensity in conjunction with the passage of dramatic time. All the elements of rural daily life are present: the plow, the amphora for water, the tools of farming. In the distance are the voices of the countryside: the barking of dogs, the song of a cat, the chirping of cicadas.

The first to appear is Electra, dressed with rustic poverty, bent under the weight of a basket on her back. The eruption which emerges from her lips, a mixture of prayer and complaint proportionate to her terrible suffering, is monotonous, without dramatic force, alien to all pathos. Electra attends, methodical and indefatigable, to her thankless task: she collects stones from among the furrows of farmland and casts them into her basket, which she empties at the edge of the field from time to time.

In Massimo Castri's dramaturgical adaptation, the arrival of Orestes, in the petit-bourgeois dress of the beginning of the century, with two cumbersome sacks in his hands, comes late and deprived of the comforting presence of Pylades: a slenderizing of the text, which also sees the elimination of the character of the farmer, Electra's chaste husband, and of almost the entirety of the chorus' role. There are considerable cuts in the text (destined to arouse perplexity in many philologists), dictated by the obstinate quest for that exact naturalism which characterizes the great part of the direction and which finds a valid support in the spare, incisive prose translation of Umberto Albini and Vico Faggi.

In order not to make this thinning out a prejudicial factor, one must recognize that the text in its essence is not embarrassed by it. The figure of Electra, even more isolated, emerges with all her tragic force. The excellent interpretation of Galatea Ranzi presents us with a realistic, psychologically based character, but dry, free from melodramatic attitudes. It is an interpretive style which reaches its sober, almost frozen, culmination in the recognition scene and in the monologue over the body of Aegisthus, when the explosion of long repressed passion will take the form of a mad dance, hesitant, streaked with hysteria, on the brink of violent explosion yet nevertheless without that screeching emphasis which is too often joined to Greek tragedy.

Of high quality also is the interpretation of Annamaria Guarnier, a Clytemnestra covered with lace, with a flowered hat, a parasol, and a train. She is chasing a dream of motherhood destroyed first through the cruel determination of her husband, who immolated Iphigeneia, then through that of her cowardly lover, who has alienated her from her children. The only time she seems cognizant of Electra's miserable condition and seeks to establish a long- overdue dialogue with her is through physical contact, arranging her tangled hair.

Orestes, the instrument the revenge according to the plan developed by his sister, is hesitant, Electra's puppet, which she dominates and commands. The young man prepares to complete the crime with great reluctance and in the final act, the matricide, cannot bear up emotionally.

What little remains of the chorus' part is entrusted to two twin sisters, playful, ironic, in a stylized dialectic contrasting with the precise realism of the main characters. The two girls also undertake the part of the messenger, played with vivacity and articulated as a kind of dialogue in two voices, that of Orestes and that of Aegisthus. They also play the deus ex machina, represented in the form of two angels, falsely and pompously solemn, indifferent to the fates of men.

Electra: Galatea Ranzi
Orestes: Fabrizio Gifuni
Clytemnestra: Annamaria Guarnieri
Old Man: Antonio Pierfederici
Chorus, Dioscuri: Marisa and Paola Della Pasqua Set Design:
Maurizio Balo
Costumes: Claudia Calvaresi

For further information contact:

Dott. Lorenzi,
Teatro Stabile dell'Umbria, Via del Verzaro 20, 06123 Perugia, Italy
Tel. 075/5730105
Fax 075/5729039

Caterina Barone
Padova, Italy

Caterina Barone teaches Classics at the University of Padova.