Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Il Museo kicks off Italian Heritage Month with Romeo e Giuletta, June 3 and 4

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Experience Shakespeare’s beloved play in Italian


Romeo and Giulietta at Il Museo, Italian Cultural Centre

Romeo and Giulietta plays at Il Museo, Italian Cultural Centre, June 3 and 4

June is Italian Heritage month and Il Cento has a full month of scheduled events in honour of the Italian contribution to the cultural life of Vancouver. These events include wine tastings, jazz and opera concerts, soccer with the Whitecaps, Il Mercato (the Italian market), and Italian movies in the park.

One new addition to this annual event is a bilingual production of Romeo e Giulietta produced and performed by the Cultural Centre’s new theatre group the Il Centro Players.

The artistic director in charge of production is Nicole Riglietti. Riglietti comes to Il Centro with extensive experience in theatre, film and television. While she plays the title role of Giulietta in this performance, her artistic goals have always been in the area of theatre production. in future theatrical performances, she aims to devote herself entirely to directing.

Riglietti, who herself is of Italian heritage, believed that any theatre organization associated with Il Centro should produce a bilingual (Italian and English) productions. She felt that it was fitting for the very romantic and well-known Romeo e Giulietta by Shakespeare to be their first production since it has always been one of her favourite plays from childhood. It is also Shakespeare’s most famous Italian play and most Vancouver audiences are already familiar with the story.

During a recent trip to Italy Riglietti discovered an excellent Italian translation of this play, and this confirmed her decision to make this production a bilingual one.

In addition, after immersing herself in the Italian text, she found that the Italian dialogue could be seamlessly introduced into the staging without losing context and continuity in the plot. There is nothing that will be lost in translation for audiences when half the play is spoken in Italian.

The bilingualism of the text works well and is culturally significant on many levels. First, Romeo e Giulietta is Shakespeare’s best-known Italian play. There are 13 plays that Shakespeare located in Italy. In fact, scholars have argued that Shakespeare himself had an in-depth knowledge of Italian history and culture. So many social and historical realities found within his Italian plays are entirely accurate. Therefore, it has been argued that Shakespeare must have had a first-hand knowledge of Italian historical events and geography.

The most significant of Shakespeare’s insights found in Romeo e Giulietta is the role of Friar Lawrence as peacekeeper between the warring families. In Renaissance Italy monks in the Franciscan Order tried desperately to maintain the peace in the politically fractured city states of Northern Italy. As well, the original story of Romeo e Giulietta was written in Italian in 1531 by the Venetian author Luigi Da Porto. Shakespeare must have had a familiarity with Da Porto’s work.

The other decision to make the production bilingual resides in the nature of the play’s cast. Everyone who contributes to the Il Centro players has an immigrant background. Many troupe members, like Nicole herself, are second- and third-generation Italian Canadians, in other words the children and grandchildren of Italian immigrants. Each one of them grew up speaking Italian or a dialect of it in their homes.

For these young people Italian is often spoken interchangeably with English in their daily lives. Therefore, a bilingual theatre matches the cultural reality of the actors participating in it and the larger community it serves.

As Nicole Riglietti describes it, “being Italian-Canadian means to be both Italian and Canadian.”

It is our hope in future productions to continue to acknowledge this cultural duality. Shakespeare’s Romeo e Giulietta, is the perfect introduction to this concept, while it might be an English play fundamentally, it still represents a deep, rich and longstanding Italian tradition.

This perfectly represents the cultural life at Il Centro, all of us live in contemporary Vancouver, but within each one of us there resides a significant Italian historic tradition informing and shaping our cultural expression.

See Romeo e Giulietta at Il Centro June 3 and 4, 2016, at 7 pm.

Copyright (c) 2016 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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