Roberto Bernini reciting Dante in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence Italy!
(Is doesn’t get any better!)
It just doesn’t! Roberto Bernini winner of the Oscar for Life is Beautiful an inspiring film about a father and son taken into a Concentration Camp during World War II performed the seasoned work of Dante Algihieri, 12th century poet and author of The Divine Comedy in Santa Croce. While the auspicious statue of the author stared down upon him the crowd fell silent except for an occasional burst of laughter as Bernini once again brought to life the great Poet’s words written in Vulgar Florentine a dialect still readily understood and yes even used to some degree here in the city.
Over 60 thousand people flooded into Santa Croce’s Piazza to experience this rare treat and Bernini never let then down. A physically demanding performance for anyone who has ever braved the spotlight. Night after night with sparse breaks in between the scheduled performances, Bernini tirelessly recited, mostly from memory the entire Comedia without pause. His energy was phenomenal. In a press conference I attended at the end of the marathon Bernini playfully joked about the mistakes he had made, but his artistic use of humour and side jokes kept the entire experience moving and fluid.
This highly emotional journey takes you into the depths of Inferno, the mountains of Purgatory and into the heights of Paradise. Considered by William Anderson in his novel The Face of Glory a model for Europe creating a language that was capable of expressing emotions and thoughts necessary for completing civilization. Through his use of dialogue and monologues he influenced nearly every aspect of literature and drama since his day. He synthesizes not only Latin Poets but also the science and learning of Islam which expanded the boundaries of intellect beyond the confines of the Catholic world. He deified the sacred feminine energy in Beatrice and gave strength to the idea that the love between a man and a woman was a valid way to God. The expansive latitude of this work cleared a fertile field for the birth of the Renaissance.
So I found it fascinating that this wonderful personality of our times, Roberto Bernini would emerge to reawaken these powerful thoughts and emotions at this time. Could any other actor alive today step up and not only honour the greatness of Dante’s words but possibly add to it? Who else would have the background and the gumption?
After each canto had finished the lights dimmed and Santa Croce was illuminated by a violet hue. A spot light fell on the formidable statue of Dante almost as if challenging the worth of the mere mortal who once again awakened the world to his message. It was as if the great master himself was saying, “Who dares to utter my words?” Bernini’s small figure quiets and out of a depth in his soul comes a powerful yet hushed voice. There was a deeply spiritual essence in the air when Bernini recited the final monologue, then he asked for a moment of silence to be with God. I am sure that Dante, or at least his bones which are interred in Santa Croce’s church would not have turned over. In fact, it may have been my imagination but it seemed as if I detected a very slight smile on the face of the granite statue hovering over Bernini as he finished his monumental task.
By Elizabeth Monroy: