The Animated Canvases of Caravaggio on Stage

On the 7th of March, the Embassy of Italy to Georgia presented the performance Chiaroscuro (meaning light and shadow) by the famous theatrical troupe of Naples, Teatri 35, which revived the 18 most famous canvases of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. This was an unprecedented show for Georgia: a tasteful mixture of three realms of art: theater, fine art and music. The latter, represented by absolutely indelible baroque music masterpieces, was performed by the members of Georgian Sinfonietta (Tbilisi State Chamber Orchestra).

This extraordinary project under the motto “Sound moves action, action produces image, image embodies music,” was a sell-out and many were left standing in the packed hall. The program was as rich as the Baroque epoch itself: Bach, Handel, Albinoni, Monteverdi and Merula as a background to the famous Caravaggio canvases created by the actors live: Canister of Fruits, San Mateo and Angel, Resurrection of Lazzaro, Pitter’s Negation and many others. The orchestras played in the background of the stage, whilst the actors from the Italian troupe Teatri 35 worked wordlessly, trained to remain as still as possible in order to represent the characters from Caravaggio’s works. Their efforts were really worthy of note and the costumes flamboyant, sophisticated and impressive.

The project was named for the creative work of the titanic painter and light and shadow held decisive roles. The performance was a result of 10 years’ work and artistic research of the Italian theatrical company members. Reportedly, the leading part here belongs to the actor’s body. The final target is not the construction of painting, but the study into the way of performing where the body is a mere instrument, just like fabric or a basket. Each gesture depends on a train of gears and belongs to a sequence of absolutely necessary movements.

Those who were lucky enough to attend this rare spectacle became witnesses of a new perception of art in general, space and fine art in particular via the merging of music, gestures and imagination. The paintings of Caravaggio were created before the very eyes of the audience, who became involved in a mystic and sensorial experience. One could feel, taste, touch, breathe and see Caravaggio.

Ambassador of Italy to Georgia, his Excellency Mr. Antonio Enrico Bartoli spoke exclusively to GEORGIA TODAY. “Caravaggio is a giant of universal art, a great Italian painter who belongs to all humanity. We thought that the theater was the most effective way to highlight the extraordinary talents of Caravaggio. His art is inherently theatrical because there is light and there is physicality. Light can come from somewhere in the world, as much as from somewhere on stage. The physicality intended as the body and object is as important in the theater, too. We planned an emotional representation of Caravaggio’s art with music and acting, because the movement is also rhythm, and we chose Baroque music as a background.”

Giorgi Kerelashvili, artistic director of the Georgian Sinfonietta told us: “We have performed several times, as we have a Baroque music festival, too. This project was very interesting and original in concept, as well as in the form of realization, as the actors were playing the roles mutely. We played on Baroque music instruments which made it different from other performances. The mixing of three realms of art: music, fine art and theatre, was something really new for us.”

Sopo Tortladze from Tumanishvili Theater of Film Actors, host of the event, commented exclusively for GEORGIA TODAY: “The Embassy of Italy to Georgia chose our theater for cooperation because we are the organizers of the International Theater Festival Gift. The embassy considered our long experience of receiving foreign troupes. We are very happy that the theatre became the host of such an interesting artistic import beyond Gift. This is a very precious day not only because it has shown a visual miracle but it has also presented to the audience the victory of the Georgian musicians. That is why it will hopefully last for a long time in the memory of the audience.”

Gia Bughadze, painter, noted: “I’m overwhelmed. The mere fact that we talk about Caravaggio near his birthday is already a great thing. He suffered a lot. These tragic lines were shown very well in these live imitations. I’m very satisfied with the hard work that the actors have put in, in terms of variations, entourage, garments, etc. I’m proud and delighted with the performance of the Georgian Sinfonietta and, particularly, our perfect countertenor Mikheil Abramishvili.”

Maka Lomadze

10 March 2016 19:16