Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Dante Alighieri, attrib. Giotto
Image:  Wikimedia Commons

Dante Alighieri, in a cold Cardiff lecture hall, caused me much misery and not a few nightmares almost half a century ago. However, his poetry came alive for me the first time I visited Florence and its beauty amazes me all over again when I hear the verses recited by the great Roberto Benigni.

Benigni's ambitious Tutto Dante project, in which the actor-director explains and then recites selected canti from Dante's masterpiece, began in Greece in 2006. The project was then taken to Florence. Since then, the one-man shows have toured Italy, completed an international tour and returned to Florence in 2012, when more canti from the Inferno were added to the repertoire.

Rai 2 is currently showing the recorded 2012 shows and in this house Wednesday night has become "Dante night". Not everyone in Italy appreciates the shows, though, and one of the criticisms has been that what works in the magnificent setting of the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence does not work on the small screen.  Another criticism is that the programmes are too long and in addition there is controversy over Benigni's reported fee. A package comprising the Tutto Dante 2012 shows and a programme about the Italian Constitution which Benigni presented in December is rumoured to have cost over 6 million euros, including production costs. Audience share for Tutto Dante is down and it has been suggested that Rai is about to pull the programme from its prime-time slot.

Can you put a price on culture and, if so, can it be justified in a time of recession?  Well, let us imagine, for a moment, a world without culture, in which the lines of Dante, through a genius like Benigni, do not come to us down the ages; in which such lines do not uplift someone, somewhere, or cause  listeners to turn again to their copy of the Divina Commedia and find comfort in the revelation that human passion and suffering are universal and that Dante, as Benigni reminds us, is sympathetic to these emotions. When I hear Dante recited like this, I know what my answer would be. Please bring us the Vita Nuova next, Roberto!


Jenny Woolf said...

I agree entirely Pat. Placing importance on culture is one mark of a civilised society. I am sorry that you are having a difficult time and hope that things sort themselves out soon.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, Jenny. I appreciate your kind thoughts.


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