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ALBERTO SAVINIO and THE TEATRO METAFISICO Mel Gordon More than twenty-five years after his death in 1952, Alberto Savinio has suddenly reappeared throughout Italy as a national symbol of twentiethcentury modernist culture. Just as Surrealism, Expressionism, and Futurism became successive collective terms in the post-war years to describe a wide variety of conflicting European art movements and literary trends, now Savinio's "Metafisica" is the latest aesthetic rubric for Italy's between-the-wars avant-garde. Long overshadowed by his brother Giorgio de Chirico, Savinio has finally come into his own as an innovative artist, writer, composer, dramatist, and director. In fact, the most unusual aspect of Savinio's rediscovery are the ubiquitous three-to-seven page chronological listings of his career and works that fill every biography, catalogue, and article. It is as if the contemporary reader must be constantly reassured of Savinio's actual existence and range of activity. Christened Andrea de Chirico, Savinio was born in 1891 into a middleclass Italian family residing in Athens. Like those of his older brother, Savinio's artistic iconography and themes were fueled by a magical and delimited childhood vocabulary of abandonment, the pre-dawn determination to escape, flight, confused and futile wanderings, the late afternoon realization of love's finiteness, and finally, a late and guilt-mired return. While both brothers showed early promise in graphic arts, and later in writing, Savinio's first love was music. At fifteen, after the family moved to Munich, Savinio had already completed a Wagner-inspired opera, Camerla, that Pietro Mascagni, the composer of Cavalleria rusticana, found highly praiseworthy. 83 In 1910 Savinio moved to Paris, where he continued to compose dramatic ballet pieces and strange operatic fragments. Joined by de Chirico the following year, the brothers made substantial progress, forming lasting contacts with Apollonaire and his followers at the prestigious journal, Les Soirees de Paris. More than any other time, 1914 became a hallmark year for Savinio and his artistic reputation. It began with his formal name change: Andrea de Chirico was now signing his music "Alberto Savinio, artisan dionysiaque." In the April issue of Les Soirees de Paris, Savinlo's first theoretical statement appeared. Entitled "Drama and Music," he began to articulate a new idea in music, "Sincerisme"-a disharmonious system without any polytonality that would serve the theatre while remaining independent of the actions and emotions of the plays. Savinio attacked both the disciples of the banal music dramatique and the "pure music" school of the Viennese Arnold Schoenberg. On May 24th, 1914 Savinio gave the first public recital of Sincerisme. It consisted of the following: 1] Dances from The Treasure of Rampsenit ACT I (Opera-Bouffe by M.M.D. Calvocoressi) The Sleep of the Negro 2] Two Loves in the Night TABLEAU 2 (Ballet in 1 Act by Calvocoressi & Old Man Who Cries Savinio) TABLEAU 3 The Cracked Violin 3] The Persian ACT 2, TABLEAU 1 (Ballet in 1 Act by Mikhail Fokine) Cortege The Dragon ACT 3 Cortege Dance of Archers Dance of Andromede The Petrification 4] Niobe (Dramatic ballet by Calvbcoressi) According to the Parisian critics, Savinio's evening was a complete success . (In the Paris-Journal, Apollonaire hailed Savinio as the closest thing to a Tuscan Renaissance genius; one or two others found Savinio something of a musical dilettante.) Most impressive, however, was Savinio's own piano playing: by the end of the performance his piano was "smashed" and Savinio's fingers were quite bloody. Several theatrical projects between Savinio and Apollonaire were quickly planned-one ot be designed by de Chirico, another by Francis Picabia-but none was realized in those "dog days" of 1914. In the July-August 1914 issue of Les Soirees de Paris, the final number, Savinio published his first "metaphysical" drama, Songs of the Half-Dead. 84 SELF-PORTRAIT SELF-PORTRAIT (1936) Like Wassily Kandinsky's Yellow Sound, written five years earlier, Songs of the Half-Dead mixed Symbolist and proto-Expressionist settings and character types. Filled with disturbing and violent actions, Songs of the Half-Dead later caused Antonin Artaud to include Savinlo in his gallery of Theatre of Cruelty playwrights with Seneca, Shakespeare, Webster, and Strindberg. The description...


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