Neapolitan author Giovan Battista Basile ( 1600). which is the first written version of Cinderella. In his collection of fables 1,0 Canto deli Cami Basile tells ofa girl rather less sweet. gentle and submissive then the Cinderella ofCharles Perrault and Walt Disney with whom we are familiar.
The 17th century Neapolitan version portrays an aggressive Cinderella who rebels against her maltreatment and disposes of her stepmother by slamming down the lid ofa trunk on her head.
But why a cat Cinderella? ‘Because traditionally Cinderella‘s place is next to the fire. like a cat. In any case. the cat figure goes back to an old myth about a cat which turns into a woman." De Simone explains. He refers to one of Aesop‘s Fables in which a cat who has fallen in love with a handsome man is turned into a beautiful girl by the goddess Aphrodite.
De Simone enriches Basile‘s story
wrth elements peculiar to
Neapolitan popular culture and adds
other variations on the same
fable. which are still present in the
oral tradition of Naples and its
surrounding region. The story of
I Cinderella is particularly rooted in
popular beliefs to the point that it is associated with the cult of the Madonna (10 Piadigrona. According
to an old tradition still alive among the fishermen of Mergellina (a ’ district of Naples) and told in the
third act of De Simone‘s (iaaa ('enerenmla. the Madonna loses her shoe on the beach. It is found by a
fisherman and this leads to the
discovery ofthe Virgin‘s statue in a
grotto; thus arises the local cult of
the Madonna. De Simone refers to a popular oral
version of the fable in the second act : when he represents the royal palace
as a Neapolitan baroque church. According to this version. (‘indcrella goes to church on three consecutive
Eunan and illlt‘mls l 1on Mass. For
each visit she wears a different sumptuous costume. and so is unrecognised by her stepmother and her six stepsisters. who have forbidden her to leave the hearth. De Simone produces a humorous and ironic effect by having the roles of the stepmother and the six stepsisters played by men dressed as women.
La (Jana (‘enerentola is permeated with the myths. beliefs. and customs ofthe Neapolitan world: the game of Tombola with which the performance starts and ends: The Lotto. a game ofchancc; the Tarana'smo. a dance believed to cure the hysterical convulsions caused by tarantula bites; the San Giovanni dance. an erotic mime; the Monaciello a benign spirit. There are plentiful Neapolitan quarrels and inventive insults (by no means rare in Naples today) which reach a crescendo with the skirmish between the stepmother and a washerwoman in the third act.
The acting. the gestures. the splendid period costumes. the music and songs all contribute to a marvellous production which contains elements both of humour and ofdespair and suffering characteristic of modern Neapolitan reality. After all ‘theatre is always of the time in which it lives.’ De Simone writes. A particularly dramatic moment is the scene when the
jemnzinel/a (effeminate man) is carried away in a frenetic dance with the washerwomen. and taunted by them. throws himselfdown a well.
La (iatta (fenerentola was performed for the first time in 1976 at the Spoleto Festival. where it was received enthusiastically. It has toured successfully in Zurich. Frankfurt. Buenos Aires and New York. Twelve years later in February 1988. for the 250th anniversary ofthe San (‘arlo Theatre. De Simone has presented a new version at the Mercadante Theatre in Naples. The second version. which will be presented to the Edinburgh audience. varies little from the first except for the second act which is now entirely sung. whereas before it was mainly recited. The other main difference is that the orchestra has now forty instruments rather than the twelve of the original version. The actors. except a few. are the same as in 1976.
‘Authors do a second. and why not. a third and fourth version. I simply did not have a chance to go back to it before.‘ says De Simone. But what makes I.a (iaIIa ( 'enert'nIo/a understandable to an international audience despite the fact that its language is archaic Neapolitan'.’ De Simone replies: ‘First ofall it is a musical work. it is melodrama. And secondly it is built on fantasy. which is a universal language.’
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