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Daniele Finzi Pasca: Chekhov Would Have Liked My Show
 Aug 2, 2010

This summer the Italian director, clown, acrobat and scene designer Daniele Finzi Pasca is traveling between St. Petersburg, Moscow, Lugano and Montreal. St. Petersburg is the first stop on the European tour of Cirque du Soleil’s show Corteo, the second show of the group to come to Russia. Last autumn the troupe brought Varekai to Moscow.

Daniele Finzi Pasca came up with the idea for Corteo five years ago. It has already toured to wide acclaim in North American and Japan, and is scheduled to make runs in the Russian cities St. Petersburg, Kazan and Moscow before heading to other European cities.  

In Moscow, Daniele Finzi Pasca presented his show Donka this summer as a part of the Chekhov Theatrical Festival. It is showing in St. Petersburg, Lipetsk, Ryazan, Voronezh, Yekaterinburg, Samara and Tambov.

“I decided to discover Chekov, looking for particulars and details, both in his life and in the pages of his writings, and not only that,” Pasca says, explaining the origins of Donka. “I thought of giving shape to the silences contained in the notes of his diaries and of creating images from his annotations. I come from a theater deeply impregnated with the language of clowns, of jugglers, from the magical world of acrobats. That is how I will recall Chekhov…”

We spoke with Daniele Finzi Pasca about his works and life.

– What in your view is unique about Corteo?

– When we began to work on Corteo, I decided that we must completely overwhelm the audience. That is why the stage is situation in the middle of the chapiteau, like a podium. Our aim is to place the audience in some sort of recollection of a past in which it really has never been – in a pleasant dreamlike state. I want the viewer to go on a journey, a journey to some place unknown but at the same time comfortable and familiar, as if going to grandmother’s house. But this is a slow departure, out of the ordinary and accompanied by horns and drums. This isn’t a parade but rather something similar to an Italian restaurant with exquisite cuisine but at the same the tastes of childhood, as if it were your grandmother cooking.

– Do you love your audience?

– It is hard to say love when 2 million people have already seen Corteo. Love is like butter – you can’t eat too much. When I tell a story, I above all else tell it the circle of my closest and dearest, and with love. It’s as if I prepared a meal for my loved ones and the smell of this food also reaches the noses of the audiences.

– Who is included in this circle?

– My family, brothers, wife and five-seven friends. I always think of my grandmother when I work on my creations. And I continue my latent dispute with my father. I can quite accurately imagine where my father will smile and what will agitate him. And I have noted that audiences react in a similar manner.

– Do you think that our dialog with loved ones continues after their death?

– Last year I was working in London on the opera L'Amour de Loin (Love from Afar) by Kaija Saariaho in which there are two key players: the troubadour and Clemence. This love story begins from afar, and then troubadour dies, and love shifts from a horizontal connection to a vertical connection, and also from afar. It seems to me that our loved ones exist in three forms: physical reality, their image in our memory (which becomes intertwined with our own imagination), and then finally that someone above with whom we communication when we pray, meditate or practice shamanism.

– What is it like to stage a show that must be understood by people of very different cultures from across the world?

– When I worked on the opening ceremony for the Turin Winter Olympic Games, I came up against this problem: how to do something so that it would be understood by all. At the same time I wanted to do something totally new – tell my own story. But then I understood that not everything depends on the audience. If you want to make something for your friends, you make what know and love, regardless of their nationality or how many there are.

– Can you draw comparisons between your work on Donka and on Corteo.

– My meeting with Guy Laliberté (the founder, owner and creator of all Cirque du Soliel shows) was a challenge. Guy was constantly provoking me to do something completely new. On the one hand, Guy provided an entirely new vision of what the circus is. On the other hand, I remained true to myself and became completely immersed in the creation of a new show – Corteo.

Valery Shadrin, the general director of the Chekhov Festival, commissioned a show from me in honor of the anniversary of Chekhov’s birthday in a very unusually manner. He simply announced it at a press conference, which was a complete surprise to me. And this was also a challenge: to stage Chekhov not for an Italian audience but for Russians. But both of these offers led to the creation of interesting shows. And both of them, Guy Laliberté and Valery Shadrin, who are very different, knew that I would be well suited when they invited me.

– Do you think that Chekhov would approve of your work?

– I hadn’t given that any thought. I simply wanted to create a present for Russian audiences. I am not a specialist on Chekhov, but he has had an impact on me. When reading Suvorin’s writings on his travels with Chekhov, I paid a great deal of attention to the details in his notes: Chekhov liked to wander around old cemeteries and watch street performances. And it was on the basis of these details that I created my own image.

– Could you say “How dull it is to live on this planet…”? [from Chekhov’s play Three Sisters]

– In theater we perform what we see. And the story of Chekhov’s trip to Sakhalin speaks to the fact that it was important for him to see this with his own eyes and experience it himself. Chekhov, as a doctor, speaks about what he knows. And I like that in Chekhov you don’t see his own opinion: he sees and reports facts. And in this I think I share something in common with the writer. After returning from Sakhalin he wrote a smart, detached book. One without ideas. He simply wrote about what he had observed. And I am a clown that doesn’t have his own opinions. I represent what I see from my childlike viewpoint. So in this regard I suppose in my shows there could appear a character who says: “How dull it is to live on this planet.” I think that Chekhov would have liked Donka. He would have been pleasantly surprised.

Following the first performances of the show we were accused of blasphemy and sacrilege, but some people thanked us. When we put on the performance, at one moment I lost my courage: “What are we doing?! Momma mia!” And a lot of stones were thrown in our direction. But now the show is touring various Russian cities and it turns out that it is quite viable. It was done with love. But not everyone likes this love.

– Who were your favorite clowns in childhood?

– Pulcinella. The clown is always a philosopher. In each act he asks: “Why?” He is such a sophist. Always juggling ideas. This tradition is preserved by Benini, Dario Fo, Fellini… That is why Pulcinella is in first place with his “Why?”

– When you were a child did you have the urge to run away with the circus?

– In Switzerland there is the Conelli circus – a traveling chapiteau. For me the circus is about odor and disappearance. You come on the morning after – the circus is gone and the only thing that remains is sawdust and the odor of animals. The circus has traveled on and will return in a year. I never really wanted to run away with the circus, but it turns out that I have always been run off somewhere my entire life. As an Italian, nostalgia has always been keenly felt. When we gaze at the sunset, go to weddings or funerals, we always have this feeling. I am always running off to some place and also always trying to return somewhere.

Anna Morozova

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"And we will preserve you, Russian speech,
The great Russian word.
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And pass you on to our grandchildren,
Free from bondage forever!" Anna Akhmatova "Valor"

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