Romeo Castellucci is one of Europe’s best-known directors, a firebrand known for productions that are as thought-provoking as they are visually stunning. He returns to Peak Performances with the American premiere of “Democracy in America,” freely inspired by the work of Alexis de Tocqueville. Castellucci conjures majorettes who stir the crowd’s enthusiasm for democracy in America, colonial settlers who confound the native Americans, and a puritan couple who struggle to farm a barren land. He asks us to consider the empty promises of a political system steeped in Biblical egalitarianism rather than the concept of tragedy so essential to ancient Greek democracy, the dangers of majority rule, and the inherent violence that springs from religious puritanism and territorial conquests. His challenging, soul-stirring brand of theatrical magic transposes these painful, profound ideas into an enticing, vibrant, celebratory work of art.
Director and stage, lighting and costume designer Romeo Castellucci (Cesena, Italy, 1960) is known throughout the world for creating a theatre founded on the totality of the arts and aimed at an integral perception. He has also written various theoretical essays on directing. His theatre engages in a type of dramaturgy that overturns the primacy of literature, thus becoming a complex and supple form of art, a theatre made of extraordinarily rich images expressed in a language as comprehensible as music, sculpture, painting or architecture. The Societas Raffaello Sanzio, the theatre company he created in 1981, is internationally recognised as one of today’s most important for its radical aesthetic stance and the profoundly human nature of its creations. Since 2006, after the eleven performances of the cycle Tragedia Endogonidia, a monumental recapitulation of tragedy in contemporary Europe, Romeo Castellucci has also worked on individual projects.His stagings are regularly invited to and produced by the most prestigious international theatres, opera houses and festivals, in over fifty countries covering all the continents.Among his most recent creations: Sul concetto di volto nel figlio di Dio(2011), Parsifal by Richard Wagner (2011), The Four Seasons Restaurant(2012), Hyperion based on Friedrich Hölderlin (2013), Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph W. Gluck (2014), Neither by Morton Feldman (2014), Go Down, Moses (2014), Le Sacre du Printemps by Igor Stravinsky (2014), Ödipus der Tyrann (2015), Moses und Aronby Arnold Schönberg (2015), The Minister’s Black Veil inspired by Hawthorne’s parable (2016), Jeanne au bûcher by Arthur Honegger(2017), Democracy in America freely inspired by Alexis de Tocqueville(2017), Tannhäuser by Richard Wagner (2017) and at the Dutch National Opera of Amsterdam Dar Floss der Medusaby Hans Werner Henze (2018). He has received numerous awards and distinctions. In 1996, he was given the Europa Prize Nuove realtà teatrali, and in 2002 was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of the French Republic. In 2005, he was appointed director of the theatre section of the Venice Biennale. In 2008, he was named “associated artist” by the artistic committee of the Festival d’Avignon for its 62nd edition. In 2010, Le Monde chose his Trilogy ‘Divina Commedia’ as best performance, and the only theatrical work included among the most significant cultural events of the decade 2000-2010. In 2013 the Venice Biennale awarded him its prestigious Prize Golden Lion for his career in theatre. In 2014, he received a degree honoris causa from the University of Bologna Alma Mater Studiorum in the disciplines of Music and Theatre. Opernwelt, the leading German periodical in the field of opera, also awarded him its prize for Best Director 2014. The 2014 and 2015 seasons of the Festival d’Automne in Paris, each presenting three of his works as part of the Portrait Biennale, definitively established him as one of the major artists of our time. In 2015 he received the UBU Prize for the best set-design for the production Go Down, Moses.
In The News
ELISABETH VINCENTELLI, THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Romeo Castellucci, the Provocative Italian Stage Director”
New Yorkers get to see a lot of Shakespeare, but it’s usually not as out there as “Julius Caesar. Spared Parts.” Directed by Romeo Castellucci, this 45-minute performance boils down the play to three main scenes, and even they are almost unrecognizable. Mark Antony’s funeral speech, for instance, is delivered in a barely decipherable rasp by an actor, Dalmazio Masini, who has had a tracheotomy.
LAURA COLLINS-HUGHES, THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Review: ‘Go Down, Moses,’ Romeo Castellucci’s Mostly Wordless Story of Abandonment”
If theater to you is sustenance, if you are the sort of person who savors the daring and the visionary, then head to New Jersey… The production, “Go down, Moses,” part of the invaluable Peak Performances series at the Alexander Kasser Theater, is intended as a contemporary transfiguration of the Moses story, but don’t expect an updated version of Exodus. Mr. Castellucci, whose work has often been seen in Montclair but, mystifyingly, is never seen in New York City, is engaging with Moses mostly on an abstract level.
Photos: GUIDO MENCARI
Programs in Peak Performances’ 2018-19 season are made possible in part by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.