Scandalous mercy: Caravaggio debuts. Interview wit...

Scandalous mercy: Caravaggio debuts. Interview with the playwright Francesco Niccolini and the interpreter Luigi D’Elia

Caravaggio. Di chiaro e di oscuro will be presented as a national premiere on Thursday 26 October 2023 in Santarcangelo di Romagna (RN) and as a national premiere on Sunday 29 October in Bari. Then on tour throughout Italy.

Niccolini, how does the text of the show convey in language the mix of the lowest and the sublime that Caravaggio embodied?
Absolute realism in painting Milan, the plague, Rome, Malta, Naples and every place crossed and badly experienced by Michelangelo, and on the other hand a poetic and enamored language for every painting, every description, every act of love and – unlike what we think normally – in Caravaggio’s life there were many, especially towards the three prostitutes he had as models and lovers until his escape from Rome: Fillide, Annina and above all his beloved Lena.

Luigi D’Elia, Caravaggio. Di chiaro e di oscuro, ph Michela Cerini, courtesy Teatro Cristallo

Compared to previous creations with directors Enzo Vetrano and Stefano Randisi and with the interpreter Luigi D’Elia, can you name a specific attention that writing this show required??
I have worked many times on the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, they are my favorite writing fields: I have done I don’t know how many shows, a novel and various essays. With this work, for the first time in my life, I tried to paint life, and the pain of living, by describing paintings, I entered into the paintings, some I described in meticulous detail, with the concern of not being pedantic or didactic but – I dare I – almost erotic: this is one of the most erotic shows of my life. And now, every time I see Luigi in the show, I am the first to be surprised to find those carnal details on stage: it is an immense satisfaction to hear spectators tell me that they feel like they are inside the paintings. It is precisely one of the objectives we set ourselves.

Which surprise this Caravaggio brought in your long and protean authorial journey?
The first surprise is a historical one: we usually remember the painter’s homosexual loves, in particular Cecco, his model and traveling companion for years. In reality, his love and sex stories with the three prostitutes I mentioned earlier were no less important. I personally am in love with his bond with Lena, until the last second before fleeing Rome after the murder of Ranuccio Tomassoni, and which leads him to paint an incredible portrait of her from memory as Maddalena in ecstasy, the night before departure. The other surprise is theatrical: how the talent, sensitivity and intelligence of Enzo Vetrano and Stefano Randisi were able to move Luigi from “telling” Caravaggio to “being” Caravaggio. Nonetheless, I was surprised by how Luigi managed to reach excellent interpretative heights. But the word “surprised” seems to imply that I didn’t expect all this: instead it is the reason why I tried to create this unprecedented scenic union between three artists who for me are also great friends but who never worked together (Enzo and Stefano on the one hand, Luigi on the other). The result is surprising because it is very high.

Luigi D’Elia, Caravaggio. Di chiaro e di oscuro, ph Michela Cerini, courtesy Teatro Cristallo

Luigi D’Elia, can you name three things you learned working with two masters like Enzo Vetrano and Stefano Randisi, who were also involved in directing a monologue for the first time?
Truth. I thought I was already there, but maybe it was just empathy for what I was telling. They stimulated me with sweetness and determination together with feeling and being in the “sense” of every word spoken, every gesture, every look. I leave exhausted as I have been all my life at the end of the show. Silence. I know it and inhabit it a lot in my narratives, but with them it has taken on a different life. It has matured, at least I believe, from a “technical pause” to a space for the creation, maturation and growth of an image, an emotion, an intention or just a space of total freedom to let the audience create on their own. Internally. And without me. Emotion. It was a reversal from my way of telling stories. I was used to looking for emotion along the way, depending on what I encountered along the way at each repeat. Clearly it could change any time. They invited me to enter the scene immediately with an emotion. And then to leave it, change it and savor new ones from word to word. As if I invited the emotion to take place “in front” of me.

Talking about Caravaggio, you talked about Mercy. Why?
Partly I know and partly I don’t. It is a mysterious word that fascinates and attracts me. In our reductionist Catholic school education they certainly did not reveal its breadth to us. Yet if you ask it to someone I believe that few can really say what it is. Caravaggio’s canvases bring it back to me. There is a passage in the show where I explain, perhaps from Caravaggio, why I still chose Lena, a prostitute, as the model for Madonna di Loreto. At the end of the explanation of my motivations I say: she is a Madonna. Here you are. There, that point, for me is “mercy”. It’s a subjective thing, I know, but as I always say, the skin I bring on stage is mine. I quote the passage: “Lena has two children: a daughter who was taken away from her because she was the result of incest of which she was the victim. A violence that she suffered. She can’t see her anymore. The second, a male, lives with her: she is a single mother, bent by life, beautiful, sensual: a Madonna!”. I believe that Francesco wrote a great text.

Luigi D’Elia, Caravaggio. Di chiaro e di oscuro, ph Michela Cerini, courtesy Teatro Cristallo

You have a consolidated repertoire of stories that you have successfully presented throughout Italy for years. What constraints help keep a show alive and kicking night after night, in your experience?
They are part of me, it’s in my skin there. Each day of the show is different depending on the story I will tell in the evening. They are the stories that present themselves from the morning. A company that lasts all day begins. And they change with me, thanking God, along with the things in my life. I couldn’t stay in a world of still stories. Then an hour before the show I turn everything off, close my eyes and there’s just me and the story there. We find ourselves intimately. We tell each other things that only we know. And then we go on stage.

Michele Pascarella


Tournée: Caravaggio. Di chiaro e di oscuro will then be on stage in Busseto (PR) on 19 January, in Mori (TN) on 25 January, in Vezzano (TN) on 26 January, in Novoli (LE) on 16 and 17 February, in Molfetta (BA) on 18 February , in Modigliana (FC) on 24 February, in Bomporto (MO) on 9 March and in Milan from 4 to 7 April. Other dates are being defined throughout Italy.

Caravaggio. Di chiaro e di oscuro, by Francesco Niccolini, feat Luigi D’Elia, directed by Enzo Vetrano and Stefano Randisi, lighting design by Francesco Dignitoso. A Mesagne Capitale Cultura di Puglia 2023 production – Umana Meraviglia, Compagnia INTI di Luigi D’Elia, Le Tre Corde – Compagnia Vetrano/Randisi, Teatri di Bari. With the support of Teatro Cristallo and PASSO NORD regional center for artistic mountain residences in Trentino- Alto Adige/Südtirol supported by MIC – General Directorate of Entertainment, Autonomous Province of Trento and Autonomous Province of Bolzano.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.