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Feb 032013
 

Q&A

Beppe Menegatti Barack Obama 375x500 Beppe Menegatti answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Directors’ Edition

When did you first go to the theatre?
To see Rigo­letto at the Teatro Comun­ale in Florence on 10 Octo­ber 1939 for my tenth birth­day, with Gino Bechi, Fer­ruc­cio Tagliavini, Lina Aimaro and the young Giuli­etta Simi­onato as Madelena.

Why did you want to work in the theatre?
In Florence we give out presents for the Epi­phany. When I was six there was a won­der­ful gift for my brother, a model theatre, but I though “This is mine!” It was large, more than a metre wide with 32 dif­fer­ent sets. We had to use it for fire­wood dur­ing the war.

Which per­formers do you remem­ber most from your child­hood?
Charlie Chap­lin, Eduardo De Fil­ippo, Tit­ina De Fil­ippo, and Jean-Louis Barrault.

Which per­form­ance do you remem­ber most from your child­hood?
Puss in Boots at Florence’s Teatro della Per­gola, in which the 10-year-old Franco Zef­firelli played the Mar­quis of Carabas.

Which dir­ector do you most admire?
Peter Brook.

What the­at­rical piece that you dir­ec­ted are you most proud of?
The Italian première of Samuel Beckett’s Play (“Com­media”) in 1964, and the first sta­ging of Isac Babel’s Maria; also a pro­duc­tion of The Tem­pest at the Forte di Belvedere in Florence.

What theatre piece would you have liked to dir­ect?
An unreal­ised dream was to cre­ate a bal­let based on André Gide’s sub­lime book La sym­phonie pas­tor­ale with Carla Fracci and Erik Bruhn using, obvi­ously, the music of Beethoven’s sym­phony, together with Lizst piano transcriptions.

What’s your favour­ite bal­let?
Giselle.

What’s your favour­ite opera?
That’s impossible, but La Son­nam­bulaL’Elisir d’Amore, Un Ballo in Maschera and Le Nozze di Figaro are at the top of the list: per­fect lib­ret­tos by mag­ni­fi­cent dramatists.

Who is your favour­ite cho­reo­grapher?
Bal­anchine… and… and… and…

Who is your favour­ite writer?
Shakespeare… and… and… and…

Who is your favour­ite con­ductor?
Ant­o­nio Pap­pano now; Leonard Bern­stein then.

Who is your favour­ite actor?
The actor who plays Hamlet.

Who is your favour­ite singer?
Jessye Nor­man when she sings Gustav Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesel­len (‘Songs of a Wayfarer’).

What is your favour­ite book?
I’ve learnt that my favour­ite book is the one that I’m read­ing, so at this time it is David Grossman’s latest book Fall­ing Out of Time‏.

What is your favour­ite film?
At this moment it’s Chaplin’s The Great Dic­tator because I’m work­ing on a pro­ject based on the friend­ship between ath­letes Jesse Owens and Luz Long dur­ing the 1936 Olympics in Ber­lin, and the char­ac­ter in the play who is the deus ex mach­ina is “l’esprit” of Charlie Chap­lin.

Which is your favour­ite city?
Florence.

What do you like most about your­self?
The abil­ity to tell untruths that seem the truth.

What do you dis­like about your­self?
Badly say­ing the truth mak­ing it sound like a lie.

What was your proudest moment?
When my young­est grand­son, Ariel, first said “Buon­an­otte Non­nino” (Good­night Grandpa).

When and where were you hap­pi­est?
In New York when I met all the fol­low­ing people at the same time: Erik Bruhn, Kath­er­ine Dun­ham, Ant­ony Tudor, Mar­got Fon­teyn, Ten­nessee Wil­li­ams, Alex­an­dra Danilova, George Bal­anchine, Tana­quil LeClercq and Jerome Robbins.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
The theatre and all the crafts you find in the theatre.

What is your greatest fear?
Not to be aware when I’m dying.

If you could change one thing about your­self, what would it be?
To tell less lies and more truths.

What do you con­sider your greatest achieve­ment?
The esteem of people who know me, and the esteem of friends which can trans­form into pas­sion which for me is to reach ecstasy.

Marie Taglioni La Gitana 500x419 Beppe Menegatti answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Directors’ Edition

Menegatti’s paint­ing of Marie Tagli­oni in La Gitana which hangs in his Mil­anese home.

What is your most treas­ured pos­ses­sion?
A paint­ing of Marie Tagli­oni in La Gitana, which all the bal­let experts think doesn’t exist, but it does. And my grand­chil­dren shall have it!

What is your greatest extra­vag­ance?
Always wear­ing a t-shirt with an image of Barack Obama under my shirt.

What do you con­sider the most over­rated vir­tue?
To tol­er­ate the defects of oth­ers, and oneself.

On what occa­sion do you lie?
When oth­ers say insup­port­able truths.

If you hadn’t been a dir­ector what would you have liked to be?
I would have liked to cre­ate and sell pottery.

What is your most marked char­ac­ter­istic?
To use the same shoes for almost 70 years. My nick­name was “yellow-shoes”.

What qual­ity do you most value in a friend?
To tol­er­ate all of me, even my lies.

What qual­ity do you most value in a col­league?
The will­ing­ness to accom­pany me dur­ing long din­ners over which we can talk about per­sonal prob­lems, and con­fide in each other.

Which his­tor­ical fig­ure do you most admire?
Ghandi.

Which liv­ing per­son do you most admire?
Obama.

What do you most dis­like?
Arrog­ant liars.

What gift would you most like to have?
To be a writer.

What’s your idea of per­fect hap­pi­ness?
To be able to embrace every­one, good and bad.

How would you like to die?
With my eyes and ears open, know­ing exactly that moment when life no longer exists. I firmly believe only in life.

What is your motto?
“Vita, vita, vita, vita!” (Life, life, life, life)… and as the Eng­lish used to shout out to their queen: “Vivat! Vivat Regina!” And there are many, many, many queens…

Beppe Menegatti — a biography

Beppe Menegatti is an Italian theatre dir­ector, born in Florence in 1929. He won a schol­ar­ship to the National Academy Silvio D’Amico in Rome, and soon after in the mid-1950s he becaome Luchino Visconti’s assist­ant and later col­lab­or­ated with Vit­torio De Sica and Eduardo De Fil­ippo. He dir­ec­ted first per­form­ances by authors such as Samuel Beck­ett and Isaac Babel, and many opera pro­duc­tions in the import­ant opera houses.

Menegatti is widely known for cre­at­ing ori­ginal works which com­bine bal­let, prose and music which have largely fea­tured his wife, baller­ina Carla Fracci, who he mar­ried in 1964. He has been respons­ible for recre­at­ing, along­side vari­ous cho­reo­graph­ers, many bal­lets whose ori­ginal cho­reo­graphy has been lost. Recently at the Rome Opera Bal­let he has presen­ted vari­ous rar­it­ies of the Bal­lets Russes rep­er­toire, and recon­struc­ted the bal­let The Red Poppy.

Photo: Beppe Menegatti reveals his Barack Obama t-shirt.

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