- Filippo Crivelli: born Milan, 27 March 1928 – died Milan, 6 February 2022
He worked in opera and ballet and directed concerts and plays.
He is well-known for recreating the long-forgotten ‘gran ballo’ Ballo Excelsior in 1974 which has been revived many times since. Achille Manzotti’s ballet extravaganza with music by Romualdo Marenco, was created for La Scala in 1881 but long forgotten. Crivelli first approached the work in 1967 in Florence, together with the choreographer Ugo dell’Ara and the set designer Giulio Coltellacci, and with Carla Fracci as the protagonist. Its success was repeated at La Scala, where it was revived in 1975, 1978, 2000 (with Fracci, Massimo Murru and José Manuel Carreno), 2002 (with Roberto Bolle as the slave) and in 2015. Ballo Excelsior became a symbolic production for the Ballet of La Scala, which it toured not only to Turin and Genova, but also to Paris and Moscow.
La Scala has left the following comment:
The management, artists and workers of La Scala are mourning the death of Filippo Crivelli. Pippo, as we all called him, embodied with intelligence, irony, tenderness and perfidy the thousand faces of Milanese theatre in the second half of the 20th century, exploring worlds and interweaving languages, from opera to ballet, song and prose on the stages of theatres both large and small, and also on television and radio. With him, Milan and all Italian theatre has lost a central character and a witness of inexhaustible curiosity and melancholic joy.
At La Scala, as assistant to Tatiana Pavlova and Franco Zeffirelli, he worked with artists such as Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, and he directed two operas: Verdi’s Luisa Miller in 1976 with Caballé, Pavarotti and Cappuccilli conducted by Gavazzeni and in 1995 an enchanting production of La fille du régiment inspired by images d’Épinal with Mariella Devia conducted by Donato Renzetti.
At La Scala’s chamber theatre, the Piccola Scala, he directed eighteenth-century operas, avant-garde works, and song recitals: Mozart’s La finta giardiniera conducted by Peter Maag in 1970 was followed by Sciarrino’s Amore e Psiche and Gluck’s Le cinesi in 1973 with Giampiero Taverna, Casella’s La favola di Orfeo and Savinio’s Orfeo Vedovo in 1974 with Ettore Gracis. In 1975 he created La notte diffonde gl’incanti, an evening dedicated to the scapigliatura movement in Lombardy with Renzo Palmer and Rosalina Neri. In 1977 he brought Britten’s The Beggar’s Opera to the Piccola, while in 1978 he combined Gino Negri’s Diario dell’assassinata with Milva with Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire with Catherine Gayer. In 1989, in a transfer to the Teatro di Porta Romana, Crivelli also staged Henze’s Pollicino.
The Voices of Milan: Laura Betti, Milly, Milva, Ornella Vanoni
From the 1960s onwards, Crivelli was one of the protagonists of a fundamental process of valorisation of the heritage of popular song, including that of the Milanese tradition, with songs of the working-class and partisan struggle. At the Teatro Gerolamo (maybe Italy’s smallest traditional theatre, situated near Milan’s Duomo) he created recitals by Maria Monti (1958), Laura Betti (from 1960), Milly (from 1963), Ornella Vanoni (1968), Rosalina Neri (1975) and at the Piccolo he wrote L’arca di Noè with Sergio Endrigo (1970) and 4 marzo 1943 with Lucio Dalla. In the early 1980s he staged Milva’s shows with Astor Piazzolla, from the Teatro Lirico in Milan to the Bouffes du Nord in Paris.
His name, however, is linked above all with Milanin Milanon (Teatro Gerolamo, 1962), and Ritratto di una città with Milly, Tino Carraro, Anna Nogara, Sandra Mantovani and Enzo Jannacci.
Filippo Crivelli and RAI TV
Crivelli’s collaboration with RAI television took the form of a series of radio programmes dedicated to Milanese song (with the voices of Valentina Fortunato and Sergio Fantoni), portraits of La Scala divas (Katia Ricciarelli), and – starting with Spettacolo a Milano in 1963 with Strehler, Gaber, Carraro, Valentina Cortese, Tino Scotti and Fiorenzo Carpi – in a copious list of television programmes with theatre, song and dance in which the names of Paola Borboni, Milly, Franca Valeri and Luciana Savignano stand out. He had a particularly close relationship with Carla Fracci, with whom he made the programme C’era una volta uno Schiaccianoci in 1967 and to whom he dedicated Scarpette rosa with Walter Chiari, Lina Volonghi, Franca Valeri, Renato Rascel and Mina.
Among Crivelli’s many productions, which also includes many operettas, there is the Orestea di Gibellina by Emilio Isgrò based on Aeschylus produced by the Teatro Massimo of Palermo between 1983 and 1985 with sculpture Arnaldo Pomodoro’s creations for the stage, and the 12 Cenerentole in cerca d’autore created with Rita Cirio and Emanuele Luzzati for the Teatro della Tosse in Genoa in 1987. As a young assistant to Luchino Visconti and Michelangelo Antonioni, Crivelli worked with Dario Fo and Franca Rame and directed, among others, Anna Proclemer and Giorgio Albertazzi, Arnoldo Foà, Umberto Orsini, Gianrico Tedeschi, Lina Sastri and Elena Ghiaurov.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.