Friday, June 3, 2011

Giornale Pugliese IV: L'importanza di chiamarsi Ernesto

Watercolor by Hallie Cohen

The Theatro Comunale Piccinni, an imposing pink structure on the Victor Emmanuelle II, Bari’s main drag, is now staging L’importanza di chiamarsi Ernesto. It’s nice to know that Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, which recently starred Brian Bedford in a revival at New York’s Roundabout Theatre, is being produced in this Adriatic City. But it’s been decades since a great Italian classic like Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author appeared on the Great White Way. Cultural appetite is hard to fathom. For instance, there are constant surprises in the world of Internet fashion, where the greatest common denominator of taste often runs in contradistinction to what E.M. Forster called “the aristocracy of the sensitive.” Posters of Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean, which opened to record breaking box-office sales in both Europe and the United States, are already beginning to peel off Bari’s walls. Yet the lady concierge at Bari’s Hotel Palace, whose marquee is shaded by gentle palms, interjects the word “onomatopoeia” into a conversion with a guest and goes on to talk about Hemingway and Italo Svevo, a writer whose works are enjoyed by a mere sliver of Italians and Americans alike. Everyone talks about social networks like Twitter and Facebook, but the notion of a shared sensibility derived from reading great literature creates a certain magic for the wanderer. Just when life seems most chaotic and lacking in the profound connections that can link individuals, an association about a writer or a book brings two people together in a strange city. “Only connect” is something else that Forster wrote.

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