Viviani and the others: Scarpetta, Pirandello, and Eduardo and Peppino De Filippo.
This article reconstructs Raffaele Viviani's ties with some of the greatest representatives of 19th and 20th century Italian theater, dwelling in particular on his relationships with Scarpetta, Pirandello, and Eduardo and Peppino De Filippo. The tools for such an investigation are letters and theatrical reviews. In order to highlight Viviani's relationship with the theatrical scene of his time and with the preceding dramaturgical tradition, the article illustrates Viviani's close relationship with Luigi Pirandello. In the space of a 20-year period, Viviani performed and transposed into the Neapolitan dialect three of Pirandello's plays: La patente (1924), Pensad, Giacomino! (1933), and Bellavita (1943). The analysis of this relationship dwells not only on the novel and effective linguistic operation carried out by Viviani compared with the original texts (in the case of transpositions/rewritings), but also draws attention to the system of characters in Viviani's theater that have a Pirandellian origin, such as Don Mario Augurio (from the play by the same name) and Giovanni Scardino (Fuori l'autore). Moreover, the article examines Viviani's interest in Eduardo Scarpetta; in 1940, Viviani staged Scarpetta's indisputable masterpiece, Miseria e nobilta. Finally, the article considers Viviani's relationship with Eduardo and Peppino De Filippo. The unusual relationship Viviani had with Eduardo De Filippo, a kind of 'relationship/non-relationship' that had its basis in the different poetic choices of the two men, is analysed.
letters, rewriting, theatrical reviews
It is well known that Raffaele Viviani began his acting career at a very early age, becoming an author only later on in life. (1) At the age of four and a half, he made his debut in Naples as a marionette in the puppet theater at Porta San Gennaro, filling in for the tenor Gennaro Trengi and achieving great personal success. On that occasion, he wore the costume of a 'puppet,' the tailcoat having been adapted to his size by his mother. The following year, at the Teatro Masaniello, a theater near the port run by his father, Viviani performed his own 'numbers,' singing alone or in a duet with his sister Luisella.
At the age of 12, after his father's death, Viviani and his family were forced to live a life of hardship. At age 14, he was hired by a circus, the Circo Scritto, to play the part of Don Nicola in the famous 18th century 'contrasto' of the Zeza. After his experience at the Circo Scritto, Viviani began working in several circus companies and small provincial theaters. In 1903, together with his sister Luisella, he was hired as a variety show artist by the Compagnia Bova e Camerlengo for a tour in northern and central Italy; this is where he first came into contact with actors and producers of variety theater. In Civitavecchia, he was hired by the concerto Eden to fill in for Ettore Petrolini and here he made his debut as a comical actor. Subsequently, Viviani would form a bond with Petrolini that would grow ever stronger over the years.2
On his return to Naples in 1904, Viviani played for the first time the role of the 'scugnizzo,' a character part written by Giovanni Capurro and set to music by Francesco Buongiovanni, which he had seen performed by Peppino Villani. After Scugnizzo, Viviani began to write his first character parts which he performed with great success: Il trovatore, O mariunciello, Malavita, Il mendicante, O tranviere, O scupatore, O cucchiere, Il professore, O suonatore 'e pianino. Thus began his career as an author and playwright.
In 1906, he performed one of his own character parts, Fifi Rino, at the Arena Olimpia: this character is the 'anti-scugnizzo,' the aristocratic dandy without scruples. In the September of the same year, Viviani signed his first contract to perform in Milan and soon thereafter he was being hired by the most important cafe-chantants in northern Italy. Thus, he began to forge a series of close relationships with the exponents of the contemporary theatrical scene, and not only on a national level; in fact, in February 1911 he signed a contract to perform at the Fovarosi Orfeum (Metropolitan Orpheum) in Budapest, with the commitment to perform his original character parts for a month. On his return from Budapest, he was hired by the Teatro Sala Umberto in Rome.
Viviani's original artistic expression made a deep impression on Felix Mayol, the Parisian diseur who had come to Italy to briefly tour the most important variety theaters. Through his mediation, in 1917 Viviani performed at the Olympia in Paris, but unexpectedly had very little success.
In 1917, after the closure of the variety theaters, Viviani began to write not only variety numbers and poems but also plays (e.g. Il Vicolo). He chose the one-act play as a new theatrical genre that would safeguard--and this is the great novelty of his writing--his previous repertoire of verse, prose, and music.
His new dimension as an author, in addition to that of being a well-known actor, inevitably put him into contact with contemporary intellectuals, playwrights, and writers.
First, he approached the futurists, Marinetti and Cangiullo in particular. Cangiullo was one of the most original exponents of the futurist movement in Naples; his language, similar to that of Petrolini and Viviani, denoted a particular interest for the cafe-chantant, that world to which Viviani was so attracted, where we find the ungainly chanteuse, the interfering mother, and the pathetic cocotte. Cangiullo narrated the futurist performances in Naples and described that potent and vivacious atmosphere in which the public was the true protagonist of the performance (Cangiullo, 1938), like the one that took place in the confrontation Cangiullo and Viviani organized at the Galleria Futurista in Via dei Mille (Scarfoglio, 1914). At the inaugural evening, Luciano Folgore made a speech during the course of which the disturbances by the audience and the reactions of the futurist poets were plentiful. On 9 June 1914, Folgore, Cangiullo, and Sprovieri improvised a grand futurist declamation during the course of which texts by Marinetti, Buzzi, Cangiullo, Folgore, Soffici, and Cavacchioli were read out. And yet, in spite of the fact that Viviani had previously been very well known, neither his poems were read out nor his variety numbers were performed. 3 In the group of those sympathetic to the futurist movement we must include Vincenzo Gemito, very close to Viviani, and also Umberto Onorato, the author of many caricatures of Viviani and of the Neapolitan 'serata patriottica' in which Pulcinella appears on a swing playing a guitar (Onorato, 1930).
Among the futurists, Viviani had a very close relationship with the poet Paolo Buzzi; they forged an intense and lasting friendship, further demonstrated on the occasion of the playwright's death. Viviani was also a friend of Dario Niccodemi, Marco Praga, and also Maksim Gor'kij whose close ties to Italian culture are evident through his many visits to various places in northern and southern Italy, and by his connections with the personalities of that time (Viviani, 1992).
Moreover, Viviani had a long and profound friendship with the artist Paolo Ricci who designed many sets for his plays and who edited, together with Vasco Pratolini, his book of poems, Poesie. (4) He also had long-lasting ties with Vincenzo Gemito, Roberto Braceo, and Matilde Serao.
Matilde Serao, in particular, had always appreciated Viviani's art, as testified by a series of letters and archive documents; for example, the journalist wrote to Viviani thanking him for participating in a Christmas matinee promoted by the periodical she edited, Il Giorno:
Naples, January 12, 1921 My dear Viviani, I hear that you have consented to participate in our 'matinee' performance on Monday, January seventeenth, at the Politeama theater: I want to thank you heartily, not only for myself, but for my listeners, who will be delighted. With heartfelt admiration, Matilde Serao Illustrious artist R. Viviani Umberto Theater City of Naples (5) (Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
Viviani also had a long-standing relationship with Roberto Braceo. They were connected by a sentiment of friendship and profound esteem, in spite of the fact that they had quite different temperaments. Two of Viviani's letters to Braceo, which attest--as Pasquale Iaccio notes--to the great admiration Viviani had for the elderly author, whom he addresses with a deferential tone, have been preserved in the Fondo Bracco-Della Valle. (6)
A letter from Braceo to Viviani can also be found in the Fondo Viviani (Sezione Lucchesi Palli) of the National Library in Naples. Braceo recommended a friend to Viviani and wrote:
Naples, 8 August, 1942 My dear Raffaele, please do me a favour. Read this one-act play: Chi delle due? And--if you really like it--stage it, with your own direction, with your own performance in it:--both of which are so extremely precious. The author of the little play is Mario Vani, a young playwright with a lot of talent, who has already become known through the Radio and whom I have great affection for. I have nothing more to add to these few words, simple and sincere. I embrace you, my illustrious Raffaele. Your Roberto Braceo (7) (Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
Viviani also had close relationships with actors and leaders of theater companies, such as Angelo Musco and Tatiana Pavlova, and with the actors in his own company: his sister Luisella, Gigi Pisano, Salvatore Costa, Tecla Scarano, Adolfo Narciso, and Ida Pretolani. In Viviani's case, similar to Scarpetta and the De Filippo family, we can make reference to a 'family of artists' (Viviani's father, his sister, his brother, his son Vittorio, and Ettore Novi), always operating in a climate of reciprocal collaboration until the crisis involving Luisella. In 1928, the talented actress, after her extraordinary performance in the title role of Assunta Spina by Di Giacomo, broke off with her brother's company and created a company of her own; this, however, was not as successful. Thus, she returned to her brother's company in 1931 and stayed until her retirement from the theater in 1934.
Among his ties with contemporary artists and playwrights, his relationship with Luigi Pirandello was very significant, though not well researched. (8)
This relationship has been generally overlooked by the contemporary critics who gave a certain relevance only to Viviani's staging of Pirandello's work, more for the aspects inherent to the staging itself than for the dramaturgical process. After Viviani's death, most critics ignored the importance of this process even more; however, Federico Fraseara gave ample emphasis to Viviani's rewriting of Pirandello (Pirandello napoletano), stating that:
Until now no one knew anything about this 'Pirandellian' Viviani and no one had written anything about this aspect. In fact there is no trace of it in the biographical and literary-essay books that Paolo Trevisani and Paolo Ricci wrote about him. Moreover Vittorio Viviani, in his Storia del teatro napoletano, speaks about the relations between De Filippo and Pirandello but makes no mention of the relation between his father and Pirandello. (Frascani, 1992) (Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
Frascani asked himself what the origin of such an omission might be, a mystery that risked never being solved; for this reason, the critic insisted on the value of this aspect, considering it to be precisely the kind of revelation that would undoubtedly augment the artistic prestige of the Neapolitan author.
Such an omission might be traced to Viviani's importance and fame above all as an actor: let us not forget that his plays would be published for the first time in 1957, after his death (Viviani, 1957). Only after this date does Viviani's role as an author begin to be recognized. It must be added that in the ILTE edition of 1957 there is no reference to Viviani's rewritings or to his friendship with Pirandello. We must also remember that Viviani was very involved in his work as an actor and as the leader of a theater company; as such, unlike De Filippo he made no effort to promote the knowledge of his poetic talent or of his dramaturgical art.
Moreover, it must be said that even when considering the complete edition of his theatrical works, I was unable to publish the 'Pirandellian' texts because the collection did not include adaptations, rewritings, or collaborations. (9) We must also not forget that the critics and 'Vivianists,' especially after the author's death in 1950, have given more emphasis to the aspects of Viviani's so-called originality, to his role as the poet of the suffering of the social outcast, to his ability to create a theater made of prose, verse, and music, rather than investigating the formative elements in the creation of his art, into his constant search for new forms and new languages.
Viviani, like so many of his contemporaries and certainly like Eduardo De Filippo, in his artistic career came face to face with the theater of Pirandello, rewriting it and becoming one of its most effective performers. Viviani abridged and staged three plays by the Sicilian playwright: La patente (1924), Pensad, Giacomino! (1933), and Bellavita (1943). (10) Even the three dates--1924, 1933, 1943--demonstrate a continuity in the relationship between the two playwrights which should not be underestimated, in the sense that his encounter with Pirandello is not accidental but can be defined as a genuine and important collaboration. This confirms the attention Viviani dedicated to Pirandello's dramaturgy and, above all, Viviani's interest in the model of the 'Pirandellian' character in the transition from the oneact play to the play in three acts, that is to say from the multiplicity of roles to the so-called 'principal character.' (11)
Plays such as Fuori l'autore (1926), Don Mario Augurio (1930), and L'imbroglione onesto (1933) belong to this dramaturgical typology.
The central theme in Don Mario Augurio is the 'evil eye,' which is also the central theme of the one-act play by Pirandello, La patente. Viviani recognized Pirandello's text as the source of his inspiration; in fact, in a letter addressed to his wife Maria (dated 21 February 1930), he wrote:
Tonight is the longed for debut of Don Mario Augurio ... I am however convinced that the play will have a grand artistic outcome, it's all very fancifully comical. No one else has ever written anything similar except for Pirandello ... (12) (Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
Mario Augurio, like the Pirandellian character Rosario Chiarchiaro, is known as the bearer of ill luck and for this reason he can no longer find work; he is a social outcast; he is a tragicomical character and whenever he encounters people they even make superstitious gestures to avert the ill luck he bears.
But beyond the affinity of a theme such as that of the 'evil eye,' in Viviani's theater there is a strong presence of anthropological and ritual elements that bring to mind aspects of Pirandello's dramaturgy. One example is represented by Sagra del Signore della Nave (1924) which, not by chance, has been compared to Viviani's Festa di Piedigrotta (1919) and Festa di Montevergine (1928); in these two plays, the unity of place 'compresses a multiplicity of independent and parallel actions and winds them into one single plot, one single drama' (Taviani, 1995: 117). Viviani portrayed the festivity with uncommon sensibility, richly adorning it with highly powerful anthropological, ritual, and ethno-musical elements, 'through a polyphonic symphony of sounds and songs which is unequalled in theatrical staging technique except perhaps by the Pirandellian Sagra del Signore della Nave' (Taviani, 1995: 117).
It is superfluous to reaffirm that Pirandello represented an indisputable model, above all in those years and especially for the Italian culture in southern Italy.
When considering a more strictly textual sphere, it must be said that Viviani as a 'translator' of Pirandello carried out two kinds of interventions: the translation-adaptation and the stage translation. In the case of La patente and of Pensad, Giacomino!, Viviani carried out a translation-adaptation; in fact, Viviani transposed the Pirandellian plays into the Neapolitan dialect, adapting the original text using significant interventions. Bellavita, on the other hand, is an example of stage translation, a literal transposition without important structural modifications.
In the translation into Neapolitan dialect, realized by Viviani in 1924 with the title 'A patente', we discover some interesting differences between the two plays. Even though the structure as a one-act play is unaltered, if we look at the characters in each play, it is clear that, in Viviani's version, all the characters keep the same names as in the Pirandellian text except for the protagonist, Rosario Chiarchiaro, who becomes Pasquale Schiattarella. Changing the name of the main character is surely due to Viviani's decision to anchor the character to the Neapolitan onomastic universe, though we cannot exclude the possibility of a symbolic motive, as suggested by Leonardo Sciascia; the last name Chiarchiaro is derived from the Sicilian hill by the same name, which is rocky and rich in ravines, in short a kind of'Dantean hell' in the local folklore (Sciascia, 1982: 29). The name chosen by Viviani, Schiattarella, also refers to death from an etymological point of view; in fact, Schiattarella probably derives from the word schiattamuorto, that is to say a gravedigger or undertaker, or otherwise from schiattare, meaning to croak or die. Consequently, in the Pirandellian play, as well as in Viviani's, the last name of the protagonist takes on a powerful connotation.
In the passage from the Pirandellian play to the version in Neapolitan dialect, Viviani often expanded some of the dialogue, to connect the text to the Neapolitan reality. For example, the following Pirandellian dialogue can be found at the beginning of the play:
D'ANDREA So, Marranea: go to the Baker's alley, right nearby; to Chiarchiaro's house. MARRANCA (Jumping back, making a gesture to ward off ill luck). For God's sake, don't say his name, your excellency! D'ANDREA (Highly irritated, pounding his fist on the desk). That's enough, for Heaven's sake! I forbid you to express your bestiality this way, in my presence, to the detriment of that poor fellow. And I don't want to have to say it ever again. MARRANCA Excuse me, your excellency. I said it for your benefit as well! D'ANDREA Ah, are you going to keep on with it? MARRANCA I won't say another word. What do you want me to do when I get to the house of ... of this ... of this gentleman? D'ANDREA You'll tell him that the investigating magistrate has to speak to him, and you'll show him in here to me immediately. MARRANCA Immediately, all right, your excellency. Do you have any other orders? D'ANDREA Nothing else. You can go. (Pirandello, 1986: 522)
This becomes more animated and direct in Viviani's text:
D'ANDREA Listen, Marranea: you have to do me a favour. Go over to the next alley, to Pasquale Schiattarella's house ... MARRANCA (Jumping back, making a gesture to ward off ill luck) For God's sake, guv'nor, don't say his name ... D'ANDREA (Highly irritated, pounding his fist on the desk) That's enough for heaven's sake. Marranea! I forbid you to be afraid and to express your bestiality in my presence, to the detriment of a miserable wretch! And I don't want to ever have to say this again! MARRANCA Sorry, guv'nor ... I said it for your benefit too! D'ANDREA Are you still going on about it? MARRANCA Not another word from me! (Pause) And what do I have to do when I get to the house of this Schia Schia ... Schiattarella? (And without being seen he makes the gesture to ward off ill luck) D'ANDREA You'll tell him that the investigating magistrate has to speak to him, and you'll show him in here to me immediately. MARRANCA All right, guv'nor. And no precautions? D'ANDREA What precautions? MARRANCA Some little amulet ... some lucky number ... a horseshoe ... D'ANDREA None of them ... MARRANCA (He goes away making the gesture to ward off ill luck) D'ANDREA What's that gesture? MARRANCA Ah, this? Just a feeble imitation! D'ANDREA Get going! (13)
In Viviani's translation, the speech and attitude of the usher Marranea, unlike those in the original text, emphasize more strongly his attitude, which indicates his level of superstition:
Pirandello Translation by Viviani MARRANCA: He wasn't at MARRANCA: Guv'nor, he home, your excellency. I wasn't at home, left a message with one of fortunately ... his daughters saying that, as soon as he arrives, they D'ANDREA: What do you should send him here. mean, fortunately? MARRANCA: No, I mean: fortunately his daughters were there. I told one of them that as soon as he arrives they should send him here. [...] (folio 4) D'ANDREA: Show him in. D'ANDREA: Show him in. MARRANCA: (Holding open MARRANCA: (He walks the door as much as he slowly, making gestures can in order to be at against ill luck in the some distance from it) direction of the door) Come in, come in ... D'ANDREA: Hurry up. come right in ... Marranea! MARRANCA: Right away! (And he runs out. Then, in the doorway:) Come in! Come in! Come right in! D'ANDREA: (He gets up and comes forward on the right to receive him) SCHIATTARELLA: (He comes in. Marranea escapes and goes out.)
In both versions, it is through the figure of Marranea that the cultural and ideological characterization of the investigating magistrate emerges, along with his attitude toward Marranea that is highly influenced by his judicial role; Marranea continues to make gestures against ill luck even at the mere mention of Chiarchiaro/Schiattarella's name, to the point that D'Andrea yells at him: 'I forbid you to express your bestiality this way, in my presence, to the detriment of that poor fellow.' (14)
In the Pirandellian dialogue, Marranca's submission to the magistrate's authority is expressed linguistically with his use of the polite form of the singular pronoun Lei (in English, however, this is not evident as both the polite and familiar forms are expressed with the pronoun you)', the plural pronoun 'voi,' with which the magistrate addresses Marranea, reaffirms the difference in social status between the two (once again this is not evident in English as the plural form of the noun is also 'you'). In Viviani's translation, both Marranea and the magistrate use the plural 'voi.' Even in the conversation between the magistrate and his colleagues we find a different linguistic treatment: in the Pirandellian text, D'Andrea addresses the three magistrates with the familiar singular pronoun 'tu;' in Viviani's text, D'Andrea uses the plural form 'voi' (all of these are translated as 'you' in English).
Even the analysis of the 'microsystem' of the polite forms of the pronouns is significant: in the version written in the Neapolitan dialect the reverential term vossignoria, used by Marranea and Rosinella when addressing the magistrate D'Andrea, disappears.
The semantic field of insanity, a word-theme that takes on a stratified significance in the Pirandellian vocabulary, is maintained in all its richness even in the translation into the Neapolitan dialect, where the word sometimes opens up into a vast range of circumstances. (15)
Moreover, Viviani's stage directions, both introductory as well as internal, are characterized by staging indications that are absent in the Pirandellian stage directions (On the left the actor; Who will be in the upstage corner; Going over to sit down on the chair on the right; He sits on the right; And he passes on the left). Such staging specifications contained in Viviani's translation are coherent with his dramaturgical choices. Viviani was an author who was very attentive to the text; he was also a strict leader of his theater company and a painstaking director; in his notes, he set down every single gesture of the actor. Such precision also emerged when performing the character suspected of bearing ill luck:
'A patente--the extremely well-known one-act play by Pirandello which is among the most well-crafted and significant works in the early style of the illustrious writer--contains dramatic elements of such a nature that the maturity of an actor can be superbly put to the test. But what matters most is that in 'A patente, and especially in the final scene of the play, no actor can derive his expressive efficaciousness except through that dramatic vigor which is most closely tied to his genuine instinct: and thus what other theatrical work could be more adapted than this one to an actor such as Viviani who appears immediately rich in all the qualities--at times prodigious--of the instinctive temperament? (Martini, 1924)
(Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
Professor Toti, one of Pirandello's most cynical and bizarre characters, undoubtedly found in Viviani an extraordinary performer. The first performance of Pensad, Giacumi! (Pensad, Giacomino!) took place on 31 January 1933 at the Teatro dei Fiorentini in Naples. Viviani requested Pirandello's consent for the translation of the play, as shown in an unpublished letter confirming his profound admiration for Pirandello:
House, January 15, 1933 XI Illustrious Exc. Luigi Pirandello Rome Your excellency, I would like to be able to translate into the Neapolitan dialect, and to perform for my gala evening at the Fiorentini theater. Pensad Giacomino! I feel that this magnificent play of yours is well-suited to my temperament and I would like, with this undertaking, to be able to confirm my affection for you. What do you say? I already had La patente in my repertoire, and with much success. I wait for a response from you regarding this so that I can get down to work. A devoted and deferential greeting Yours, Raffaele Viviani Naples, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 386 Telef. 2833716 (Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
The letter with which Pirandello communicated his consent for Viviani to proceed is dated 17 January 1933:
Dear Viviani, It is with much pleasure that I entrust to Your art Pensad, Giacomino!, certain that You will fully express the human truths of which the elderly Professor Toti, beloved among my characters, is the imperturbable champion. As far as regards the version in the Neapolitan dialect which You will have to make of this work, Your artist's conscience provides me with every sort of guarantee, and therefore I will certainly inform the Society of Authors regarding Your request, giving my approval. I thank you with all my heart for the proven affection that You nourish for me; You know that for my part I repay You with friendship and esteem. I wish you good work, and I salute Your cordially. Your Luigi Pirandello (Lezza and Scialo, 2000: 35) (Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
The critics thought that Viviani's staging of the text was excellent, as shown by the handwritten draft of a telegram from Viviani to Pirandello, enclosed in the typewritten script:
Yesterday Pensad, Giacomino! had a vigorous success--enthusiastic critics. I will send the newspapers. Much affection
(Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
In a review that appeared in Il Mattino newspaper of Naples, the critic refers to Viviani's extraordinary performance as Professor Toti:
Raffaele Viviani, with his actor's vivacity and force, has made it evident that Agostino Toti is neither stupid nor passive in his reserved and lucid T in the face of the 'we' of the crowd who ridicules him, insults him and, above all misunderstands him. Certainly the Neapolitan actor has not misunderstood him ... Raffaele Viviani, was a comical and somewhat caricatural Agostino Toti in the first act, caustic and restrained in the second, incisive and insistent in the third. Hearty applause and quite a lot of curtain calls after every act. (R.F., 1933)
In Viviani's translation into the Neapolitan dialect we find a few interesting differences between the two texts. Structurally the three acts are unchanged; Viviani's translation retained essentially unaltered the setting, the plot, the distribution of dialogue, and the group of characters. From a stylistic point of view, Viviani's translation is marked by an ironic comicality that becomes, at intervals, more cutting and explicit in comparison with the Pirandellian text. It is an irony that mainly characterizes Professor Toti's lines, as in the dialogue (not present in Pirandello's text) between Toti, Cinquemani, and the Director in the first act:
CINQUEMANI (Making his appearance, panting) Nowhere! Like the wind! Who knows where he disappe TOTI Did you take a good look up in the tree? CINQUEMANI So what do you think he is, a monkey? TOTI It certainly seems so. A real monkey made its way in here, it stayed a while in the DIRETTORE And, during its stay in the classroom, didn't you notice the beast? TOTI But if it was mixed together among the others ... how could I have noticed it? DIRETTORE Among the others? TOTI Among the students, Mister Director, ... It's a kind of animal camouflage.
Interesting differences can be found in the linguistic structure of Viviani's translation. Not all of the dialogue in the play is in the Neapolitan dialect: in fact, Cavalier Diana speaks in Italian and Professor Toti addresses him in the same language, out of respect and also because he is Cavalier Diana's inferior. Padre Landolina, Giacomino, and Rosaria Delisi also speak in Italian. Professor Toti passes from Italian into the Neapolitan dialect and vice versa. All the other characters (Mr and Mrs Cinquemani, Lillina, Rosa, and Filomena) speak in dialect. Viviani's decision to distinguish 'linguistically' one character from another enriches the dialogue with new vitality and effectiveness.
This dichotomy 'Italian language-Neapolitan dialect,' as a way of putting into evidence the division into social classes, is a constant in Viviani's theatrical language; it runs the gamut from the Gallicisms of the vedettes and dandies in texts such as Toledo di notte and Scalo marittimo to the everyday Italian of the mediocre characters (Don Giacinto, 'A figliata), to the archaic and symbolic dialect of the Rumba degli scugnizzi, a true lyric song with evocative value, which contrasts with the lower-class linguistic register adopted by the 'ex-scugnizzi' who provide the setting for 'Ntonio's exuberance.
In Viviani's translation, moreover, we can observe how he did not preserve graphic conventions, for which Pirandello had a predilection, such as the use of 'j' to indicate the semiconsonantal 'i' (for example, portinajo). From the Pirandellian text, Viviani's version preserved the abundant use of conversational signals (for example, the interjections) and repetitions. From the Pirandellian text, Viviani also took up one of the stereotypes of affective language: the alteration of names.
In fact, the frequency of diminutives, pet names, and superlatives that appear in the translation into the Neapolitan dialect is incredibly high. (17)
Pirandello's one-act play Bellavita, performed for the first time on 27 May 1927 by the Compagnia Almirante-Rissone-Tofano at the Teatro Eden in Milan, returned to the stage some 15 years later in the 1942-1943 theater season with a performance by Raifaele Viviani who, after the extraordinary success achieved with his staging of La patente and Pensad, Giacomino!, wanted to stage a play by Pirandello for a third time.
Bellavita's bitter sarcasm and his subtle vengeance were well portrayed in the performance by Viviani, whose staging had exceptional success with both the public and the critics; the reviews of the contemporary critics reveal Viviani as a convincing Pirandellian perfomer, gifted with a bitter and cutting vigor, as well as a caustic and violent irony.
The binomial Pirandello-Viviani was received enthusiastically thanks also to the performing talent and versatile sensibility of the Neapolitan actor:
Viviani has entered thoroughly into this Pirandellian work with the irrepressible force of his personality, he has planted himself there within the brief course of this one-act play, and he has seized one aspect of an absurd theme and from it he has made his creation.
But when Viviani appears on the scene, half destroyed and almost stupefied by the pain of misfortune and by the anger of his jealousy, the theme disappears before the mind of those who want to understand the 'theme' and the human sense of the play, and yields its place to a living creature, eloquent even in the mute immobility of his figure and of his facial features: and through the intervention of the actor the inconsistent dramatic action gives rise to a character. A character who is also weak and unsustainable like the paradoxical person whom he embodies but efficacious and impressive for the vigor of his anguished suffering, for the potency of the scorn and the sarcasm in which he explodes after his incredible and distracted calmness. (Parente, 1943)
(Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
For Bellavita, Viviani carried out a process of stage translation, that is to say he used the original text in an integral manner and concentrated on the stage typification of the characters. In order to represent the leading character on-stage, one of the most arduous and complex figures in the gallery of Pirandellian characters, Viviani resorted to his extraordinary miming and gestural ability and in this way brought to life an impeccable personification where the word and mimicry, both born from an emotional approach, delineated the characteristics of a suffering and sarcastic figure, with results full of intense human significance, thus resolving the abstractness of both the character and his characterization.
Viviani's rewriting of Bellavita is rigorously 'faithful' to the Pirandellian text. The structure of the one-act play is unchanged and the setting, plot, distribution of dialogue, and group of characters is unaltered. Unlike the other two Pirandellian texts (La patente and Pensad, Giacomino!), for which Viviani had realized a complete translation into the Neapolitan dialect, with Bellavita Pirandello's play was staged with very few changes.
The dialogue in Viviani's rewriting was written in Italian, rather than a mixture of dialect and Italian. Such a linguistic choice was coherent with the linguistic choices Viviani undertook in the 1930s and 1940s, when the Neapolitan playwright was writing texts in the Italian language, such as L'imbroglione onesto, Mestiere di padre, La tavola dei poveri, and La commedia della vita. The passage from dialect to the Italian language revealed Viviani's decision to express himself in a useful and comprehensible manner toward everyone, to reach a wide public coming from different social strata (Lezza, 1996).
In fact, the years going from 1936 to 1940 were quite difficult for Viviani because of difficulties in reaching the national theater circuits and staging plays in the more important theaters, so that often he preferred to work as an actor and as a performer of other authors' plays, such as La casa delle ortensie by Ernesto Grassi (1934), Puro siccome un angelo by Alfredo Moscariello (1936), Il pazzo sono io by Salvatore Ragosta (1936), Fine mese by Paola Riccora (1937), and Chicchignola by Ettore Petrolini (1940). It is during this time that Viviani's interest for one of the most significant representatives of Neapolitan theater, Eduardo Scarpetta. developed. The relationship between the two playwrights dated as far back as 1914, as shown by a note sent from Scarpetta to Viviani, dated 24 October 24 1914, in which Scarpetta wrote:
Dear Viviani, I wish for you on this day as many thousand-lira bills every month in sales as there are admirers of yours; I am the first of them! Ed. Scarpetta (18) (Underline by Scarpetta. Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
The importance of ticket sales and profits from performances in the theater world was well known, as Scarpetta himself pointed out:
The obsession for abundant profits, then, diverted from the popular comic theater extremely precious actresses and actors who were then exploited in the 'cafe-chantants,' such as Nicola Maldacea, Emilio Persico, Carmen Marini, Raffaele Viviani ... and others. They were enticed by the applause of the audience and by the generous wages, two or three times greater than those which the most celebrated comic actors had at the height of their glory performing at the San Carlino theater where Antonio Petito himself was hired at first for thirty-six ducats a month, then for sixty, and then reached as much as one hundred, the most fabulous wage of that time. (Scarpetta, 2002: 91)
(Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
In 1940, Viviani staged Miseria e nobilta with much success with audiences and critics alike, a success confirmed by a long and fortunate tour.19 The revival of the play and Viviani's enormous personal success confirmed his extraordinary talent, supported by an excellent theater company whose members included his sister Luisella, Vincenzo Scarpetta, Salvatore Costa, and Anna Pretolani, with Vittorio Viviani as director and costumes by Umberto Onorato.
In the text used by Viviani for staging of the play, when compared to the original play by Scarpetta, we can find several interesting modifications made by Viviani. (20) In particular, in Act I, we find numerous handwritten additions made by Viviani (shown here in bold):
FELICE: And you're waiting for me, huh Pasquale? If I light a match here in front of my tummy you can see all the way through if you stand behind me. I just now finished swearing like a trooper ... (21)
FELICE: (Showing the patches he has on his trousers and on his 'morning suit This is my movable wealth. Movable, because I wear it when I go out for a walk. Just take a look at a man who lives by the feather-pen but who has been stripped of his pen-feathers! There you go!
FELICE: Say it clearly on the street corner. Talk the language of your birth. PASQUALE: I am talking the language of my birth. You don't know this but my mother was Tuscan and so I'm a half-Tuscan.
FELICE: If you were a half-Tuscan I would already have smoked you.
PASQUALE: (Indicating his bundle) You leave this with the pawnbroker and when we're able to pay, we'll take it back.
PASQUALE: There are things that are more valuable!
FELICE: Pasqua, either you have a 200 degree fever or you're out of your mind. I don't know if I have to feel sorry for you or if I have to give you a good thrashing.
PASQUALE: Why is that?
FELICE: You say bizarre things. The 'deception.' You've been deceived.
Viviani also cut out the initial dialogue of Scene II, that is to say he eliminated the exchange of dialogue between Gaetano and Biase, and then rewrote it in the following way:
VINCENZO: (Coming forward) At your service, Your Excellency.
GAETANO: (He enters with a festoon) Vincenzo, give me a hand to hang up this festoon over that door and be careful because these are all camellias that cost me 5 cents each.
PASQUALE: Don't worry. Let me do it and I'll eat this fellow up in little bites. (22)
FELICE: Incurable disease. It's a chest disease. His chest got very big, but then Saint Joseph planed it down.
In Scene XX, when the silverware is stolen, Viviani added the following lines for Felice:
FELICE: This is called cutlery because you have to cut this out! Remember; we're poor, yes, but honest.
Viviani cut out some dialogue between Gaetano and Ottavio in Scene IV as well, probably to avoid censorship, since it dealt with the passage when the characters talk about the applause in the theater that comes from the stalls on the left and from those on the right. Here Viviani eliminates such lines as:
OTTAVIO: There was a little bit of conflict. But the left won.
OTTAVIO: What can be done? They are political parties. And then there are the party leaders. I, for example, am the party leader of the left ...
In Felice's lines, Viviani eliminated some expressions that belonged to a lower register, such as: 'You'll see what a fine scrimmage we'll make, me and the princess;' 'To hell with whoever nursed you!' (He substituted this last expression with the exclamation: 'What a miracle!')
Viviani's relationship with Eduardo De Filippo, according to the critics and their writings, would appear to have been a complex and, from certain points of view, ambiguous one. This was also confirmed by Vittorio Viviani in his Storia del teatro napoletano, where he recalled the promise made by De Filippo to Viviani that he would perform the character of Don Gennaro in Viviani's 'A figliata:
Eduardo ... on the occasion of a brief Vivianesque revival at the 'Teatro Aurora' wrote his impassioned adherence to 'Don RafFaele,' proposing to him that he wanted to interpret 'Don Gennaro,' a lower middle-class character in La figliata, as the 'prize for his life as an artist;' but in fact it was a necessary purification in the source of his purest and most distant stage inspiration, which had conditioned his first 'mezzi caratteri.' (Viviani, 1992: 815)
In fact, in 1945 De Filippo wrote the following letter:
Dear Raffaele, with a brotherly heart I wish you all that your great Artist's Soul desires and has the right to possess. It would have been my desire to come and embrace you, but I am not feeling very well. I am very close to you.
'A figliata will be performed in Rome and it will be a prize that I will concede to my life as an Artist.
Once again best wishes and give me your affection. Eduardo (23)
Nevertheless, some of De Filippo's letters revealed a strong relation of esteem and affection between them, perhaps not so much in their most active years, but certainly after Viviani's death. This relationship continued with their families, in particular with Viviani's wife Maria, as stated in a note of thanks written to her by De Filippo from Rome in October 1981 on the occasion of his nomination as a senator-for-life, in which he stated: 'Together with me, dear D. Maria, in the Senate there will also be Raffaele Viviani!' (24)
This phrase is written in Eduardo's own hand on a pre-printed note that also said 'for the thoughts and for the congratulations I fervidly thank you.' (25)
Certainly the two men, both having strong and complex personalities, would have found working together quite difficult; additionally, between the two there was an age difference that should not be underestimated: Viviani (1888-1950) and De Filippo (1900-1984). Viviani lived between two centuries and he was already working and acting in the last decade of the 19th century; he then wrote his first texts in 1908, which were followed by that decisive turning point in 1917, namely his first one-act play Il Vicolo.
De Filippo was born in a different century and this created an important temporal disparity. Viviani's theater had a strong musical matrix, unlike De Filippo's 'theater of words' which is certainly more organic and functional to the performance. The event that creates the real detachment between the two authors is when Einaudi decided not to publish Viviani's plays and then published De Filippo's plays instead (Lezza, 1989: 31-35).
However, to understand the link between the two authors from a dramaturgical point of view, it is necessary to point out, as an undisputed example, the parallelism between Viviani's traveling conjurer in Piazza ferrovia and De Filippo's Sik-Sik, l'artefice magico, recognizing in Viviani's character a forerunner of De Filippo's grotesque and more famous Sik-Sik (De Filippo, 2000: 490).
It is also true that De Filippo's themes, characters and poetics were different from those of Viviani. With regard to the differences between the two playwrights, it is interesting to note what Vito Pandolfi said at the end of the 1960s, in an article that appeared in Sipario with the title 'Un umorismo doloroso.' Pandolfi reflected:
Raffaele Viviani expresses the psychological nature, the conditions of life and the hopes of the lower classes, Eduardo De Filippo documents their withdrawal which ensued, their absorption into a lower middle-class aspiration, which nevertheless has its own bitter intimate drama, even in the renunciation ... Here we are at a moral renunciation. Eduardo's wide success is owed precisely to the fact the he reflects experiences carried out directly by his theater audience and he establishes with them an immediate participation that neither Verga nor Pirandello nor Viviani will ever have, no matter how applauded and successful they are. These three authors represent themes and a way of interpreting them which are outside the world of those who are gathered in their audiences, who willingly place themselves at these authors' side but who cannot feel a total solidarity. (Pandolfi, 1959: 942)
(Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
In order to confirm a relationship between Viviani and De Filippo that was certainly not serene, though correct and austere, we need to read what De Filippo wrote on the occasion of Viviani's death:
Lava stone of Naples; dark and evil-smelling corners of every narrow alley; squalid dens and 'vinelie' crammed with rubbish rendered still useful through the philosophical and genial sense of adaptation of our poor people; walls of solid and brackish tuff stone, which closed in around the bell-glasses containing saints, the beds of opaque brass, the roses made of tissue paper, the unmatched glasses, the tin forks, the unsteady chairs, the worm-eaten rosewood of the wobbly dressers: Rafifaele Viviani is dead! ... Me? I, my Raffaele, have stayed here to continue to honor you on the stage, for as long as I have blood and breath. Sometimes you will see me walking slowly along the Corso Vittorio Emanuele near your house, you and I together arm in arm (remember how many times we did that?), opening up my thoughts to your thoughts, telling you the plot of a new play. You will listen to me and you will let me hear your voice (do you remember?): Edua, how beautiful it is! Now my Raffaele, Friend and Teacher, you are going to meet the most sorrowful and holy of the 'Scugnizzi.' You know what his name is. He is going to come toward you with his arm out in order to imprint, with his strong thumb, the last touch to your great tragic mask. (26)
Viviani's relations with Peppino De Filippo were fairly constant and intense, as testified by a letter from Peppino, dated 18 September 1933, in which he responded to Viviani's best wishes:
Dearest excellency, thank you, thank you so much for your interest and for your sincere best wishes! Only your artist's soul can understand our anxiety and our worries in this moment. Your wishes will give my work greater vigor, and they will multiply my energies a hundred-fold! ... Bertucci will even drown in his own ink, and Peppino De Filippo will light up the fire ... in the footlights! Thank you, I truly thank you! I am very happy that your year of comic theater has had a magnificent beginning, it could not have been otherwise. You just put your mind to making a lot of money and ... don't worry about the rest! Our successes continue ... always with growing enthusiasm ... and I hope to hear about yours as well. Never have I felt such a need as now, dear excellency, that is to say we feel the need, we have to feel ... the need to exalt our Naples. A handshake and a brotherly embrace, your Peppino De Filippo (27)
(Underlined text by Peppino De Filippo. Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
Nevertheless, the two never collaborated, either from a dramaturgical or a strictly theatrical point of view.
Peppino always held toward Viviani a considerable esteem and an unconditional admiration, as shown by the pages in his very famous book Strette di mano dedicated to those people who had left their mark on his artistic life (De Filippo, 1974: 193-199).
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
AA VV (1975) Raffaele Viviani a venticinque anni dalla morte. Naples: Irace.
Acanfora N (2003-2006) Forme e testi teatrali tra fine Ottocento e Novecento. Collaborazioni, riscritture, traduzioni a Napoli e in Sicilia. Doctoral thesis, University of Salerno.
Andria M (ed.) (2001) Viviani. Exhibition, Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli, 29 May-12 October 2001. Naples: T Pironti.
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De Filippo E (2000) Cantata deigiorni dispari. Edited by N De Blasi and P Quarenghi. Milan: Mondadori.
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Lezza A (1989) L'edizione del teatro di Raffaele Viviani. Misure critiche XIX(70-71): 31-35.
Lezza A (1996) Il teatro di Viviani: Lingua, dialetto, gergo. In: AA VV (ed.) Lingua e dialetto nella tradizione letteraria italiana. Rome: Salerno Editrice, pp. 537-551.
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University of Salerno, Italy
(1.) Viviani was not only a very original actor but also a playwright and the author of an autobiography, poems, and songs.
(2.) In an article published after his death, Viviani remembers Petrolini thus:
In the garden of Collodi we spent an unforgettable afternoon together and that evening Petrolini came to the theater where I was performing Il mastro di forgia. During the first act, while the main character is opening up his soul which is in pain because of the injustices of society, the noise of a passing train (the theater was near a station) kept me from continuing the play. I stopped for a few minutes and then, when the noise ended, I continued. After the first act Petrolini said to me: 'Listen, Rafe, if I had been in your place at the moment of the interruption, I would have said to the public: Just look, it's not enough that men are set against me, even the train has to bother me!' He would have felt the need to escape from the character, but I didn't. That was the substantial difference between our temperaments. And Petrolini felt offended when people would say to him: you are instinctive. Once he responded to an important critic in Rome: 'What do you mean, instinctive, come on now! Instinct is for dogs!' (Viviani, 1950)
(Text translated by Patrizia Lopez)
(3.) For the stylistic and formal affinities compared with futuristic poetics, see Lezza (2010: 5-47).
(4.) See Viviani (1956) and the collected works edited by Cassani (1987) titled Paolo Ricci: Opere dal 1926 al 1974.
(5.) The letter (typewritten on stationery with the letterhead of 'Il Giorno') has been preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale 'Vittorio Emanuele III' Napoli, Sezione Lucchesi Palli, Fondo Manoscritti Raffaele Viviani. Matilde Serao's letter is published in Immagini di scena (Andria, 2001: 283).
(6.) Iaccio (1992: 169). The two letters are preserved in the Istituto Campano per la Storia della Resistenza, Fondo Bracco-Della Valle, Naples.
(7.) The letter, dated Naples, 8 August 1942, is preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale 'Vittorio Emanuele III' Napoli, Sezione Lucchesi Palli, Fondo Manoscritti Raffaele Viviani. Mario Vani has written in remembrance of Braceo in La parola e il libro (1961).
(8.) I have dealt with this relationship previously (in 1992), on the occasion of the exhibition Pirandello e Napoli. There are also references in the edition of Teatro published by Guida (Viviani, 1987-1991, 1994), in the monograph by Lezza and Scialo (2000: 34-35), and in the entry in the Encyclopedia of Italian Literary Studies (Lezza, 2007: 2015).
(9.) See Appendice, in Viviani (1994: 703-710).
(10.) These typewritten scripts are preserved in the Fondo Viviani, under the Sezione Lucchesi Palli in the Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli 'Vittorio Emanuele III.'
(11.) This relationship was pointed out for the first time in the numerous reviews written on the occasion of the performance of the 1934 edition of Goldoni's La bottega del caffe in Venice, with precise reference to the presence of Luigi Pirandello in the audience, together with other illustrious figures of the contemporary culture. See Palmieri (1934) and Lari (1934).
(12.) See Lezza, Nota introduttiva a Don Mario Augurio, in Viviani (1987-1991: 372).
(13.) Viviani, La patente, Fondo Lucchesi Palli.
(14.) Pirandello (1986: 522); Viviani (1924: 1).
(15.) In Viviani, 'pazzo' is used six times; 'pazziammo' (2); 'll'ha fatto perdere 'e ccervelle' (1); 'non me fate prendere dai nervi' (1). In the Pirandellian text, we find: 'pazzo' used four times; 'impazzito' (2); Tha levato di cervello' (1).
(16.) The unpublished letter from Viviani to Pirandello, dated 15 January 1933, is preserved in the Biblioteca-Museo Regionale 'Luigi Pirandello', Agrigento, collocazione inventario n. 7332. The publication of this translation has been authorized by the Dipartimento Beni Culturali ed I. S. della Regione Sicilia.
(17.) Regarding these aspects, see Acanfora (2003-2006).
(18.) The handwritten note (dated 24 October 1914) is preserved in the Sezione Lucchesi Palli, Fondo Manoscritti Raffaele Viviani.
(19.) Some memorable on-stage photographs have been preserved from the production of Miseria e nobilta (Sezione Lucchesi Palli, Fondo Manoscritti Raffaele Viviani), showing Viviani as an original and highly expressive actor of 'Felice Sciosciammocca.'
(20.) Viviani's rewriting of this text is preserved in the Sezione Lucchesi Palli, Fondo Manoscritti Raffaele Viviani. It is typewritten with many handwritten interventions (corrections and deletions); it consists of 54 numbered pages (recto), it is not signed, and it is undated.
(21.) R Viviani, Miseria e nobilta, Fondo Manoscritti Raffaele Viviani. In this line, Viviani has inserted the incipit of his poem O muorto 'efamma.
(22.) Note the insertion of a verb ('spuzzuliare') that is typical of Viviani's vocabulary; we need only think of the poem Prezzetella 'a capera: 'st'uosso cca t' 'o spuzzulie.'
(23.) The handwritten letter (dated S. Giuseppe 1945) has been preserved at the Sezione Lucchesi Palli, Fondo Manoscritti Raffaele Viviani.
(24.) The note (dated Rome, October 1981) is preserved at the Sezione Lucchesi Palli, Fondo Manoscritti Raffaele Viviani.
(26.) See AA VV (1975: 204-205).
(27.) The handwritten letter (dated Turin, 18 September 1933) has been preserved at the Sezione Lucchesi Palli, Fondo Manoscritti Raffaele Viviani.
Antonia Lezza, Department of Humanities, University of Salerno, Via Giovanni Paolo II, 132--84084 Fisciano (Salerno), Italy.
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|Title Annotation:||Notes; Raffaele Viviani, Eduardo Scarpetta, Luigi Pirandello|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2014|
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