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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Giacomo Pedini on the first Cross-Border European Capital of Culture in Gorizia and Nova Gorica

Spanning sixty years of European history, themes of war and conflict and its repercussions on Central and Eastern Europe’s borders link the three productions created for the Inabili alla Morte (Unable to Die) trilogy created to mark areas in Italy and Slovenia being awarded the European Capital of Culture 2025. The first part of the trilogy will open this May in Italy and is an adaptation of Austrian author Joseph Roth’s 1930’s novel The Emperor’s Tomb, which follows the Trotta family’s struggle in post First World War Vienna to the rise of the Nazi Party. The second and third plays are new works from Italian and Slovenian writers who imagine how the novels’ themes would have progressed, first in 1960s Yugoslavia with the fear surrounding the building of the Berlin Wall and ending in the 1990s and the mood of optimism following the fall of the Wall. The final two parts of the trilogy will open in November in Slovenia and September 2025 in Italy respectively. We spoke to Giacomo Pedini the Artistic Director of Mittelfest and creator of the project.

Giacomo Pedini

Tell us about the trilogy and how the three plays complement each other?

The trilogy follows a few ideas, it tell the story of Europe from the perspective of the border between East and West, often not so considered – for a sort of “colonial” point of view as the most powerful countries to the others. We do not put on stage the big names of our history, but different ordinary people who are guilty and victims of history. To do that, I decided to start with a great novel, Cripta dei Cappucini by Joseph Roth, involving in the project for the second and third part, a Slovenian partner and an Italian one. The second part, which continues the story in the Sixties, will be written by a Slovenian writer, Goran Vojnović, chosen by Marko Bratuš, the artistic director and producer with SNG Nova Gorica. The third part will be written by Paolo Di Paolo, an Italian writer. All of us are so called “millennials”: we saw a bit of the 20th  century, but we live in this era and we feel the need to confront it together, in a long story, with our common and close past.


La Cripta dei Cappuccini, explores themes of societal decay and the rise of fascism. How do you believe these themes resonate with contemporary audiences, given the current global political climate?

The strongest thing about Cripta dei Cappuccini is this: it seems to be a story of nostalgia, but it is not. It is a story of bewilderment. Trotta and all the characters are different and common people of a world who – to quote Walter Banjamin – were born with horses and became adults with airplanes. They simply do not recognize things, they follow illusions and delusions, they knew a shape of the world and now they realize that things are different: jobs never heard, countries never seen, kingdoms disappeared. This is the story of Central Europe, and Europe in general, between 1913 and 1938. But, what is the story of Europe between 1989 and 2019? How has it changed? How many people reacted to all the illusions, delusions, new citizens and new jobs and technologies of the last three decades? Bewilderment is ambiguous: if not well managed can lead to the desire of “new orders”, because of the feeling that orders are lost. This is a process made by common people and the consequence is a “Zeitgeist”.

Each play in the trilogy takes place in different time periods and explores different aspects of European history. Can you tell us why the three particular settings were chosen?

Because the years between the beginning of World War I and World War II are the last phase of a Europe who pretended to be the centre of the World (and our Continent caused the two World Wars): this is the last phase of a long history started at the end of Middle age of Europe. After the second World War all was changed, because this land was divided and under two new “empires”: USA and USSR. Sixties are the years in the middle of the Cold War, when the Berlin wall was built. The face of many countries and people of Europe changed totally. Nineties are years of illusions and dangerous misunderstanding: in those years of “end of history”, of capitalism as the “happy destiny” of every country in general, and in Europe too, of USA as a one big leading country, a new shape of World started to come out. Now we see this shape: but Europeans in the Nineties did not do it, running after phenomena that made our crazy and brutal “Zeitgeist”.

Giacomo Pedini

The trilogy aims to overcome physical and cultural barriers between Nova Gorica and Gorizia. How do you believe theatre and the arts can facilitate such cross-border collaboration?

Because we are working together: Italians and Slovenians live close, but our cultural heritage is totally different, and we know a bit of each other’s. We need to work together and to explore our feelings and stories and listen to them. For this reason, the trilogy has a first and third part produced by Mittelfest in Italy and a second by SNG Nova Gorica in Slovenia. And also, for this reason we translate all the shows, we do the radio versions and books of texts in Italian and Slovenian. Theatre is a place of meeting between bodies: we must work to bring Italian and Slovenian audience together.

In addition to live performances, the trilogy will also be adapted into radio dramas and a curated anthology book. How do these additional formats complement and enrich the project?

The strong part of theatre is the “living” being, the active involvement of people on stage and down the stage, but theatre dies within replicas. Radio dramas and books can remain, available there, for a very long time: they can keep alive the memory of a work intended to be between two countries as symbols of the two Europe of the second half of the 20th century.

Looking ahead to the staging of the full trilogy at GO!2025, what are your hopes and aspirations for the impact these productions will have on the local communities and broader European cultural landscape?

Mainly I hope that the way of creating this project can be repeated: I mean, calling writers of different countries, working together on something that we supposed it is common, but we do not really know how much. I think we need to work on big stories with different hands on them and perspectives: we live in a too complex society to do all the things alone or in little groups. For the local communities I hope that this story can help them to recognize the great and various history they have and that they keep with them. For La Cripta dei Cappuccini, for example, I made a choice: an important character, Count Chojnicki, is played by a great Slovenian actor, Primož Ekart. So often in Italy we call actors from the Balkans to play gangster or proletarians. It is a bad stereotype that does not help to build a different perception or knowledge of close countries and communities. I called him to play the most noble character of Roth’s novel.


For more information on Gorizia and Nova Gorica, Cross-Border European Capital of Culture and Mittelfest see here.   


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