Corou de Berra, Nice’s famous polyphonic quartet, explores the myths and lore surrounding the enigmatic general
He was a hero from Sicily to Sardinia, from Brazil to Uruguay, from the United Kingdom to the United States… Nice-born general and politician Giuseppe Garibaldi. But for all the objective historic facts ascribed to the “Hero of the Two Worlds”, very little is actually known about the man himself. In its newly created musical show “Garibaldi, connais pas!”, Nice’s much-beloved Corou de Berra revisits the legends surrounding the fabled military leader.
Garibaldi’s life as a hero on three continents, and especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, is the stuff that legends are made of. At the time of his birth on July 4, 1807, his native Nice had been going back and forth between Italy and France like a ping pong ball for centuries. Giuseppe Garibaldi firmly identified as Italian, becoming a dyed-in-the-wool nationalist and the symbol of hope for young people everywhere. His early career drew him to a life at sea as a merchant captain, but he would soon get involved in politics, fighting for the republican ideal of the liberation of Italy would get him in trouble soon enough, and a death sentence in absentia forced him to flee.
He would spend almost 15 years in Brazil and Uruguay, fighting for political and military causes, but he never forgot about his home land. After the election of Pope Pius IX who was considered rather liberal, Garibaldi came back to Italy in 1848, but events forced him into a second exile, this time in Staten Island, NY. Turbulent years followed before in 1854 he returned once again to Italy, via an extended stay in Tyneside, England, where he had already gained great popularity as a fighter for the working class. In 1860 his home town of Nice (Nizza in Italian) was once again ceded to the French which greatly displeased the fervent patriot. His vision was a unified Italy, and he would continue his quest for the years to come through numerous campaigns. When he died in 1882 at the age of almost 75, he was considered one of the greatest generals of modern times and one of Italy’s “Fathers of the Fatherland”. (Read the detailed historic timeline here on Wikipedia.)
But while Garibaldi, the public figure, is well documented, Garibaldi, the private citizen, remains an enigma. Who was he really – anticlerical but still a believer in God, a democrat and a dictator at the same time, fundamentally nationalist and yet one of the founding fathers of modern Europe, someone who could not be pinned down to one political party but adapted to circumstances?
Capturing this contradiction is what Corou de Berra has set out to do in its new musical show “Garibaldi, connais pas!” Written by Serge Dotti, this “historio-burlesque epic” takes a look at the hero’s life through the eyes of his contemporaries. Situated somewhere between legend, romance, and historical facts, the story unfolds as Garibaldi is on the run, accompanied by his two friends Grosso and Grambetta, who then proceed to comment on the different stages of their illustrious companion’s life. They don’t really get him but they follow him anyway. In his real life, Garibaldi was surrounded by countless strong personalities – royalty, military, politicians, intellectuals, artists, and his highly influential wife Anita. On stage, other protagonists surround him, invisibly. A professor, his mother Rosa, his horse, and his enemies… We will follow Garibaldi’s adventures, his successes and defeats – but will we ever really get to know him better or will the enigma remain intact?
No one could be better placed to wrap the story of this local boy turned international hero into a musical theatre play than Corou de Berra. The polyphonic a-cappella quartet is one of the Countéa de Nissa’s great cultural treasures, and known and loved far beyond. Founded by Michel Bianco in 1986 as a mixed choir singing in Nissart and Oc language, it originally set out to preserve the folklore music of the Southern Alps but was not shy about updating it and giving it its own signature…. music that transcends borders, generations, and genres, performing all over Europe. In its 30+ year history, Corou de Berra has reinvented itself several times over to arrive at its current formation three years ago. Today Michel is accompanied by Claudia Musso, Françoise Marchetti, and Joris Barcaroli who also plays the instruments for the rare songs not performed a-cappella. “Singing with your hands”, is one of the ensemble’s trademarks, meaning that the foursome translates its emotions through expressive hand gestures, fascinating to watch. “While staying true to our roots, our music is a mayonnaise which we constantly experiment with until it works well,” according to Michel.
Garibaldi’s story is musically told through Corou de Berra’s songs, written by Michel Bianco and Joris Barcaroli for this play. The characters we meet among the way are represented by life-sized puppets, animated by Aurélie Peglio and Serge Dotti (who also wrote the play and song lyrics with the intelligence and elegance typical of him.) “We are tackling this story from an impressionist rather than a biographic angle, and keep it open to interpretation”, Michel Bianco tells us. And in yet another one of those contradictions so typical for Garibaldi, his story is squarely set during his lifetime in the 19th century, and yet has every relevance to modern contemporary times. His fame and popularity stands the test of time. “He can be thought of along the lines of a Che Guevara,” Michel suggests.
Premiering at Théâtre Francis Gag in Nice this coming weekend, Corou de Berra’s musical saga “Garibaldi, connais pas!” around the unknown sides of an all-too well known hero is our pick of the week. Don’t miss this jewel, suitable for all audiences from 8 years up, at any price.
Friday, 13th October at 10 am and 2 pm, school matinees
Saturday, 14th October at 8.30 pm
Sunday, 15th October at 5 pm
04 92 00 78 50 and 04 93 91 86 32
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Admission: 15€ – 12€ (evenings); 6€ for Friday matinees
Théâtre Francis Gag
4, rue Ste. Croix
All images courtesy Corou de Berra