Renato Giuliani’s adaptation of the timeless Italian Poem of the 14th century shows that today’s world is not so different from the one 700 years ago

Life is a perpetual cycle, whether it concerns an individual or a society. When Dante Alighieri wrote his masterpiece Divina Commedia – one of the most influential literary works of all time – in the early 1300s, he did so at the height of a politically torn Italian State. Set against contemporary context, you would discover that the troubles that plagued society then, are still profoundly the same. The players and the issues may be different, but the cause has not changed. Evil, greed, and power struggle are still at the heart of all that is wrong with the world. Renato Giuliani, accomplished house comedian at the TNN, did in fact take a fresh look at the poem, and his adaptation, titled Dante, revisits the topic of rebirth after a painful trajectory through Hell and Purgatory to Paradise.

Midway along the journey of our life
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
for I had wandered off from the straight path.”
— Dante

Dante is lost in the wilderness – representative of our current situation. Humanity is self-destructing on the altar of greed and money. We have lost the sense of what truly matters. How can we find a way out of this wheel that is going round and round faster and faster? In his quest to seek truth and authenticity Dante turns inward. Like Hercules, Ulysses and Orpheus before him, he struggles with challenges and endures hardships that cleanse him and finally lead him to the wisdom that lets him “see the light of day”. In Renato Giuliani’s version, the monsters of the darkness take on familiar contemporary forms representative of today’s confusion and disempowerment of the human race…. frenetic exploitation of resources, constant exposure to new environmental poisons, fear, dehumanization at the hand of multinationals corporations…

En route on this spiritual voyage we meet Virgil the Poet who walks by our side as we traverse Hell. He reinitiates our sense for the true values and leads us to Béatrice who accompanies us through Purgatory. Her beauty and spirituality save humanity, and she takes us to the doors of Paradise where philosopher-monk St. Bernard de Clairvaux welcomes us to the realm of peace, wisdom, and serenity.

Consider your origins: you were not made to live as brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.” — Dante

Fascinated by the Divine Comedy ever since he was a young boy, Renato Giuliani sees a subversive force in this monumental, esoteric work. “If you look closely, this 14th century text holds up the mirror for us today. And it shows us a way… a road map. Relearning what it means to be human, reconnecting with nature, those are the first steps,” he says. Two remarkable Niçois musicians and actresses – Mari Laurila-Lili and Marjolaine Alziary – help Renato Giuliani build the bridge between medieval poetry and today’s frenzied world. In this reflective musical adaptation, the graphic and often cruel original poem takes on a tone of kindness and empathy as it reflects on the human condition through the lens of compassion. A metaphysical tale full of gentle humour and hope.

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Now playing at the Théâtre National de Nice until Saturday, 13th May.

Théâtre National de Nice
Promenade des Arts
06300 Nice

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Lead image courtesy TNN

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