created by Maria Alterno and Richard Pareschi
lighting design Andrea Sanson
Manfred is the ecodrama of our existence, the spirit of our times, humanity bitten by itself, staggering in a storm of mournful howls, in a backdrop of a looming apocalypse. It is a visual-soundscape that crashes us into a post-romantic mal du siècle, wrapped in a heavily darkening halo of darkness, distressing frequencies and metallic clangours, and pierced by melancholic melodies that imprint ancient memories of Beauty.
Written in 1816, a year of a global climate crisis that prompted an investigation and rethinking of the relationship between human beings and Nature, in Manfred a multifaceted reflection comes to life, which is ecological. The performance features loud audio, strobe lights and an intense presence of smoke, not recommended for those with epilepsy, heart disease, photosensitive and claustrophobic people. The performance is not recommended for children under the age of 14.
Spiritual and existential at the same time, and leaning avant-garde towards a form of post-romantic mal du siècle. Byron rebels against the romantic concept of Nature and generates an unorthodox environmental awareness, which applies a form of scepticism to the sense of the environment. Nature as an aesthetic-contemplative experience is no longer sufficient, and Manfred takes the form of an ecodrama, in which human beings and natural forces are agents of an ambiguous relationship, of fusion and separation, dialoguing and conflicting. The distrust of the interrelationships between the human world and the natural realm stems from the idea that human consciousness is an embodied community of creatures, and this idea dictates and determines Manfred’s action-thinking. There is no possibility of expiation, there is only unrevealed guilt and the anguish of living in a time that seems to be punctuated by an inexorable fate, an inescapable condition that, however, also represents ‘a way of liberation from the constraints of the human condition’. Manfred is a humanity caught in the conflict between matter and spirit, in the solitude between heaven and earth, isolated in a borderland dominated by uncertainty. Half dust half deity, noise and symphony, this is the mixed essence of the human being, who lives a continuous swing between attachment and renunciation of the Earth, between the desire to forget and to be forgotten, to let go or to be saved. In 1816, we had just entered the Anthropocene, but Manfred seems to be on the verge of its twilight, at its extreme, where it is no longer just the climate crisis or environmental catastrophe but the rampant precariousness that reverberates and expands in all spheres of existence. Manfred embodies the spirit of our times in disgust, in aesthetic indigestion, in pain, in irredeemable love, in solid despair, in ‘cogito ridden by anguish’. 2Byron intended Manfred to be ‘impossible for the stage’, created for a mental theatre, designed for internalised reading and individual experience. Manfred invites us to involve ourselves intellectually, it is the mirror of an imaginative projection, it is voice without subject or body, it assumes forms unidentifiable to the eye. It is subtraction in favour of synesthesia, because if a possibility of redemption exists, it lies in the ability to stand on one’s own strength, in the power of the individual imagination, in planting a seed of hope in the land of nothingness, from which ancient melodies echo in the distance.
I was my own destroyer, And will be my own hereafter. Manfred – Act III, scena 4