The truth is out there, Dali style
How often do you get to see a show with a Dali backdrop? Once every 70 years appears to be the answer as surrealist circus performance show extraordinaire La Verita tumbles its way into Tivoli.
In 2010, a long-lost canvas was discovered in the dark corner of the props room in the Metropolitan Opera in New York. This was, however, no ordinary work of art, but an enormous 9 x 15m theatre backdrop by no less than the master of surrealism himself, Salvador Dali. Depicting the doomed love of Tristan and Isolde, the backdrop hadn’t seen the light of day since the performance of the ballet Mad Tristan (Tristan Fou) in December 1944. The enigmatic Dalí wrote a libretto for the ballet, as well as designing costumes and the scenery in the form of gigantic painted canvases or stage curtains.
Instead of taking the easy option and displaying the priceless artistic artefact in some museum, the owners bravely decided that the canvas should return to its true spiritual home: the stage. It was loaned out to the Swiss-based Compagnia Finzi Pasca, which used the surreal image and other works by Dali as an inspiration to create the otherworldly show La Verita, a spectacular ‘new circus’ performance that had its premiere in Montreal in January 2013 and has since traversed the globe via Uruguay and Brazil to Europe. Next stop is the concert hall at Tivoli, Copenhagen.
Daniele Finzi Pasca started developing his vision of the art of clowning, dance and acting at a relatively early age and put the finishing touches to his critically-acclaimed monologue, Icaro, during a short stay in prison as a conscientious objector. Icaro is still touring the world and has notched up more than 700 performances, while another of his works, Corteo, has been performed by internationally-renowned circus troupe Cirque du Soleil to more than 3 million people. Other feathers in his cap include the closing ceremony of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, and since 2011, he has directed operas such as Verdi’s Aida and Requiem at the Mariinsky theatre in St Petersburg.
La Verita is a mixture of new circus, dance, theatre and live music with Dali’s artwork providing an irresistible impulse. Pasca sees acrobatics as a metaphor for the lightness and grace that we all possess in one way or another, while the role of the clown is one that has a deep primordial importance for him, which he describes as “the theatre of the caress”. Delving into the sometimes grotesque and visually arresting imagery of Dali is always going to be a virtually insurmountable challenge, but perhaps new circus, with its potential for combining aesthetic beauty with the absurd, is the ideal medium. The European première in Lausanne saw some of the more recurring symbols in his pictorial works ease their way into the show, like the rhinoceroses’ ‘celestial ride’, an enormous snail, the inevitable muse Gala and the eggs of Cadaques and Figueras.
Swirling acrobatically, theatrically and musically around the stage are 13 highly experienced performers, and there is plenty to look forward to. Look out for the incredible contortionist act in the company of an expertly manipulated Japanese Bunraku puppet, as well as the comic interludes from Roland Tarquini and Beatriz Sayad. Another show-stealer should be the multi-talented David Menes who quite simply takes juggling to a whole different level. The whole performance is set to the music of Maria Bonzanigo, which perfectly weaves itself into Pasca’s dreamlike visual style.
The painting itself is pure Dali at his surrealistic best – a desolate landscape where a dying Tristan, ants escaping from a crack in his back, is found by Isolde, with a wheelbarrow sprouting from her back like wings and exaggerated hands reaching out desperately. Extended, menacing shadows play across the scene flanked by trademark Dali crutches. The theme of the two veiled figures repeatedly returns to outline the incredible acrobatic choreography throughout the show in an attempt to reveal the truth: La Verita.
A running theme of Pasca’s shows is the sudden dropping of objects from the heavens above to pose the question: “What are the gods doing to us?” In December, the Danish organisers of the show, Teater Republique, were offering free tickets to people bringing in at least 35 corks, with the ambition of letting 3,000 corks fall onto the stage. Whether or not this lofty ambition has succeeded remains to be seen, but either way, La Verita promises to be a true assault on the senses, a celebration of the absurd and a unique opportunity to spend a couple of hours in the weird and wonderful spirit of Salvador Dali.
La Verita, Koncertsalen Tivoli, Vesterbrogade 3, Cph V; starts Sat, ends Jan 25, daily performances at 20:00 (except Mon & Jan 19), additional performances at 14:00 on Sat, Jan 18 & 25, 17:00 on Jan 19; tickets 100-600kr, www.republique.dk, www.finzipasca.com; in English & Danish, sung in Italian; duration 125 mins including interval