When Carlo Levi arrived in Matera in the 1930s, he compared the Sassi to Dante's Inferno, certainly because of the poor living conditions of its inhabitants, but also - perhaps - because he had been, like a modern Dante, catapulted into that distant land, which caused him to live more intensely not only his own misery but also the miseries of the world.
In 2019 Matera becomes the city of redemption with "Il Purgatorio" by Marco Martinelli and Ermanna Montanari, the artistic directors of the show co-produced by Matera-Basilicata 2019 and Ravenna Festival/Teatro Alighieri in collaboration with Teatro delle Albe/Ravenna Teatro.
"Purgatorio is the poem of starting over. Can we start again, after a failure, a defeat, a disappointment? Can we get rid of that bitterness that reeks of death from our mouths, to rediscover the taste of life? Can we still smile, after anguish has clenched our hearts, almost to the point of stopping it? Can we get out of that hell which has become our existence? Of course we can. It's like going back to the first grade and learning a new language. After you have leafed through the catalogue of all the violence and all the horrors, you have looked into the darkness of all those evil faces which make up your own face, you are now learning the alphabet of compassion. That's why Dante's Purgatorio begins at dawn, with the sky of a colour described with one of the most beautiful verses of the whole Comedy: "Sweet colour of oriental sapphire. The endless night is over. Darkness is followed by blue. Wake up early, and everyone gets to school. In front of Dante, penitents in line, who are both students and teachers. They put Dante, the readers and themselves on the way to a new life. Purgatorio is the cantica of "we", of choirs singing their own joy, of ascending together. "Don’t you realize that we are caterpillars / born to form the angelic butterfly?
And it is precisely the choral nature of the work, exalted by the participation of the citizens and some local theatre companies, which has allowed "the pure and willing to climb to the stars" to live a unique experience in which the spectators are put before their weaknesses scene after scene, in an evocative path that allows him to rise up and come out free.