What can a 300-year-old story teach us? Sometimes more than you may think. When Michael Kondsiolka of the University Musical Society invited Piccolo Teatro di Milano to come to the University on its college tour, he created an opportunity for university students to reach out to a unique group of performers.

Fine Arts Reviews
Members of Piccolo Teatro di Milano in “Arlecchino, Servant of Two Masters.” (Courtesy of UMS)

After being invited by the UMS over a year ago, the theater company will present Carlo Goldoni’s “Arlecchino, Servant of Two Masters,” at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. Though Goldoni’s play was written in 1747, it emphasizes universal themes that relate to contemporary life.

“The situations Goldoni describes in his play are very simple and very human and can be appreciated by audiences in any era,” said Ferruccio Soleri, who stars as the production’s protagonist, Arlecchino.

Soleri, an acclaimed Italian actor with 40 years of experience, has acted in works by playwrights from Brecht to Shakespeare, but he said that this part has brought him the most success. “Arlecchino also keeps me young!” he added.

Eleonora Vasta, a spokeswoman for the theater company, said that while the play will use supertitles, the company invites its audience to use the titles as only one means of comprehension.

“(We hope the audience will) allow themselves to get carried away by the rhythm and the gestures of the actors. We are deeply convinced that their skills will offer the ultimate key to the understanding of the plot of Goldoni’s ‘Arlecchino,’ ” Vasta said.

The message of the play, according to Soldoni, is that you can get through any situation, no matter how complicated, by being true to yourself and relying on your own strengths without compromising your ideals.

“(This is) something very difficult to do nowadays. I think that (the character) Arlecchino would not survive in today’s society. In fact, Arlecchino is the symbol of the human capacity to invent and improvise solutions to any problem when they are approached with an open heart,” Soldoni said.

The tour stops at many universities at which members of the company have an opportunity to speak with students and coordinate educational activities with the performance.

“This particular tour for us is not just about presenting the world-famous production of Arlecchino, but also about educating American audiences about Commedia dell’Arte and Piccolo Teatro di Milano,” Soleri said.

Soleri will be available for a free artist interview on Saturday at the Michigan League before the performance.

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