To say that Carlo Porta (Milan, 1775 - Milan, 1821) and Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli (Rome, 1791 - Rome,1863) are the maximum exponents of poetry in the dialect of the nineteenth century is to do them an injustice. They are two great poets (rather novelists, we will see later why) who may well be at the same level as the coevals Foscolo (Zante, 1778 – TurnhamGreen, 1827) or Leopardi (Recanati, 1798 – Naples, 1837), whose value is perceived in a reductive way for the choice of expressing themselves in the "plebeian" mother tongue instead of the literary idiom that constitutes this almost as a "translation". If at least part of their poetic corpus had been written in Italian (as done by Berchet, Manzoni and others), their reputation would probably be much more extensive.
Why consider Belli and Porta novelists? The object of their research is the accurate description of models and social behavior, unintentional (but perhaps not) historical fresco, tableaux-vivants and dialogues ready for theater capable of reestablishing their times with such complexity and richness of shades to broaden the boundaries of poetry enormously. For a more thorough examination beyond this context, those who wish can take advantage of the illuminating work of Dante Isella (in C. Porta, Poesie, edited by D. I., Milan - Naples, Ricciardi, 1958, pages xi-xxix). Here I would only like to mention the criterion adopted in the "translation" to remain faithful and not lose the aristo-vulgar blend of Lady Fabia: a mixture of archaisms, fine words and elegant terms mixed with the current language, not without the coquetry of introducing some nice vulgarity. This is the world of the Lombard aristocracy in the late 1700s, which bases its economy on immense agrarian possessions for income that allows a wonderful city life and an outlet of holidays in the beautiful, sumptuous Lombard residences; along with an attached mass of servants, waiters, farmers, gardeners, cooks, scullions, a coachman, a butler more realistic than the King and finally the inevitable house priest, whose intercession should ensure a sweet life in the afterworld while comfortably enjoying the privileges of the earthly life. This explains why some Milanese words remain incomplete at the end (Fabron, tal, qual, ugual, simil, infallibil, mandare a dar via, etc. ) and the rude mannerisms which never abandon the lords; a sort of coarse parallel language that flows into the conversation like the ditch alongside the road.
I also wanted to respect Porta’s entrance and exit from the metric canon, according to the tone and mood of the moment: at times dignified, other times "practical", without regard to the infringement.
Poetry in Milanese, for those few who speak it (and it is clear that to understand everything, I have to make an effort too!) is very amusing. In order to be understood by everyone, the show adds a live countermelody: Adriana, patiently waiting for the film to finish (like in an installation from Fabio Mauri or Bob Wilson) then rattles off the translation tactfully. I worked with Adriana Asti for the first time in 1994, in the film Pasolini, un delitto italiano/Pasolini, an Italian Crime. We then met various other times: La meglio gioventù/The Best of Youth (2003), Quando sei nato non puoi più nasconderti/ Once you’re Born you can no Longer Hide (2005), then a few months ago in Nome di donna/Name of a Woman. We have always wanted to do something together dedicated to Porta, protector of both Meneghin(character of Milanese theater). Naturally you have to imagine the Milan of the paintings by the Piccio (Giovanni Carnovali), Carlo Canella, Giuseppe Elena, Giuseppe Molteni or portraits of Andrea Appiani and Francesco Hayez.
Adriana’s costume, rather than referring to early 1800s fashion (with Napoleonic preference for light fabrics, petticoats and shawls) recalls that of previous decades before the Revolution: Lady Fabia is wrapped in black like a goyesca Maja vestida who longs for the Austrian domination, perhaps even the previous Spanish one. She is in mourning, not for family reasons, but for the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries which slipped away spitefully.
The priest of the house is played by Andreapietro Anselmi, forced by his stomach languor to conniving tacit consent.
Marco Tullio Giordana