In 1917, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso traveled to Naples to study the origins of circus and Commedia dell’arte. The trip gave birth to a ballet, Parade, choreographed by Léonide Massine with music by Erik Satie. A hundred years later, Paris Opera star Eleonora Abbagnato staged the same ballet in Pompeii's Large Theatre in a 2017 production featuring the Corps de Ballet of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma and Leonide Massine's son Lorca as choreographer.
As soon as they take their seats, Parade plunges audience members into the universe of Commedia dell'arte with a stage curtain depicting a Harlequin dining with a few companions. The curtain is the largest work Pablo Picasso ever completed, measuring about 11 meters high by 17 meters wide. Satie's musical score mixes sounds from everyday life with the traditional orchestral palette: noises made by typewriters, revolvers, sirens, lottery wheels, and bottles are brought together into a joyful aural "collage" reminiscent of cubist art. Jean Cocteau's libretto tells the story of a troupe of street artists who parade in front of a crowd of onlookers in an attempt to attract an audience for their show.
Parade is followed by Pulcinella, another product of the collaboration between Cocteau, Picasso, and Massine, this time with music by Stravinsky. This one-act ballet follows amorous episodes in the life of the young Neapolitan philanderer, the famous Pulcinella!
Photos: Parade at Pompeii's Large Theatre (top of the page) – curtain by Picasso (above).