SAN ZENON DEGLII EZZELINI – In San Zenone degli Ezzelini, in the hills between Asolo and Bassano, lives the greatest collector of everything that belonged to Eleonora Duse, the deity of the theatre: dresses, umbrellas, chests, boxes, letters, posters, objects . all kinds. Fiorenzo SilvestriThe 75-year-old is gearing up to mark the centenary of the great actress’s death in her own way. Perhaps an exhibition, but also a four-handed book with an unexpected partner: actress Claudia Call, who studied at the Actors Studio in New York, where she discovered that the most attentive student of the Duse method is Marilyn Monroe. The book will be about these relations between a theater diva and a film star who lived almost a century later. Duse died at the age of 60 during an American tour in Pittsburgh, a Pennsylvania city saddened by the smog of too many factories. She died in the rain on the night of April 21, 1924, burning with a fever. Apparently, he asked for “Water! Water!”. Like a character in his plays, like a child who, in Ibsen’s Spectra, before closing his eyes, cries out: “Mom, give me the sun.” He had already dictated the epitaph for Asolo’s grave: “Happy. Desperate. Loyal”. His death closed the era of the divine, very great in talent and scandals. Duse came from a theatrical family in Chioggia, she was in high demand all over the world, and her lovers were in the news. He always and only performed in Italian, when President Cleveland and the inventor Edison first visited the United States, they did not miss the performance. In tsarist Russia, she was a resounding success: “What a wonderful actress!” Chekhov wrote. And Stanislavsky claimed that she inspired him to his famous method of playing. Considered the greatest theater actress of her time, certainly the most modern, one of the greatest ever.
Silvestri is convinced of this by showing Duse’s dress. Even more so when he opens the never-published letters given into custody before boarding a transatlantic flight to his friend Countess Thun, who never opened the bag and after her death pledged another 50 years of secrecy. Silvestri is a special collector: studies in the field of economics were improved in Cambridge, a consultant to companies, a lover of art and old books. His collection also includes drawings by Klimt and photographs by Riefenstahl. A past as Treviso provincial councilor with some intuition: Pedemontana, prosecco and radicchio exports to the US in unsuspecting times: “Two weeks in New York, ten years before Zaya. Celeste the cook prepared dinner. Thanks to Trevigiani in the world and the pressure of Matelda Cuomo, the wife of the Governor of New York.” And he likes to remember that in Augsburg, Germany, he is considered a living talisman for good luck: when the Augsburg football team playing in the Bundesliga has a decisive match, they send for him. With him in the stands, he never lost.
Did you already have this great love for Duza as a child?
“I did not think about that.
He also boasts significant political experience.
“I was the youngest provincial councilor in Treviso: in budget and transport, and then in social. I was not a hunter, but I faced the problem of hunting, managing it in harmony with ecologists and hunters. As an advisor, I invented Pedemontana, which was then called the East-West route. The regional transport plan called for five major developments, including the Mestre bypass known as Grisignano Meolo. On this basis, I suggested a higher route that started from Montecchio, just like the current one, and returned to Portogruaro, passing north of Conegliano and Treviso. About the plans of the quarries liquidated in this way. This Montecchio-Portogruaro was shorter than the current A4 and, above all, saved many billions. It is known that they chose the Passante. Then I became a national affair when the province of Treviso absorbed two billion of the debt of a regional transport company, created a new one that canceled the debt in three years and earned a billion.”
How did your love for art grow, and then for Duza?
“I loved art so much that for five years I attended the Pio X art school in Treviso every evening. From an ancient book, touching the paper with my fingers and closing my eyes, I can tell what century it is. One day I was at a Christie’s auction looking for Treviso engravings and found myself in the middle of an auction of Duse’s most important objects then known: her chest, her dress, an umbrella donated by D’Annunzio, a fan, a box. I got everything. On the way out there was a camera crew from Paradise to interview me and a film producer to tell me that an Italian actress had a chest and wanted to contact her. It was Claudia Call, a friendship was born. You studied in New York at the Actors Studio, where Duse’s lesson is method; then he discovered that one of Duse’s biggest fans was Marilyn Monroe; Another fan is Nicole Kidman. “La Divina” was the first to open an acting school, I have documents confirming this. I could do the exhibition myself. I have over 500 letters, all unpublished. There is also the Russian Count Alexander Volkov, in whose palace in Venice Duse lived for some time: he received her engagements for St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kyiv and Odessa. For her, this was more important than D’Annunzio in terms of artistic training, he pushed her to the acting technique. I have two of the three letters in the world written to Sarah Bernhardt, another great theater actress. I called her “Divine Gypsy” because she never lived in her house, even the one in Asolo was rented, it belongs to my friend who lives in Dallas.
Not only Duse in your collection, is it about the Vienna Secession?
“I am a specialist in illustrated art between the 19th and 20th centuries. Gustav Klimt and others are bread for my teeth. I also studied who inspired Klimt, the Dutchman Jan Torop, who was born in Java, I have his graphics. I have Klimt’s works only on paper, it was not easy to find them at auctions, for the sake of some, for example, Danae, I had to make sacrifices. We are preparing an exhibition for Grado, it would be a good offer if it was accepted by Cortina for the next Olympics. This is an exhibition of drawings that has never even been held in Vienna. Finally, I dedicate myself to the great director and photographer Leni Riefenstahl: I have found thousands of photographs taken in the Dolomites when she was making the longest-lived film in the world. To make known the art of a certain controversial character, but from an unusual artistic point of view; it deserves to be rediscovered without prejudice.” Read full article
in Il Gazettino