Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena
By Apostolo Zeno and Pietro Pariati.
Introduction, critical edition and comments by Elisa Martini.
Translation by Agapita Jurado Santos.
“Give us something to laugh about”: this is how Charles VI greeted his poet and historian Apostolo Zeno, the day after the premiere of his Iphigenia in Aulide, performed at the Hoftheater on November 5th 1718. A difficult task for someone who, like the Venetian, avoids the comic genre in his writing; therefore, he must ask for help from his friend and colleague Pietro Pariati, who is much more inclined to comedy. The theme chosen for the four-handed piece that will be performed during the Carnival of 1719 is the first part of Cervantes’ novel. This author is not by chance, for the Hispanic crown had been in the hands of Emperor Carlos III, hence this plot, which is intended to satisfy the desire of the court entourage.
The adventures of the hidalgo and the other Cervantine characters in Sierra Morena soon abandon their original characteristics to become something new under the pens of the two authors. On the one hand, Apostolo Zeno tends to bring back, within the filigree of the scene, the movements of the 16th century tragedy, based on the three Aristotelian units and developing a moral reflection and an ethical and rationalistic rigour that becomes concrete in the metamorphosis of the characters of Lucinda, new Iphigenia, and of Cardenio and Fernando, involved in a cathartic relationship. For his part, Pietro Pariati gives voice to his fervent parodic activity, both literary and social, either through metaliterary play (using the technique of reuse) or through the meta-theatrical. Unlike Zeno, Pariati does not seek a reflective writing, but rather a performative one, where the action also becomes an element that provokes laughter. It is precisely on the level of staging that his great innovation is based, through the insertion of intermingled episodes within the framework of the musical drama, thus opening up the stage space to the genre of tragicomedy, where the plot is comic, but noble and regal characters intervene.
Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena is, therefore, a document that brings together in its variety two reformist tendencies that clearly divide the text, so that, if the serious parts of Zeno form the tragic episode, those of the Pariati constitute the main comic action.