How we were

The first edition of Pergine Spettacolo Aperto—the festival in Trentino with the longest history—dates back to 1976. I was created by three local cultural associations (Comitato Turistico Locale, Comitato Dama in Costuma and Amici della Musica e del Teatro) with the goal of building a frame of performances that rotating around the traditional living checkers with costumes, which takes place in Pergine’s central square. The Festival, therefore, started almost by chance. Later, however, it grew into a strongly rooted and long-lived initiative. The establishment of Pergine Spettacolo Aperto as a bottom-up process: it started from a basis of volunteers and has always maintained a characterizing direct relationship with the community, for which it promotes social and cultural development.

Developments. The Festival’s first editions have been described as “pioneer experiences” from several of its founders. In 1976, 1977 and 1978, performances took place in the central square; a very fascinating frame, but a very limited one also. Since the start, the lack of infrastructure has been one of the key problems. In 1979, due to the rising demand for cultural activities, an outdoor theatre was built. For the symbolic amount of 10.000£ the garden of the Posta Hotel was rented and, on the basis of a 15-year contract, a structure, similar to that of Verona’s Roman Theatre, was built. This resulted in the possibility of offering a much richer program and in being able to auto-finance the festival, instead of financing it exclusively through public funding. In the 1980’s Pergine Spettacolo Aperto changed its organization and in 1981 it is officially transformed into an association. The leadership was given to the young director Marco Bernardi, the Festival’s first art director, who will maintain this position until 1993. Since then, the Festival has been characterized by a multi-sided approach: the program offers folk and songwriter performances as well as jazz, classical music, and opera. Moreover, Bernardi’s area of expertise inevitably led to the development of the theatre sector. In 1981, Pergine Spettacolo Aperto offered the first co production performance and, starting the following year, produced itself theatre pieces.

The turning-point: the workshop-festival. In the mid-1990’s, Pergine Spettacolo Aperto entered a mature phase: the height of success had been reached and acknowledged well over regional borders. In the earlier phase, the general and multifaceted character represented the Festival’s strength, however, at this moment in time, it begans to lead to a lost in identity. The program was still one of very high quality, but often set on the basis of market logics, instead of in pursuit of innovation.
Pergine Spettacolo Aperto’s staff realized it was a delicate moment in time and decides to follow a new strategy: in 1999, the turning-point in the Festival’s idea was materialized in the innovative form of the “workshop-festival”. In the new phase the leadership was passed on to Juan Lombana, as musical director, and Leonardo Cantelli, as organizational and art director. The new formula was simple but original: on the one hand are young artists selected through auditions during the transition phase from academic studies and artistic career, and, on the other are professional artists in the capacity of teachers. The result is a preparation which goes far beyond purely technical aspects and is orientated towards performing. Pergine Spettacolo Aperto concentrates on education and, in a first phase, mostly musical productions, while, later, activities based on the interaction between music, theatre and dance. Between 1999 and 2005 Pergine Spettacolo Aperto’s workshops produced 29 performances which involved musicians, dancers, band members, actors, choir members, and singers for a total of almost 1300 people. Moreover, several programs in collaboration with music conservatories, academies, theatre companies, and cultural bodies were developed. The Lombana-Cantelli direction ended in 2004 and the next year the leadership was given once more to Juan Lombana in collaboration, this time, with Mimma Gallina. In 2006, Cristina Pietrantonio joined the leadership, which became a committee direction.

The return to Pergine: the Art of being “out”. This is the slogan which inaugurated Pergine Spettacolo Aperto’s new course. In 2007, the art direction was assigned to Cristina Pietrantonio, who works on administrative and organizational aspects and on repositioning the Festival by carrying out a program offering a combination of innovative cultural proposals and highly appealing activities for the public. Pergine is proud of having gained back the former Psychiatric Hospital, an “uncomfortable” place. The role Pergine Spettacolo Aperto has decided to give itself is that of a medium, an intermediary that allows the past to reemerge and interact with the present. The Festival does this in two ways: firstly through a program offering multidisciplinary performances on the themes of deviance, unease and marginality, and, more generally, characterized by a type of creativity with indefinite borders and secondly by giving new life to the spaces of the former Psychiatric Hospital.
The Festival also has a second—more traditional—section; it is called “PeM PergineMusica” and organizes musical theatre performances, which usually take place inside the tent theatre. Productions, co productions, workshops, and projects which aim at supporting young artists are the elements that characterize Pergine Spettacolo Aperto: a multifaceted festival that acts as bridge between past and present and, after 35 years, is still transforming itself and growing.