Russian actress and stage director Tatyana Pavlova successfully staged two of Maxim Gorky’s plays in Italy from 1926 through 1928. Those were The Lower Depths, themost famous play by Gorky, and Counterfeit Coin, a play he wrote in Sorrento; Tatyana Pavlova’s troupe played it for the first time. These productions are interesting mainly as attempts to follow the tradition of the Moscow Art Theater where The Lower Depths was staged for the first time in 1902. Maxim Gorky who was in Italy at a time participated in the staging of his play: he invited Tatyana Pavlova and her actors to his villa Galotti in Posillipo and read them the text of the play aloud, as had done it at the Moscow Art Theater. However, Pavlova’s performance did not simply reproduce the production of the Moscow Art Theater that contemporaries found too naturalistic. Pavlova’s performance impressed the audience with its mystical atmosphere instead. At the same time, the elements of the “new drama” that Gorky introduced in his play in the fashion of such early 20 th century playwrights, as Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg, and Maeterlinck, did not meet Italian public’s approval due to the popularity of Anton Giulio Bragaglia’s “theatrical theatre” that reigned on the Italian stage at that time. Absence of dramatic action, abundance of dialogues, no division of characters into main and secondary, and overload with secondary, minor episodes hindered, in the opinion of critics, the perception of the tragic content of The Lower Depths. The premiere of Pavlova’s performance took place in December 1926, and in December 1927, the same Valle theater in Rome hosted the tour of the Moscow Art Theater. This way Italian public was able to see and compare two outstanding performances. This comparison revealed the specificity of the “Russian soul,” its pessimism and fatalism, while the characters in Pavlova’s play were distinguished by a sharp understanding of their existential situation.
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