Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

Jan. 2011, 2014, 2019                                   

he Trianon Theater
- 2014 update - Forcella

These two entries appeared separately in the original version of the Around Naples Encyclopedia on the dates indicated and have been consolidated here onto a single page. The entry on Forcella is an introduction to the green box below it that contains an excerpt from Marius Kociejowski's The Serpent Coiled in Naples.

(1) directly below     (2) Forcella (here)

entry Sept. 2003
     1.         Trianon Theater

I am pleased to see that there is once again a theater devoted full-time to Neapolitan Music. The Trianon Theater takes its name from a village acquired in 1670 by Louis XIV and converted into a sort of pleasure garden annexed to the Palace of Versailles. The premises hosted an English Garden, a theater, fountains, and all those things necessary in the lives of Madame Pompadour and Marie Antoinette. 

The Trianon in Naples was less ambitious. It opened in 1911 for the express purpose of being a theater for local talent. Over the next few decades, it served Neapolitan playwrights, actors and musicians well. It thrived during the great age of vaudeville and then survived for a while as motion pictures swiftly took over show business. Like many theaters of its kind throughout the world, it finally closed and was converted into a cinema in 1947. 

The Trianon has now reopened over half a century later as a theater of Neapolitan Song. It has an impressive program of traditional Neapolitan plays and musicals, an art gallery, very good acoustics, and, soon, a permanent multimedia exhibit dedicated to Enrico Caruso. Much of the restructuring of the Trianon was supervised by musicologist, Roberto De Simone. The theater is located, appropriately, in a traditional part of town, Piazza Calenda, at the extreme eastern edge of the old historic center of Naples. That fact is attested to by the presence in the square of an excavated portion of the ancient Greek eastern wall of the city. In modern terms, it is only a block away from Piazza Garibaldi and the main train station.

Feb. 2010

The Trianon Theater (officially renamed some time ago the "Trianon Viviani" in honor of Raffaele Viviani, the Neapolitan playwright, has been attached by creditors. The theater is directed by Nino D’Angelo, noted actor and singer-songwriter and has 4,000 paid subscribers. It has been a few years since the theater reopened (see the above link) and from an artistic point of view it has been very successful in bringing a sense of social normalcy to a very difficult part of the city. It has been a light in that part of town—Forcella. If the theater closes, besides putting the actors in the company and the stage hands out of work, that light will go out, and that would be a shame.

update added: November 2014:

The Trianon theater closed recently and the situation is not good. This morning's paper (Nov. 29) carried an item about a letter sent to the office of the Naples Superintendent of Architectural Heritage by the mayor, Luigi de Magistris and head of the Naples Cultural Council, Nino Daniele, to request that the Superintendent intervene and take over the stewardship of the theater to block any attempt to close the theater permanently in order to turn it all in a supermarket! That is, indeed, the rumor that is floating around. The letter is essentially a long reminder of the historical importance of the Trianon theater (see first item on this page). It is the most historic surviving theater for traditional Neapolitan music and drama and is within the boundaries of  the UNESCO World Heritage site dedicated to the Historic Center of the city. We shall see.

added August 2019

2.   Forcella

The box (below) contains a small excerpt from Marius Kociejowski's forthcoming The Serpent Coiled in Naples, specifically from chapter 2, An Octopus in Forcella. That area, Forcella, is in the historic center, near where modern via Duomo intersects modern Corso Umberto, not far from Piazza Garibaldi and the main train station. One of the features of Forcella is the Trianon theater (see first entries, above). There is a small space in front of the theater that lets you look down on an excavated bit of a piece of ancient masonry, part of the old city wall of Neapolis. It is called the "Cippo of Forcella", cippo borrowed in English archeology as cippus, meaning a boundary marker or milestone. There is indeed an expression in Neapolitan, "Sta' cosa s'arricorda 'o Cipp' à Furcella", (This reminds you of the Cippo of Forcella) to mean simply "Man, that's old."

The name Forcella, itself, comes from the crest of the old area, the letter (Y), a so-called Pythagorean fork, (image in box, below) used here to represent a type of initiation or rite of passage
that is, at the branch-point of the Y, you choose in your life between right and wrong, good and evil. In Forcella that is still the choice one branch goes to good and the other to evil, the life of crime, still an integral fact of life in the area. You do not venture lightly into Forcella. Author Kociejowski does so well what he does in all of his books. He goes in and talks to people and gets their stories, bringing them to life in the vibrant prose of his "metaphysical journalism" (his term). This is a brief extract. (This stone crest Y shown below is in the Naples Diocese Museum.)

  This is a brief excerpt from the book The Serpent Coiled in Naples by Marius Kociejowski, soon to be published.

from Chapter 2

An Octopus in Forcella
Where I have my room, on Vico Scassacocchi, which is one of the oldest streets in Naples, my window on the fourth floor looks out onto what the architectural glossaries describe as a ‘light well’, too small to be a courtyard, too big to be a mere shaft, not enough space in which to take one’s repose in style, but sufficiently wide enough to be able to hang one’s laundry although three bed sheets would be one too many. It is too confined a space to be able to hold onto its daily ration of direct sunlight for more than a few minutes. The sun moves, the well’s in shade, my room darkens: this proves once and for all that Copernicus and, before him, Aristarchus of Samos, got it all wrong about the earth moving around the sun. This planet with all its woes is going nowhere.
At night, when I’m sleepless or else kept awake by the noise, the well fills up with disembodied voices. It is impossible to determine which direction the voices come from, whether ground level, the top floor or somewhere in the middle. The way the sound travels probably has something to do with the precise dimensions of that space. At midnight a man screams, clearly in a rage, though it is hard to know who his audience is, if in fact there is one, because there is never any response. He's done this several times and I detect trauma of some kind in his voice. A screaming woman one might hold close because she may just recover her equilibrium, if only for a while, but for the screaming man there is little hope because he hurtles through space forever … unreachable, unsaveable.
At 1.15 a.m. a child moans, then retches. I hear the flushing of a toilet, a mother’s consoling voice. Approaching 2 a.m., I listen to a couple, she in tears, he trying to console her though at times, judging by the exasperation in his voice, I think he’d rather throttle her. You could be fooled into thinking the way to love is through hate. What is so striking is that almost every other sentence of his ends on a musical phrase and I wonder whether this ability to shift from spoken to sung language is his alone. I conclude it is not, that it’s inside the language itself and that the darkness makes it all the more pronounced. This goes on for maybe half an hour or more, then there is silence for about twenty minutes, and then they make love. I detect in her weepy voice some resistance and then, finally, surrender.

What I hear is what everybody on every level of the building hears and tomorrow, when they pass each other on the stairs, A will ask B how her child is and both A and B will have a pretty good idea of the state of C and D’s marriage. As for the shouting man there’ll be a shrug of the shoulders because they already know that signor E has seen and experienced too much... 

- - - - - -

...As one emerges from the shadows of Vico Scassacocchi and, squinting a little, enters the sunlit market on Via Forcella what one sees on the other side of the street is the entrance to the mediaeval church of Sant’Agrippino and there, chiselled into the marble portal, is the Latin inscription


It's the old motto of Forcella  "We were born to do good."

These are the chapters in Marius Kociejowski's  [MK]The Serpent Coiled in Naples that currently have small excerpts on Naples, Life, Death & Miracles. There is also an extra item from MK.

Ch.1 - introduction -   Ch.2 - An Octopus in Forcella  (above) Ch.3 - Listening to Naples -    Ch.4 - Lake Averno -
Ch.5 - Street music - Ch.6 - Leopardi -   Ch.7 - Raimondo di Sangro   -  Ch.8 - Old Bones - Ch.9 - The Devil -
Ch.10- Signor Volcano  -  Ch.10(2) (3) - Ch.11- Pulcinella - Ch.12 - Boom Boom (2) - Ch.13- Two Women -
Ch.14- The Ghost PalaceCh.15- An Infintesimal Particle - (extra) Riccardo Carbone, photographer.

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