During the XVIII century, in the era of scientific thinking, at the dawn of modern psycology, the anthropological value of theatre was discovered. Theatre was considered as a vehicle of knowledge of the human nature and the actor was once again put at the centre of a conception of the stage as a “laboratory of soul and emotions”. Acting gained the status of liberal Art, but writing didn’t lose its leadership. Between XIX and XX century, free from the rule of literature, theatre “redefined” itself. The overcoming of Naturalism – that dominated since the last quarter of the XIX century – is also the overcoming of the traditional relation between literature and theatre (so says von Hermann in Das Archiv der Buehne, 2005), that will lead to the theatrical experimentation of the XX century. Thanks to the development of the human sciences (psychiatry, psychoanalisis and neurology) and that of the alternative sciences and technological media, in relation with the evolution of the philosophical thinking, between XIX and XX century the esthetic of theatre – especially acting - went from a literary-psycological approach to a physiologycal one. The idea of a body that only delivers words was put in question in favour of the idea of a body that “speaks for itself”. The psychological-verbal level, that was characteristic of the European theatre since the second half of the XVIII century, gave space to the physical-physiological level, and the debate on acting, that in XVIII century was centered on the dialectic between emotional and anti-emotional, at the beginning of XX century became centered on the dialectic between hypnotic suggestion and psychophysical activity. The former represents the evolution of the emotional aesthetic in acting of the ‘700, in which empathy is replaced with an hypnotic state (at the end of the XIX century hypnosis becomes an official science); the latter represents the evolution of the anti-emotionalism that will lead to Mejerchhol’d’s work and that is based on the conception of a physical movement free from the dominance of the meaning of the Word. The essay analyses the first of the two trends, developed mainly in the city of Vienna fin de siècle, thanks especially to critic and writer Hermann Bahr. Influenced by the zeitgeist, Bahr defined his concept of modern acting, focusing in particular on the great Italian actors of that time (Ermete Novelli and Eleonora Duse among others), including Italy in a debate from which it would have been otherwise excluded.


Sonia Bellavia insegna Discipline dello Spettacolo alla Sapienza, Università di Roma. Ha scritto saggi e articoli sul teatro tedesco e italiano di sette, otto e novecento. È autrice delle monografie: Le rappresentazioni shakespeariane di Ernesto Rossi sulla scena tedesca (Roma, Bulzoni, 2000); L’Ombra di Lear. Il ‘Re Lear’ di Shakespeare e il teatro italiano, 1858 -1995 (Roma, Bulzoni, 2004); La lezione di Friedrich Ludwig Schröder (Acireale -Roma, Bonanno, 2010). soniabellavia@gmail.com


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