Paolo Rossi, a storyteller and his “artistic revolution”


By John

If Homer was a storyteller (and he was), Paolo Rossi is his prophet. Seeing is believing: Tuesday 1 August the actor will be the protagonist in the Greek theater of Tindari of “Odyssey, a Mediterranean tale – Stand up Homer”, a long-running project by Sergio Maifredi (also director) for the Ligurian public theatre. Every time Rossi, accompanied on the guitar by Emanuele Dell’Aquila, adds and removes following the reactions of the public, fully involved in the events of Ulysses, even if an important part is always reserved for the difficult relationship between the Greek hero and the sorceress Circe. On this occasion, which is part of the poster of the Tindari Festival (art direction by Tindaro Granata), the suggestion of the Homeric verses is enriched by that of the Sicilian places, which form the backdrop to the adventures of the long journey back from Troy of the king of Ithaca.
«I believe that in this historical moment – Rossi tells us – the theater has even more the advantage of being unrepeatable every time. A show like this is never the same. There is a trace but everything evolves according to the interaction with the public. Other than Netflix! It will not be a coincidence that we always shoot with a full house».
So improvisation as a rule.
“That’s right. I was lucky enough to have learned from the real greats. My best teachers were Enzo Jannacci, a great improviser (much more than Fo, for example) and Giorgio Gaber, who improvised less but was very good at using music. I say that the musicians who work with me are an acrobatic team, even when it’s just one: they start a song and then move on to something completely different. Because I made my apprenticeship in the Milanese clubs of the past, now it is no longer used ».
You always sing in your shows and then you even found yourself competing at the Sanremo Festival.
«It’s true, even if I’m not a singer, if anything a storyteller. I’ve been to Sanremo with Jannacci, with Bersani and recently with Lo Stato Sociale and it went well. But when I went as a competitor on my own, it ended differently».
Yes, it was 2007, and she sang “In Italia si sta male”, an unreleased song by Rino Gaetano.
«It was an unfinished song, perhaps it would have been better to present it out of competition, as a tribute to the memory of Gaetano. And then, I confess, I didn’t understand anything about how televoting worked. In the ranking of the jury I was fourth, then I recommended to my friends to call and vote for me. They did it but the “friends” of the record companies were 15,000 at a time. I think I finished second to last.”
And he has always done a lot of cinema.
«Since I’ve lived in Trieste, the cinema has been passing through here more and more often: I’ve shot four films in two years. The most challenging thing about cinema is finding a chair to spend the long waits between one take and another. Do you know who taught me to feel good in front of the camera?».
A director I guess.
«No, it was Stefania Sandrelli. You know, I have a funny body and a dramatic face, I mustn’t forget that and find a way to be credible. That is, I have to be very natural but always keeping in mind in a corner of the brain that someone is watching me. That’s the secret.”
In the past you have been censored on TV. What could happen to you today with this Rai?
«As far as I can see, today many songs by De Andrè or Gaber could not be performed. Perhaps even Cocciante with his “Now sit down!” would be censored. I don’t argue, but I’m incorrect when I have to be. This is also why I prefer the theatre, the place of social relations. Here you can always make an artistic revolution. I started many years ago with the demolition of the “fourth wall” and I have continued overcoming fears and tiredness. Even in the Covid period ».
But everything was still.
«Not me, I did shows in the courtyards of Milanese banisters with people separated by five meters and I circumvented the rigid protocols by inventing, in safety, guided tours of the rehearsals. The intelligence of Ulysses taught me many things»