To mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, Milan-based theatre producer Julia Holden, in collaboration with award-winning UK playwright Justin Butcher, is curating a 24-hour marathon live reading in Florence of the whole of the Divine Comedy, in the acclaimed English translation by Robert and Jean Hollander.
The Speaking Dante event will take place with a live audience and live-streamed, with contributors including Ralph Fiennes, Helen Mirren, Adjoa Andoh, Jessie Buckley, Dominic West, Stephen Dillane, Rupert Everett, Ian McDiarmid, Tim McInnerny and John Nettles, and a team of top UK and international theatre professionals. It’s a fitting tribute to the Florentine poet’s astonishing legacy and the enduring power of The Divine Comedy.
Speaking Dante will be hosted and live-streamed by the Cinema La Compagnia, in partnership with the Teatro della Pergola, the City of Florence, The British Institute in Florence and The Florentine, from 7pm CET on Monday, September 13 to 7pm CET on Tuesday, September 14.
700 years ago, Dante fled his home city of Florence, a refugee from civil war and political persecution.
I have travelled like a stranger, almost like a beggar, through virtually all the regions to which this tongue of ours extends, displaying against my will the wound of fortune … Truly I have been a ship without sail or rudder, blown … by the dry wind that painful poverty blows.
—Dante Alighieri, Convivio, circa 1304-07
In these years of exile, Dante’s Divine Comedy was conceived. 700 years on, his epic narrative poem continues to grip the imagination of artists, composers, film-makers, writers and academics across the world. Translated into more than 100 languages, The Divine Comedy stands alongside the Bible and the works of Homer and Shakespeare as one of the ultimate pillars of literary creation in human history. A dream-journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven undertaken by the poet Dante himself, guided by the Roman poet Virgil, in 100 cantos of some of the most sublime poetry ever written.
Helen Mirren and Ralph Fiennes are just two of the actors participating in the live reading broadcast from Florence
Echoing the theme of exile in Dante’s life and work, Speaking Dante will be a charity fundraising event, with all proceeds going to support projects working with refugees and migrants in Italy, specifically in Florence. The charity partner is the Community of Sant’Egidio, whose pioneering work supporting refugees and migrants in Italy includes the Schools of Language & Culture, the Humanitarian Corridors Project, the Genti di Pace (People of Peace) project and work with the Roma people. As a celebration of the first great work of Italian literature written in the vernacular, Speaking Dante will raise funds for the Schools of Language & Culture, Community of Sant’Egidio, Florence, an empowering project enabling refugees and migrants to learn the Italian language and engage with Italian culture. The founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio is the internationally renowned academic, politician and human rights activist, Professor Andrea Riccardi, who is also the current president of Società Dante Alighieri.
Speaking Dante: a 24-hour live reading marathon
Tickets are available from the Cinema La Compagnia box office (+39 055 268451) or online here