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The New Decameron(s) of our Time

While Italy blockaded its regions due to the threat of Coronavirus in March 2020, the Deutsches Theater in Berlin continued to offer sold out performances inspired by the famed collection of 100 novels entitled “The Decameron”. This portrayal of Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio’s fourteenth century masterpiece was led by Russian director Kirill S. Serebrennikov. 

In the original novelle, ten young people (seven women and three men) take refuge in a villa outside Florence to escape the Black Death in the city. Over the course of fourteen days, they take turns telling stories to pass the time and share a much-needed sense of common humanity.

Like the Florentine youth of Boccaccio’s narratives, the Deutsches Theater actors - ten Russian and German artists - revive ten tales of the Decameron into an almost TV-like series. Love stories in quarantine times are displayed on the Berlin stage revealing an almost prophetic insight to our futures. After centuries filled with suspicion, conviction, and censorship, Boccaccio's Decameron continues to resonate in the present time.

The Decameron is also the title of a new ongoing project of the “Triennale Milano”, an international art and design exhibition. This display offers a varied list of multimedia artists invited to ‘gather together virtually’ and tell - like Boccacio’s protagonists - new stories day after day live on the Triennale’s Instagram channel. These stories are made with words, music, songs, gestures and movements. While our lives are on hold during the contagion, the arts offer an opportunity for reflection and inspiration.

Here is a short clip from the Triennale Decameron, Quattrox4 Circus Laboratory.

It is without a doubt that The Decameron continues to be a culturally valid and educational fable. It compels us to rethink the present, then as it does today, through new forms of encounter, of common humanity and perhaps through a pinch of necessary utopia.


(Painting: Decamerone by Raffaello Sorbi)

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