Asti, the birthplace of Vittorio Alfieri, has a bond with the theater that we could define as genetic.
A name that testifies to this symbiosis is that of Eugenio Guglielminetti, one of the most important Italian set designers of the twentieth century.
His activity coincides with the history of the Republic itself, with hundreds of sets designed for the major Italian and world theaters (his collaborations extended as far as the USA and Argentina) from 1946 until 2006, the year of his death.
Among the museums of Asti, there is this curious underground itinerary where the models of his most important stage designs are kept.
It is a singular journey, because it allows us to look at the stages in miniature, a privileged angle to understand the planning thought behind the scenographic realization.
From archetype to reality and back again
From the iconic and minimalist stage of the Greek tragic theater, the setting up of the scenic space in history has acquired more and more importance until, since the Renaissance, scenography and art have practically gone hand in hand, in a progressive evolution of figurative skill and technology, in the constant search for the representation of reality.
As in the case of painting, the twentieth century was a turning point: a more daring formal research and a progressive abandonment of realism also led scenography to experimentation and abstraction.
It is almost a reconciliation with the original spirit of Greek tragic theater, whose goal was not to bring reality on stage, but to touch the public’s unconscious through the archetypes of myth.
The models and the sculptures.
In Eugenio Guglielminetti’s underground Museum you can breathe in all the experimentation of contemporary art, applied to scenographic technique (and technology).
The master ranges between styles, drawing on the emotional temperature of the works that will be staged on those stages.
For representing the restless genius of Alfieri, the space is fragmented in vivid colors, as in a painting of Kandinsky; dystopian environments inspired by the Metaphysics of De Chirico welcome the sixteenth-century comedy of Giordano Bruno; Moliere’s “The Miser” is pure Cubism.
The forms suggest emotions to the spectator that are complementary to the rationality of the text and the recitation, helping him to access that emotional and unconscious dimension that is the very essence of the contemporary theatrical experience.
It is no coincidence that, alongside the many stage models (many more than those mentioned in this article), the so-called “material” works stand out: abstract sculptures in which the artist experiments with the suggestion that pure form unconsciously arouses in the observer: contortions, vertical hyperbolas, but also rigor and structural solidity. They are models from which to draw inspiration for the continuous formal scenographic research.
After visiting it, you will understand that the Guglielminetti Museum is not really a museum, but an evocative room of archetypes: it has the voyeuristic fascination of the intrusion into the study of genius, where the great magic of theater is born from the simple gesture of a hand.