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Tyrol or Not Tyrol

Theatre as History in Südtirol/Alto Adige


Nóra de Buiteléir

On 19 June 1992 Austria and Italy declared the official resolution of the South Tyrol question – the dispute that had dominated relations between the two countries since the end of the First World War. While this bilingual province is today held up as a triumph of minority rights protection and a model for post-conflict societies across the world, the story of the South Tyrol since its amalgamation into the Italian state in 1919 has been a complex and often turbulent one.
This book investigates the political role of the theatre in reflecting, shaping and subverting patterns of cultural identity among the German-speaking South Tyrolese. Taking as its starting point the representation of history in a series of ambitious theatrical productions from the 1970s to the present, this study offers close readings of texts and performances and an examination of the belated development of professional theatre in the province. The role of theatre is analysed in terms of the broader historical and sociocultural factors at play in the shaping of South Tyrolese identity.


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On 15 July 1923 Senator Ettore Tolomei delivered his 32-point plan for the denationalization of the Upper Adige. The recommendations laid out in Tolomei’s programme, including the establishment of Italian as the sole of ficial language of the province, the Italianization of German place and family names, the removal of the statue of Walther von der Vogelweide from the central square of Bolzano and the outright banning of the six- hundred-year-old name Tirol, were to have a massive ef fect on the course of South Tyrolese history. The location chosen for the speech tells its own story. Tolemei addressed his fascist colleagues in the main auditorium of the municipal theatre in Bolzano, a building commissioned by the German- speaking Mayor of the city shortly before the war and requisitioned by the new administration as an Italian opera house a decade later. Right from the beginning then, theatre and political history in the modern South Tyrol have been virtually inextricable. Ettore Tolomei is long dead; his skeletal remains were obliterated by a bomb attack on his grave in the late 1970s. Today the land he dreamt of Italianizing is self-confident and thriving, a multilingual semi-autonomous province with a special status within the Italian Republic, a political and economic success story frequently held up as a triumph of minority rights protection and a model for post-conf lict societies across the world. On 19 June 1992 Austria and Italy approached the United Nations to declare the South Tyrolese question, the dispute that had...

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