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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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CHAPTER 6 Andreas Hofer Rides Again


How far can the theatre blast a myth out of existence?1 — Hermann Staf f ler, 2008 The year 2009 marked the bicentenary of the single most celebrated moment in Tyrolese history. In the summer of 1809 a small Tyrolese army under the command of the innkeeper Andreas Hofer defeated the com- bined might of the French and Bavarian Napoleonic forces at Bergisel near Innsbruck. Their victory was short-lived. Betrayed by one of his own, or so the story goes, Hofer was arrested a year later and executed by firing squad. If Bergisel has taken its place among so many other nation-building sites of European history – the Teutoburg Forest, the fields of Bannockburn, the GPO – then Hofer remains to this day the closest either the North or more particularly the South Tyrolese have to a national hero. It is fitting then, that this survey of modern South Tyrolese theatre concludes with an examination of the recent resurgence of interest in this near-mythical figure. Writing in 1984, Josef Feichtinger suggested the existence of at least eighty Hofer plays.2 Twenty-five years later, Ekkehard Schönwiese puts the figure closer to two hundred.3 Over the centuries, the story of Hofer’s short-lived triumph, betrayal and execution has seen multiple refittings, recast as more Catholic, more pro-Habsburg, more anti-French or less 1 ‘Wie weit kann das Theater einen Mythos fertigmachen?’ Hermann Staf f ler inter- viewed by Christine Helfer in Südtiroler Theaterzeitung, Nr. 2, 2008, p. 7. 2 Josef Feichtinger, Tirol 1809 in...

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