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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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The purpose of this study has to been to establish explicit links between the ways in which the South Tyrol regards its own history and creates its own theatre. In doing this I have sought to highlight how episodes and individuals from the past have been defined and redefined both on the pro- fessional and the non-professional stage, how taboos have been established and eventually been broken, how fictional encounters have been presented as a means of challenging the consensus and encouraging fresh historical perspectives. These productions and performances have illustrated a range of political positions embraced not only by the theatre-makers themselves but by the critics who welcomed or rejected them, by the cultural policy makers who decided whether or not to pay for them, and of course by hundreds of thousands of individual theatregoers who had to decide on each occasion whether to go along with the experience or whether to spend their time and money elsewhere. The dozen or so productions examined in detail in this study cover a broad historical range, from Michael Gaismair to Alexander Langer, from annexation to autonomy. My attempt to map theatre history onto social and political history has inevitably had its limitations. Five minutes spent browsing the history section of any South Tyrolese bookshop will confirm that two of the most perennially popular episodes in the history of the province, the bombing years of the 1950s and 1960s and soldiers’ experiences on the Dolomite front in the First World War, have...

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