Theatre Performances
      Ada, a family chronicle

a production by
Fanny & Alexander
La Rose des Vents-Scène Nationale de Villeneuve d’Ascq
Ravenna Festival
Festival delle Colline Torinesi
Espace Malraux-Scène Nationale de Chambéry et de la Savoie

with the collaboration of
Cineteca di Bologna
TTV Festival and Premio di Produzione Riccione TTV
Santarcangelo dei Teatri
Accademia Perduta / Romagna Teatri

with a contribution from
Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ravenna
Romagna Acque - Società delle Fonti Spa
Hera Ravenna

with the patronage of
Regione Emilia-Romagna
Provincia di Ravenna
Comune di Ravenna
Comune di Bagnacavallo

      presentation | the episodes

The project sets out from Nabokov’s novel Ada or ardour and aims to investigate two parallel courses: on the one hand the incestuous love between sister and brother Ada and Van, pursued throughout an entire existence, a kaleidoscopic and parodistic garden of delights always postulated but never truly concluded, an epic of betrayal, of the triangle, of amorous synaesthesia, an existence-masterpiece that is without time, a four-handed autobiography which runs out with the death of the two characters; and on the other hand the subterranean, hidden course taken by the reader-spectator with regard to the work, his mirror-images, his points of view, the traps set for him, his sinking into the work, into literature and its detachments, its betrayals…

  Forms of representation  

Given the length of the novel (the most baroque and complex one by Nabokov) and the numerous layers it contains, we decided not to pack it into a single composition but to identify six episodes or nodal moments, originating six performances conceived for different venues and spaces, two of which have already been staged.

Every episode of this chronicle is independent itself and there is no need of a temporal sequence to compulsorily connect them. This kind of absolute freedom and flexibility of the show corresponds to the strategy of Nabokov’s prose itself: the vibrating independence of every single part, cohabiting with the obsessive recurrence of fundamental models and structural symmetries. In fact, both this family chronicle and Fanny & Alexander’s show entwine a continuous ironical and parodistical game on literary genres and artistic forms.

  The novel  

Ada is a novel based on the concept of artistic creation as a representation of one’s own peculiar existence.

It is a family chronicle, the memory of an incestuous relationship between two brothers, Ada and Van, who having reached an old age, evoke the ups and downs of their frequent dates and separations in the space of a geography becoming imaginary from time to time.

Van and Ada have been loving each other since their childhood, and their love will last forever. Their younger half-sister, Lucette, is always left out of their love games and constantly abandoned to frustration and to her solitary desperation.

Van and Ada sacrifice everything, even life itself (Lucette, light and other) in the name of art, or at least of their own peculiar notion of art – partly influenced by their notion of incest -, symbolized by the corner-stone of the events and idealized paradise of their love: Ardis. In Ada and Van’s relationship Lucette is a central figure; this complex triangle leads to the final sacrifice of Lucette, who will even loose her own life.

  The staging  

The idea of synaesthetic experience at the heart of Nabokov’s novel, which permits defining it as a rainbow work, is reproposed in the project through the construction of staging devices suitable for intimate places (homes or theatres) where the spectator may perceive the possibility of being absorbed, incorporated, and participate in the experience at first hand.

This sensation is backed up by the use of live music, by the spatialization of environmental sounds and the use of scores as close as possible to the concept of synaesthetic perception.

The dramaturgical work itself and the writing follow lines that are rhythmic and musical over and above narrative, so the actors, over and above being characters, are often neutral voices of the scores and intersect in the sound mosaic. If the essential part of an actor is the voice, then only the mouth will be seen, if the glance then only an eye etc.

Another nodal function consists of video and 16 mm film: actual reverberations of the memory, always partial and never used to deprive the other stage machine functions of their power. Rather they are actual echoes of evocation which anticipate, question and throw into crisis.


A series of episodes


The show Ada, a family chronicle is a series of eight cores or “dwellings”, so-called from the physical or mythical places characterizing them. They will take the form of show, performance, installation or lecture each time.

The idea is that every dwelling can be autonomously represented, but sometimes, at a festival or in particular organizational contexts, the dwellings can be kind of connected each other in a specific sequence considering the geography and architecture of the housing town.

This show develops through a research on art’s forms and synaesthetic power, poetically carried out by means of the relationship among music, theatre, visual arts and literature.

From the very beginning the dramaturgic theme is volcanic matter, where reality and fiction incessantly transmute one into the other, being reflected in a liquid and elusive way. This hall of mirrors involves both perception’s objects and subjects and the different artistic languages having been collected. The illusionistic attempt reflects on the crack between art and artifice, without neglecting the deceiving fascination of anamorphosis.

In the place where different artistic forms have fought side by side, there lies a kind of linguistic air pocket, a phonetic aphasia, an uncertain and shady visual perception, carried out by musicians, writers, actors, painters, photographers, filmmakers, make-up men and other craftsmen.


In the first core the main theme is the reconstruction of Ada and Van’s complicated family tree. Ada and Van, in the novel, have been at first introduced to us as cousins. This is simply the “official” truth, meant to hide a far more complicated one.

The twin sisters Aqua and Marina, married to the cousins Demon and Dan, have three children, or at least this is what we are apparently expected to believe: Aqua is Van’s mother, and Marina is Ada and Lucette’s one.

As a matter of fact, we will find out that Aqua has no children. Her only still-born son has been taken away and exchanged with an alive and kicking child, Van, who as a matter of fact is Marina and Demon’s adulterine son. Ada is the second child from this adulterous relationship, while Lucette is the legitimate daughter of Marina and her husband Dan.

The twin sisters Aqua and Marina are the main characters of the first core. Ardis I is Ada and Van’s amorous and childish Eden. Villa Venus, house of pleasure, is the place of mirrors and obsessively erotic references. Ardis II is the place of fierce jealousy. The Lucinda Museum is the place of blame and Lucette’s tragic fate. Vaniada is the mythical place of reciprocal millenary belonging.

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The episodes   Promenada | Vaniada | Lucinda Museum | Aqua Marina | Ardis I | Villa Venus | Ardis II | Rebus per Ada | Adescamenti | Speak, memory, speak | N, O, X
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