Popular Theatre in Naples: The Sceneggiata

Raffaele Furno


The theatre genre of the sceneggiata originated in Naples, Southern Italy, at the beginning of the twentieth century in proletarian neighbourhoods located in the city centre. The key aspects of the sceneggiata were its hybrid format made of popular music and spoken drama, its highly melodramatic tone, and the overlap of the staged plots with the daily experiences of its intended low-income audience. This essay analyses the aesthetic and socio-anthropological implications of the sceneggiata for popular culture in Italy from the 1920s to the late 1970s, both in live theatre and cinema. In this article the author reveals that the multiple layers of meaning the genre conveyed show that, beyond its seemingly entertaining nature, the sceneggiata narrated in depth the social, cultural and gender dynamics of Naples. Raffaele Furno is a theatre director and Professor of Performance Theory and Theatre History in the College of Global Studies, Arcadia University, Rome.

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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303