Now we are forced to go back to the text printed in Turin on 1728, a copy of which is kept, together with other texts, among which another edition of the same text printed in Venice on 1780, in the Historical Archive of the Associazione Teatro Popolare di Sordevolo, together with other documents, one of which is another edition of the same document printed in Venice in 1780.
Does the presence of this text mean it is the one the Passione di Sordevolo comes from?
Surely it is a challenging clue, before of all as Orsi, member of the audience during the performance dated April 12th, 1891, writes a book entitled “La Passione di Sordevolo” and asserts that edition played in Sordevolo is the one printed in Turin, and this one shows some light variations to the first roman edition.
Opinion also confirmed by Marini on 1904.
Another dramatist, theatre critic and journalist, Renato Simoni, makes in the 1934 the opposite conjecture, that is the text printed in Turin coming from Sordevolo.
This last hypothesis brings us back to the words written by Orsi at the beginning of the a.m. work: since a long time ago this village (Sordevolo) perpetuates the tradition of the sacred drama, whose origin cannot be surely ascertained; but without any doubt we can affirm it is aged several centuries.
These words are strongly denied by Marini.
Now there’s another question: Is the text really the one issued in Turin in the year 1728?
Having examined the text followed in Sordevolo, both Manza on 1954 and Gasparetto on 2000 agree there are several and strong differences between the two.
Without a philological rebuilding of the text, surely interesting, the conclusion made by the two scholars is “The Passione di Sordevolo is the same one played in Rom during the XVI century by the Compagnia del Gonfalone in the Colosseum.
Gasparetto writes these Turin changes are generally an advantage for incisivity and rythm of the play and let us suppose they’re a suggesting link with the old texts played in Colosseum.
Manza, she too persuaded of a tie with the original version played in Rom, referring to the performances she saw at her time, adds: “It is still a probative element, and with a certain importance in favour of our hypothesis, the anachronistic presence of the “dark hooded people” (in Sordevolo known as “Pilgrims”, their presence was cancelled since 1970) during the last scenes of the Passione di Sordevolo: death and burial of Christ. In-fact the most important Devotions brought in Colosseum were two: the play of the Passion of Christ and the processions of the Maundy Thursday. Therefore the Devotion in Sordevolo becomes, in its last scenes, a visual synthesis of feelings referred by those old members of the audience in Rom during the Holy Week; and in this way ‘its several times centennial antiquity’ argued by Orsi is defended”.
And so we go back to the question: Who has brought in Sordevolo the text of the Passion? Some authors made a first hypothesis, asserting the Passion was introduced in Sordevolo by the Trappist in the last years of the XVIII century. In consequence of the researches I made in order to write “La Storia della Trappa” I can exclude this idea. At first as they were strict enclosed monks with no possibility to get in touch with other people; then as they could not have good relations with the local community due to the fact their presence in Sordevolo was imposed by the Savoy against the will of the Town Council.
Manza affirms an important rule could have been played by the Ambrosetti in consequence of their strong contacts with Turin and Rom.
By mean of the historian Valerio Castronovo, we certainly know they represent the most important family of Biella belonging to the upper class of wool manufacturers. Since 1691 they’re official supplier of wool cloth for the Savoy’s Army. They have contact with Rom, where they buy wool, but their importance spreads out only during the XVI and XVIII century. We can’t find their name in the “Elenco dei capi famiglia e proprietari d’immobili di Sordevolo nell’anno 1578” published by the historian of Sordevolo, Marco Neiretti.
But on the a.m. list we find the family Martano, their ancestor. And on the same list there are the Vercellono, later (XVII century) become Vercellone, another big family with an important rule in the history of Sordevolo, “originated from the upper middle class of professionals and civil/ecclesiastical bureaucrats” as Castronovo says.
On the same list we also find the Bruco or Brucco or Brucho yet, at first vassals of the Bishop in Vercelli, later officials by the Savoy State and at the end counts of Sordevolo.
All of them were families with wide contacts and frequentations.
We can also add the presence of the Girello family, builder, during the XVII century, of the Holy Trinity and S.Charles Oratory, where several valuable art works were kept. And we can still add the presence on the list of the family Petiva, able to get in touch with the Camaldolese monks in order to help their settlement in the St. Grato Oratory, eventually not happened because of the opposition of the local Council.
Therefore Sordevolo has many chances to relate in different periods with cultural and religious parties also if sometimes far from its area.
Manza, that at first backs the Ambrosetti hypothesis, without a complete evaluation of the time aspect, referring to the several occasions when in Rom the Devotions in Colosseum took place, widens the field of chances, writing “it is not unlikely that some pilgrims arrived in those years into the Flavio Theatre were from Sordevolo and that they brought back to their village, together with enthusiasm, also a desire of emulation”.
Finally we have not to forget the relationship of the local Brotherhoods with Rom.
Particularly important is the one of the St. Lucy Confraternity in Verdobbio.
On the relation made during the episcopal visit in 1731 is written that on November 29th, 1680 the Confraternity of Verdobbio joined the Arciconfraternita del Gonfalone in Rome, just the one of the Devotions in Colosseum. It was obviously not a sudden event; on the contrary the result of long lasting contacts. It is possible the Confraternities met through the drama of the Passion and then aggregated.
The brotherhood’s name St.Lucy, as well, is not casual, on the contrary bound to the Arciconfraternita del Gonfalone; in fact there were in Rom two churches strictly tied to it; the one, “St.Lucy of the Gonfalon”, also called “St.Lucy the new”; the other, the Oratory of the Gonfalon, built on the ruins of the old Church of St.Lucy, called “St. Lucy the old”.
The possible habitual visiting in Rom of the Sordevolo community has probably put it in the conditions to come into possession not only of the roman text of the “Passion”, but also to be acquainted of the scene plant. Therefore, referring to the analysis of the textual and scenic elements proposed by Gasparetto and Manza, we could assume that the first plays took place in Sordevolo already during the XVI century, when the visual images of the roman Devotions are very clear in the visitors’ eyes yet.
Nevertheless, as already told, a strong popular tradition in Sordevolo put the first play on 1816, in accordance with the date suggested by Marini.
But all what aforesaid let think that this powerful remembrance has a longer, but unfortunately unwritten, history so that we can agree with what Orsi wrote in 1892 about “the antiquity several time centennial” of the Passione di Sordevolo.
The text is extracted from the book “Sordevolo e la sua Storia” written by Giuseppe Silmo.