The Maggi

Place:

42030 Villa Minozzo

Municipality:

VILLA MINOZZO
Piazza della Pace, 1, 42030 Villa Minozzo (RE)
0522 801122, 0522 801359
urp@comune.villa-minozzo.re.it
www.comune.villa-minozzo.re.it

Typology:

Popular Portrayal recognized on a national level.
High-level, theatrical representation with songs and époque costumes: The Maggi

Historical Origins:

Historical origins
The welcoming performances for Spring and the fertility rites, occupy noteworthy room and importance in the history of popular culture. Even though they are now reduced to small archaic islands in popular culture today, they still have significance which they manage to express in spite of the context of current life, which tends to annul ever more any human value. A few of these surviving ritual performances of welcome for the spring season take place in May now, with a celebration for the re-flowering of the trees with which the return of the nice season is identified, now with collecting of alms and a procession (such as the lyric "Maggi" of Emilia Romagna and Tuscany), or with an open-air theater performance, such as the dramatic "Maggi" of the Tuscan - Emilian Apennines. Even though these have progressively lost over the years their ritual elements, which have been taken over increasingly by performance characteristics and reach their climax with summer shows. Today, in fact, the month of August, with the "Ferragosto" holiday, constitutes the peak of interest for this type of event: once again, as was once a happy part of each holiday or Sunday, the mountain families would all join together: the factories, the building sites of the north are closed and the holidays lead the immigrants back to their hometown. Particular songs dedicated to the month of May and to Spring are found in popular traditions of any town, just as they are easily traceable in various parts of Italy: from Sardinia to Sicily, to Calabria and therefore, following an itinerary marked by the Apennine ridge, up to Piedmont, in the areas of Monferrato and Canavese. Tuscany, in the period of Magnifico (Welcome to May and the wild gonfalon", in particular, it was the land where the "Maio" set down its deepest roots. The song of May which is identified in the typical May (as opposed to the dramatic or epic May), as it has reached us today, presents itself in two versions (according to the day and the purpose of the singing) which give origin to Sacred May and Profane May.
Sacred May, also called "of the Souls" is sung the first Sunday of May. A few singers accompanied by accordion, guitar and violin players go around the streets of the town singing and begging: in fact, the purpose of singing the May "of Souls" is to collect offerings for a Mass offered for the souls of the deceased. The profane May, instead, also called "of the girls" which takes place between the night of April 30th and May 1st, has the purpose of propitiating the coming of the good season. Here to, a group of singers accompanied by accordion, a Violin and guitar, walk the streets of the town singing a serenade in honor of spring ("Here is bright May/that noble month/which spurs heroic deeds/from our hearts"). A few particular strophes are sung under the windows of young girls: this is the "embassy". These chants remain unaltered over the years: other verses instead, these too sung, change at each performance; they are the "respects" dedicated to the various families of the town. From these two forms of these May songs, whose origin is found in the archaic matrix of fertility rites, has derived the dramatic or epic May, influenced, certainly also by other dramatic forms such as the sacred representations. May, one of the most vivid realities of popular culture today, is a performance that, more than 200 years ago found its stable seat in Tuscany, which then spread along the ridges of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines touching the Modena area, the Reggio area and the area around Parma. This popular expression later on underwent modifications and evolutions during its diffusion process, carried out by seasonal immigrants of Emilia who re-entered their homes through the ancient roads of Vandelli and Giardini (the only roads which in the 18th century passed through the Apennines), after months spent working in Tuscan territory in the Garfagnana area, or near Lucca, Versililia reaching as far as Elba island at times. Today "May" is a proper performance which consists of a versed representation with music. The topic of the script is left to imaginary themes which are inspired, at times by historical events. The actors (called "Maggianti" is Tuscany, "Maggerini" in Emilia), like the authors, of this form of popular theater, are inhabitants (farmers, workers, artisan, shepherds) of the towns of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines where the "Maggi" are represented. Once in these towns the May song was the only form of performance entertainment, which did not end however on the day of the recital, but kept the entire town bound during the whole year: the most complicated plots, the most extraordinary and fantastic characters, the nicest landscapes, the best interpreters were the topic of conversation in the taverns, in the barns during the long waking hours of winter.
The May song, spreading from Tuscany to Emilia, modified and underwent evolutions that can still be easily seen in the various shows. In Emilia, today only in the areas of Reggio and Modena, the performance is more dynamic, though still maintaining evident muted matrixes from Tuscany. Perhaps there is also major interest regarding the May song, as is shown by the many authors who continue to write scripts even today, unlike Tuscany. In Emilia each actor has his own costume which he uses in each performance and it will accompany him throughout the course of his acting career in the May song. The costumes belong to the actors or the company, which here, for the most part, although having different organizational stages, group together the May song singers from the towns where today still, the May tradition continues........They are of black velvet: a jacket with a short cape, horse-riding pants, long socks. On the black of the velvet coats of arms and vivaciously colored designs stand out.
A helmet with feather, an iron sword and a shield complete the costume of the May singer of Emilia. The duels are fought with a push of the shields to each assault. The acting depends on gestures which are essential components of the scenic action. The scripts are written in quatrains of octane verses to which the sonnets of the most pathetic moments are alternated with octaves, with polka, "Mazurea". Almost everywhere the length of the script is about 2 1/2, 3, or 3 1/2 hours long. At one time they lasted various hours even lasting all afternoon, justified by the fact that May was the only type of entertainment around.

Testimonials:

Background Information:
The May song is exclusively a creation of the people in all its aspects. The author is a common man, a rustic muse who interprets the feelings, the passions, the ideals of his people; the actors give life, form to all this, while the people - spectators - actors actively contribute to the success of the perfect animation of its warriors of tin and cardboard. So far we've spoken mostly from a critics point of view, but the May song for the people is another thing altogether. Getting involved in critical observations about origins, development and values makes one lose sight of what the May song is for the people. To go to the May song is not like going to the theater or the movies. The may song is a collective feast like the Patron of the parish. The comparison with ancient Greece, where the people participated an entire day in theatrical performances is automatic. This participation had a rite-like character. The same goes for the May song participation, from the smallest to the oldest. It is the entire community of mountain centers which gathers together for festivities. I think that the proper word is exactly this, a festival of sun, scent, of light and in the middle of all of this a serious and committed game, which reflects one's proper life in its most profound aspirations.
(Walter Cecchelanì, Degree thesis, AA.VV., 1966 - 67)

Last update: June 13, 2022