Benigni gets serious with Dante

Roberto Benigni will be making one appearance tomorrow evening in the Peloponnesian city of Patras in a stage performance that is part of the city’s ongoing celebrations as European Capital of Culture. The award-winning actor and director is slated to perform the 26th canto from Dante’s «Inferno» of the «Divine Comedy,» in which Dante and Virgil climb the rock-face on all fours to the eighth ridge, where the fraudulent ones who have used their intelligence for political advantage through craft and deceit are punished. The first actor to win an Oscar for a non-English role (for «La Vita e Bella,» which received three Oscars from seven nominations) and one of a handful to win for a film which he himself directed, Benigni went from being a darling of Italian comedy to a world favorite of the big screen. Starting as an apprentice street magician, Benigni first took to the stage in the early 1970s and met with success in 1975 with Giuseppe Bertolucci’s «Cioni Mario fu Gaspare di Giulia.» He was also well known in Italy at that time for performing a controversial skit on a television show and later for outrageous acts of defiant comedy. His career as a screen actor took off again with Bertolucci and he moved to the United States in the early 1980s, where he soon formed a steady collaboration with filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, acting in his films «Down by Law» (1986), «Night on Earth» (1991) and «Coffee and Cigarettes» (2003). Benigni did not restrict himself to playing in front of the camera, however; he has shown that he is a talented hand behind it as well, directing «The Tiger and the Snow» (2005), «Pinocchio» (2003), «La Vita e Bella» (1997), «Il Mostro» (1994) and «Johnny Stecchino» (1991), among others. His performance in the Roman Odeon of Patras marks his return to the stage after a 10-year absence. Tickets for the performance are available at the Patras 2006 kiosks around the city, online at, at all Virgin Megastores around the country and by phone on tel 801.100.500 (land line) and 211.955.9900 (mobile). Tickets cost 30 euros; 15 for students.

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