Via Asiago, 10
| CATALOGUE Nr..
||TWI CD AS 07 36
It was indeed time for Franca Valeri to have her own curtain call on radio. A curtain not torn but certainly a bit frayed at the edges, open to that type of humour that out of bitterness creates hilarity. A type of humour that some critics were wont to define as ‘low temperature’ – perhaps with reference to the ‘quip’, that is to say Cicero’s ‘frigida verba’ – but there can be no doubt that to hear once more all her radio voices, one after the other, has a certain effect.
The extraordinary museum of women created by Franca Valeri begins in the 40s and reaches till today. An irresistible vade-mecum through which she has mocked the vices and snobberies of bourgeois life, utilising haughtiness and stratagems and de facto becoming a humorist for intellectuals that is liked by the masses. What is the recipe behind this exhibition of characters? Inventiveness, for sure, but also the ability to describe tics dressed up as ambitions, sketch roles and combinations that make of appearance a way of life. Let’s take her masterpiece, Miss Snob. As all true snobs, with her impatient desire for ascent she does not just hide a base desire of small ambition toward her origins, but also another sentiment, almost of veneration and true love for the ‘world’ and the people that in that ‘world’ move at their ease. Her idea of young ladies are those that give a name to a rose, that have always spent their holidays in a tower, who speak French to the dog, have a ghost in the castle, a long-haired dachshund with a family tree, that go to Finland to chase after musk oxen, and who end up agitating themselves among those ladies seated in the front row of national life and in close contact with the international world that counts.
From the very beginning, Franca Valeri, a girl from a very good family, rejected by the Accademia di Arte Drammatica (a highly prestigious drama school), poses herself as the other side of the coin to the majorettes and the pizza girls and in any case all that which was big in cinema and in the theatre. As of the post-war years, her stage is the radio, where, music lover but also already director and set designer, she manages to impose incredible concentrations of style. A radio artist with an extremely acute spirit of observation, author of moralistic taste put pungent; Franca Valeri shows herself to be brilliant at filtering custom within a society that floats, insolent and ostentatious, in a sea of debt. She is courted by cinema, where she soon makes her mark, she does not give up theatre, contended and sought after by one and all, highly popular on TV, she shows a particular predilection for radio. In contrast with theatre’s tendency toward the abstract, caused probably by the way ‘recited’ language prevails, Franca Valeri’s radio develops, as the main characteristic of her style, a tendency towards the concrete. Her monologues constitute confirmation of the fact that the words of radio are the most coloured, plastic, those that evoke an image rather than recall a concept. Her radio closely follows a lexical development, adopting with guarded liberality neologisms and exoticisms, largely drawn from the language of the various circles she dealt with.
Her gallery of women is a compendium of style and class on radio. It begins in the early 50s, with her ‘personal exhibition’, then to go on to a series of specials through some of her unforgettable appearances in famous programmes, from Gran Varietà’ to ‘Formula 1: the actress, the Roman seamstress, the neighbourhood star, the high-class philanthropist, the tenor’s wife, the intellectual from Bologna, the Sanremo music festival presenter, the noble lady from the Veneto and, of course, the manicure girl Cesira, Mrs. Cecioni and Miss Snob all leave no room for doubt but only for reflection and laughter. The actress’s ‘solitude’, serenely egocentric, leaves but little space: a brief interlude with Marcello De Martino, another with Gianni Ferrio, an introduction by Paolo Villaggio and a collaboration for Fiorenzo Carpi, at times her co-author. The rest is pure skill and exaltation of soloist talent. As luck would have it the radio news archives have turned up an interview with the Gobbi, the group with which the Milanese actress began. An interview done by Pia Moretti on 23rd December 1951 that makes it possible to add a few considerations on Franca Valeri’s background and post-war Milan. One understands the terror of the Jews still in Milan: those who cannot escape buy false IDs on the black market and try to look as Arian as possible. Franca Valeri, born Norsa, whilst her father and her brother escape to Switzerland, stays back with her mother almost walled in a room at the back of an apartment in Via Santa Marta and for a year and a half never goes out. She made her theatrical début with the Teatro dei Gobbi, that is the brilliant quartet set up in 1951 that revolutionized post-war cabaret: Luciano Mondolfo, Vittorio Caprioli, Alberto Bonucci and Luciano Salce. The first of the group changed idea very quickly, Luciano Salce chose to stay with Adolfo Celi, with whom he then founded the new “Teatro Brasileiro da Comedia” in Rio in 1954. When Caprioli and Bonucci called her to Paris everything gelled quickly in an undisputed success.
For Franca Valeri an extraordinary career and a boundless love for radio. And so no secret but only the ability to understand and interpret that has always allowed her to make irony over the customs of the nouveau riche, catching the absurd fragments of daily life and lashing out at the common place. She certainly was no armchair critic – as she has at times not very prodigiously been defined – but an author and interpreter that was able to maintain intact both her boundless curiosity for the world and her sense of humour. Two aspects perfectly capable of coexisting and above all for a very long time. The airiness, the irony, the disenchantment that nourish her lively attentiveness, but also impulse, courage, indignation – was it not indeed Zola who said that “one has to live indignant”? – that gives sense to talent and moves all change.