In a huge open-air, natural amphitheatre below the town of Brindisi Montagna, Il Parco Storico La Grancia is a multi-venue historical theme park with areas for education, theatre, music and art. The Borgo is a sort of Lucanian frontier-town where artisans in period costumes demonstrate traditional crafts, and there are several stands and restaurants where you can eat locally-produced delicacies that would have been served during the brigantaggio years, the late 1800s. Music and dance performances are designed to reflect the area’s particular history and culture.
But the main event of this park is La Storia Bandita, a grand production dubbed as a “cinespettacolo“. It is a beautiful blending of impassioned live performance, dramatically-devised video projection, and astounding special effects, utilizing the bare cliff wall opposite and the ruins of the 11th century castle perched above Brindisi Montagna. Seriously, this is one amazing show.
Interestingly, La Storia Bandita means “the history of the bandits” but could also be translated as “banned history”. It is a clever word play for the period when many Lucani felt marginalized and tyrannized. Tired of invasions and overly dominating landowners that kept them poor, oppressed and disillusioned, the period of the Risorgimento (the unification of Italy) proved to be a flashpoint for many southern peasants who joined together and formed a band of bandits. They became known as briganti.
La Storia Bandita tells a dramatized version of this period, focusing on the charismatic leader of the pack, Carmine Crocco, who was called the General of the Briganti. From events in his childhood and disillusionment with the unification forces, the story shows how and why the briganti took things into their own hands to protect their lands and traditions.
The production is astounding, with hundreds of participants in an all-volunteer cast and crew. Dance and music reflect the rural Basilicata life at the time. Crocco authored an autobiography and some of his rousing prose is movingly recited by Michele Placido, a well-known actor. But the effects! When the forces invade, the castle is set aflame. Gunfire echoes loudly in the canyon and the flashes illuminate the mountain formations. Images are projected behind the set on the rock. A waterwall shoots up in a stirring finale.
You don’t have to understand much Italian to follow the show. The performances play it all out before your eyes, unfolding in the peasant village, as well as tents and caves, representing how the briganti had to hide out in the hills. The performance was so rousing that my husband Bryan decided he would dress as Crocco for Carnevale next year. This is a show worth seeing.