The Risorgimento in ballet – Episodes between chronicle and legend from the world of the dance – 4th instalment
May 5th, 1860. A small army of about 1000 volunteers led by Giuseppe Garibaldi sailed from Quarto (near Genoa) bound for Sicily, with the tacit approval of the Piedmontese prime minister Camillo Benso di Cavour. On May 11th they landed at Marsala; at Calatafimi they engaged and defeated the Borbonic troops. Palermo and Sicily were freed; King Francesco II of Bourbon was forced to flee and to take refuge in the fortress of Gaeta. On September 7th, the victorious general entered Naples with his troops.
The red-shirted I Mille (The Thousand) were destined to remain forever impressed in the hearts of Italians and in the imagination of all peoples fighting for freedom. Their expedition marked the climax of the Risorgimento epic, and in later years became a source of inspiration for numerous performances (plays, operas, puppet plays, etc.), including ballets by Prospero Diani (author of The landing of the Mille at Marsala) and by Giovanni Pulini (or Polini) who choreographed The Landing of Garibaldi at Marsala and the Capture of Palermo. This was not the first time Pulini expressed his admiration for Garibaldi. At the Teatro Comunale di Modena, in February 1860, he had staged La garibaldina, a pas de caractère performed by the entire corps de ballet in an patriotic atmosphere enhanced by the use of choir and military band. (R.Z.)