A series of remarkable events has contributed to a greater understanding of the staging of a play at Cowra Camp June 1946.
A special thank you to the following people and their contributions:
Hugh Cullimore: Assistant Curator- Art Section, Australian War Memorial Canberra, for his knowledge of Cowra artists Carlo Vannucci and Eliseo Pieraccini;
Francesca Maffietti: from Ospitaletto di Cormano (Milano) granddaughter of Ippolito Moscatelli for the photos of the Cowra Chapel;
Marco Lucantoni: from Napoli, son of Stefano Lucantoni for a program from the play ‘L’Antenato’ staged at Cowra 28th June 1946.
In Cowra POW Camp on the 28th June 1946, a group of Italian prisoners of war staged L’Antenato [The Ancestor] a Commedia in 3 Atti by Carlo Veneziani. This play was first staged in Genoa 1922 and in 1936 a film based on the play was produced. Click to read the script for the play.
The carefully designed and produced program highlights the efforts the men made for their production. If the quality of the program is a reflection on the efforts of the men in staging this play, then this production must have been excellent.
The play was directed by Guerrino Mazzoni, the sets created by Eliseo Pieraccini and Carlo Vannucci. Construction and equipment were by Stefano Lucantoni, Renato Bianchi, Felice di Sabatino, Luigi Proietti, Armano Mazzoni and Cesare Di Domenico. Program design (screenwriter) was by Giuseppe Carrari.
Performers were Bruno Pantani, Guerrino Mazzoni, Carlo Vannucci, Tarcisio Silva, Bruno Dell’Amico*, Luigi Giambelli, Renato Bazzani, Marcello Molfotti, Alvise Faggiotto, Stefano Lucantoni.
The roles were played as follows:
Il Barone di MONTESPANTO Bruno Pantani
L’ingegnere Guiscardo MONTESPANTO Guerrino Mazzoni
La Signora LEUCI Carlo Vannucci
VANNETTA figlia della signora Leuci Tarcisio Silva
GERMANA fidanzata di Guiscardo Bruno Dell Amico
FANNY nipote di Egidio Luigi Giambelli
Il Cavalier BERGANDI Renato Bazzani
SAMUELE GANGA l’usuraio Marcello Molfotti
Il domestico ASCANIO Alvise Faggiotto
Il custode EGIDIO Stefano Lucantoni
Marco Lucantoni shared this program with me in October 2018, but its true value was not realised until the pieces of this historical puzzle were patched together.
Marco remembers, “My father [Stefano] often told me about his friend, this great artist who was Carlo Vannucci, creator of the Viareggio carnival floats.”
Carlo Vannuci, Tascisio Silva, Bruno Dell’Amico and Luigi Giambelli played the female roles. Males playing the females is a recipe for a highly comedic and hilariously funny performance.
These men came from all walks of life; some were single, others were married; their ages ranged from 25 to 34 years; and two brothers were part of the group.
The historical context of the play’s performance is that the majority of Italian prisoners of war were withdrawn from farm work by February 1946 with a promise of ‘going home soon’. Italian prisoners of war from Queensland and New South Wales were brought into the camps at Cowra, Hay and Liverpool to await repatriation.
L’Antenato was performed in June 1946; a little reprieve from the boredom and angst associated with the wait to return home. It would be 7 months for most of the Italian prisoners of war before they landed at Naples.
Fourteen of the seventeen men sailed on the Alcantara, departing Sydney on 23.12.46. Renato Bazzani left Sydney on the Moreton Bay on 30.7.46 while Lugi Proietti and Luigi Giambelli departed on the Ormonde from Sydney on the 31.12.46.
A quiet reflection from the great bard Shakespeare:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…
The Italians were sons, fathers, husbands, soldiers, prisoners of war, international travellers, letter writers, multi-linguists, diary keepers, actors, artists and eventually ‘FREE’.
The Cast and Crew
I include the details of the cast and crew in the hope that their families will find this article and this personal connection to the past.
Marcello Molfotti 1912 Mechanic Quesa Lucea (Quiesa [Lucca]) [Navy]
Stefano Lucantoni 1914 Plumber from Roma
Eliseo Pieraccini 1914 Clerk from Viareggio (Lucca)
Renato Bazzani 1915 Milano Policeman
Tarcisio Silva 1916 Clerk from Milano
Renato Bianchi 1917 Carpenter from Milano
Guerrino Mazzoni 1917 Clerk from Bologna (brother to Armano)
Alvise Faggiotto 1917 Verona Farmer
Cesare Di Domenico 1917 Farmer from Capistrello (Aquila)
Luigi Proietti 1919 Butcher Roma
Giuseppe Carrari1919 Clerk from Piombino (Livorno)
Felice di Sabatino 1919 Blacksmith Roma
Bruno Pantani 1919 Butcher from Roma
Luigi Giambelli 1920 Mechanic Milano
Bruno Dell’Amico* 1920 ELETTROTECNICO Carrara
Carlo Vannucci 1920 Decorator from Viareggio (Lucca)
Armano Mazzoni 1921 Clerk Bologna (brother to Guerrino)
*Bruno Dell’Amico: soldato, prigioniero di guerra, sindacalista e politico socialista, cineaste. Bruno’s son Evandro has written 3 books about his father: L’Uomo Tornato da Lontano, Il Viaggio Australe, L’Artigiano dell’Immagine and 1 book about his uncle Evandro who was a prisoner of war in Germany: In Mio Nome, Mai Piu