One of Italy’s most acclaimed and best loved actors, Carmelo Bene, whose groundbreaking stage productions earned him a place in the history books of Italian theater, died Saturday March 16 in Rome of cancer. He was 64.
During his 40-year career onstage and in a handful of highly personal films, Bene alternated between avant-garde works and innovative revisitations of the classics.
Among his legendary stage turns are “Manfred,” “Adelchi,” “Pinocchio” and “Iorio’s Daughter” as well as a long line of Shakespeare plays, including “Macbeth,” “Othello,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Richard III.” His Rome stage debut was in “Caligula” by Albert Camus.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Bene wrote, directed and starred in five idiosyncratic films, much admired by his fans: “Our Lady of the Turks” (a prize at the Venice Film Festival), “Capricci,” “Don Giovanni,” “Salome” and “One Hamlet Less.” Among his film work for other directors, Bene appeared in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Oedipus Rex” in 1967.
He produced an enormous volume of work over the years in the form of written and filmed notebooks, radio and television recordings, poetry and countless essays, many of which are collected in the 1998 publication, “Life of Carmelo Bene,” among other books.
He is survived by his partner of the past eight years, costume designer Luisa Viglietti and a daughter.