Do you believe it is possible to peer into our present, into the European world, and to see its errors and defects … through the past of the USA?
By Alessandra Ivaldi / 26.06.2019
In a world where people and cultures mix, while the concept of distance becomes more and more relative, differences and prejudices should become distant memories of a dark and primitive era … yet, this is not what is truly happening.
Since the very early age of humanity, groups of people, or even entire communities, have moved from one territory to another, opening up to new cultures and giving life to new ways of living. Nevertheless, man has not learned yet to abandon prejudice, mistrust and hatred, even though history has already shown us many times how unsuccessful, if not harmful, this approach is. However, we are not here to discuss about the feelings that stir the human soul, or if there is hope that in the future humanity will be able to learn from its mistakes … We are here to talk about art and theatre! We are here to talk about Hamilton: An American Musical.
This musical, with music, lyrics and Libretto by Lin-Manuel Miranda, an American of Puerto Rican descent, made its debut in 2015 and immediately enjoyed an enormous success due to its originality and its ability to place ourselves in front of deep reflections and difficult questions through the seemingly carefree rhythm of rap, pop and soul music.
The work owes its title to the name of the main character, Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. The musical follows the complex vicissitudes of Hamilton’s life, which are intertwined with the great historical events of his era.
The story begins by summarizing the first part of Hamilton’s life, who spends his youth, orphan of both parents, in the island of Nevis, in the Caribbean Sea. In 1776, his adoptive family allowed him to move to New York in order to study and start a career. Here, the young Hamilton has the opportunity to get to know and be appreciated by personalities such as the Marquis de La Fayette, the future president of the USA George Washington and the future vice president of Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr. All these youngsters were animated by dreams of independence and revolutionary ambitions, and together they will be able to free the United States from the domination of the British Crown.
Alongside the political and military enterprises, such as the battle of Yorktown, the final act of the American Revolution, in which Hamilton participated as commander of three battalions of the US army, the audience of Hamilton: An American Musical has the opportunity to follow also the most intimate sentimental events in the life of this great politician. Thus, the audience can observe his first meeting with the daughters of one of the richest families in New York, the Schuylers. Among these, Hamilton will marry Elizabeth, nicknamed Eliza.
Hamilton’s charm conquers everyone: great politicians who offer him increasingly important and prestigious positions, soldiers who follow him loyally … and of course women, attracted by his personal qualities, but also by his power. Among these there is Maria Reynolds, who will become his lover.
After the victory of Yorktown, Hamilton, together with James Madison and John Jay, drafted the Federalist Papers, a collection of 85 articles written with the aim of convincing the members of the New York State Assembly to ratify the Constitution of the United States of America. In addition, the newly elected president Washington appointed him as Secretary of the United States Treasury.
At this stage, those who Hamilton considered as friends in the past began to develop a strong envy towards him, which will lead them to always look for new opportunities to discredit him in the eyes of public opinion. Of course, the story with Maria Reynolds is going to come to light at the expense of the relationship with Eliza, already quite deteriorated due to Hamilton’s low participation in family life.
The musical follows Hamilton’s vicissitudes until his tragic death. However, what most strikes the audience is not the history of the historical character, which to many is already known. Most probably the first aspect that attracts the attention of the audience is the fact that the actors, dressed in traditional costumes while moving on a well-defined historical background, which is represented in a realistic way down to the smallest details, are composed not only by light-skinned people, as the Founding Fathers of the USA are traditionally represented. In this musical white, African-American, Hispanic and Asian-Americans mingle to play the roles of great politicians and strategists of US history.
The choice of black actors is no accident. The presence of different nationalities on the stage represents the modern American reality, which is a society characterized by multiculturalism. And if you take a closer look, American society has always been characterized by immigration and multiculturalism! The founding Fathers themselves were children of migrants. And the musical highlights well how Hamilton himself did not have the same origins of the typical white man: in fact, at the beginning he is just an orphan and afterwards an “immigrant” who arrived from an island in the Caribbean sea. And yet, all of these features contribute together with all the others to the creation of a new reality while knowing how to impose itself thanks to its extraordinary qualities.
Hamilton: An American Musical has been defined as the story of a man, which then becomes the history of an entire nation. A nation built by migrants, who sometimes need to remember where it all started in order to not forget their origins.
And forgetting the past is a risk that not only the USA faces. Perhaps also Europe needs someone capable of bringing our history back to light, in order to not forget where we come from and to avoid repeating the same mistakes we already made in the past.