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Italian word of the day: 'Sceneggiata'

Jessica Phelan
Jessica Phelan - [email protected]
Italian word of the day: 'Sceneggiata'
Photo: DepositPhotos"

There's no need to make a song and dance about this term.


Today's word is one for the drama queens and kings: sceneggiata (pronounced "scheh-neh-jiar-ta") meaning 'performance' or 'show'.

It's taken from the verb sceneggiare, which is 'to dramatise'. And just like in English, turning something into a drama can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances.

Sceneggiare describes literally adapting something for performance on stage, cinema or TV, and the masculine form of the noun, uno sceneggiato, is simply a 'dramatization', especially for TV.

The feminine version, however, usually refers to a live performance – traditionally, one of a very specific kind. 

La sceneggiata, also known as la sceneggiata napoletana, is as the name suggests a type of drama originating from Naples that wove melodramatic plots around classic Neapolitan songs. The form was taken around the world by emigrants leaving southern Italy behind and became known in the English-speaking world by its original name.

In today's Italian, by extension, una sceneggiata can be any type of performance for someone else's benefit. The implication is that it's insincere – as we might say in English, an 'act'. 

La sua protesta è stata solo una sceneggiata.
His protest was just an act.

The word also suggests that said sceneggiata is over the top or exaggerated. In English we might call it a 'song and dance' or a 'scene', and fare una sceneggiata or fare sceneggiate (plural) is how you say that someone's 'making' one. 

Che sceneggiata!
What a song and dance!

Smettila di fare sceneggiate!
Stop making a scene!

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