If the words in this title didn’t mean much to you, there’s still a good chance that you’ve seen a film, play or television programme that borrowed heavily from the traditions of the Commedia dell’Arte. A masked theatre style that originated in Italy in the 16th century, every performance revolves around improvisations between stock characters, including Arlechinno the comic servant, Columbina the gossipy maid, Pantalone the old miser and the Inamorati – star-crossed lovers. Without ever having seen a Commedia performance, that should already sound fairly familiar – Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder and every single pantomime that has ever been performed all follow a variation of this basic set up.
Although Commedia dell’Arte can’t completely take credit for creating these characters, this doesn’t detract from the importance of its global legacy. In Italy, this wild, funny and anarchic genre remains very much alive and well – particularly in Tuscany, which still trains performers at the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo. In the nearby village of Montepulciano, you’ll find a clock tower with the figure of Pulcinella the clown character on top, who strikes a bell on every hour. One of our most idyllic luxury villas for rent in Tuscany, Glicine Farm, sits just outside the village – and with space for 12 guests, you could even start rehearsing your own troupe in the spacious gardens!
Further north, the Venice Carnival provides an incredible opportunity to soak up Commedia culture, with performances, workshops and a masked-costume competition all integral parts of the celebrations. Held this year from 15th February – 4th March, our waterfront Casa Erbe provides a perfect base for your exploration of Venice – wander through the packed streets and see if you can figure out which masks match up with which Commedia characters.
International Commedia dell’Arte Day officially takes place on February 25th, with performances and events arranged all over the world. If you’re staying at our luxury Villa Ripoli on the outskirts of Rome, drive in for Teatro Antico’s ‘From Columbina to Pucinella: a theatrical lesson in Commedia dell’Arte’ at the Casa dei Teatri. During the Rome Carnival, you might also be lucky enough to spot a travelling band of players giving an impromptu street-side performance – just like they would have done over 500 years ago.
(Photo credit: Lead image via Barry Solow on Flickr)
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