Carlo Goldoni

Definition

Theater

  • (1707 - 93) Prolific Italian playwright, who made importantreforms in the commedia dell'arte and played a major rolein the development of modern Italian drama. His works, written inItalian, Venetian dialect, and French, include more than 150 comedies,10 tragedies, and 83 librettos. During the 1750 - 51 season alonehe wrote 16 new plays to illustrate his dramatic theories.

    The son of a Venetian doctor, Goldoni ran away from schoolwith a troupe of actors when he was 14; in 1725 he was expelled fromthe Collegio Ghislieri, Pavia, for writing a satire about local ladies.He later studied law and practised in Venice and Pisa. In 1734 hejoined the Imer company in Venice, who later that year produced hisfirst play, the tragicomedy Belisario.

    From about 1738 onwards Goldoni began to replace the traditionalimprovised comedy of the commedia dell'arte with written parts. Thiswas resisted by senior actors, as was his abandonment of the use ofmasks. Through these and other reforms Goldoni created a new comedyof character and social criticism comparable to Molière's.In works such as La vedova scaltra (1748) and Il cavalieree la dama (1749) he similarly replaced traditional risquéfarce with a more moral comedy of manners.

    In 1746 Goldoni began a highly productive period writing forthe company of Girolamo Medebac at the Teatro Sant' Angelo. His realisticIl teatro comico (1750), presented on a bare stage, depictsa troupe of actors about to rehearse. A year later he wrote his comicmasterpiece La locandiera, which includes the coquettish roleof Mirandolina. The character became popular throughout Europe andbecame famous again in 1891 when Eleonora Duse revived itfor her world tours.

    Goldoni subsequently moved to Francesco Vendramin's companyat the Teatro San Luca (now the Teatro Goldoni). However, this venueproved too large for his intimate works and his reforms were stronglyresisted by rivals including Carlo Gozzi. In 1762 Goldoni acceptedan invitation to direct the Comédie-Italiennein Paris; during the next two years he produced French versions ofhis own works as well as new works in French. Despite wide acclaimGoldoni still found much opposition amongst the old school and in1764 he retired. Thereafter he taught Italian to the French princessesand composed librettos for the opera buffa. Despite his manysuccesses Goldoni died in poverty in Paris, having lost his pensionfollowing the French Revolution.

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