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Arlecchino and Brighella

Famous masks of the Italian Carnival tradition

Everyone knows Arlecchino and Brighella, famous masks of the Italian Carnival tradition. What’s the origin of these characters?

In the mid-sixteenth century, the first companies of the Commedia dell’Arte were born in the Republic of Venice – it was the first form of professional theater. The actors were specialized in typical roles, and they played them even for their entire career; one of these roles was a servant from Bergamo, Zanni.

Zanni is a servant of humble origin, he comes from the countryside, the contrary of the Lovers, elegant Venetian citizens. Comic, rough peasant, always hungry and attracted by beautiful servants, his costume was made with a kind of beige hemp, and he wore a light mask.

Over time, the Zanni split into two different characters: the astute Zanni and the foolish Zanni. The astute servant became Brighella, swindler and liar, plots intrigues, in order to mock others, but also to help the Lovers to crown their love. His costume is white with green stripes.

The foolish servant turned into Harlequin, famous for his acrobatic skills, the jokes, and acrobatics that the actors performed on stage. Originally the character of Harlequin was slow and stupid, but over time he will in turn become shrewd and more and more refined. His beggar costume, white with colored patches, will become the characteristic colored-diamond dress.

Although Carlo Goldoni did not like masks, one of his most famous works is "Arlecchino, servitore di due padroni", being represented at the Piccolo Teatro of Milan since 1947, under the direction of Giorgio Strehler.


Text by FIAMMA BOZZOLOConfGuide-GITEC 

CLICK HERE to discover her other itinerary proposals.

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Ph cover: Luigi Ciminaghi - Piccolo Teatro Milano
Take me here: Arlecchino and Brighella

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