Venezia header: Piazza San Marco - Riva degli Schiavoni


... providing an extra entertaining mood

The Caratterista role came out in the Commedia dell'Arte at the beginning of the XVIII century, so quite late, and had no connection with the play:

  • he/she would tell a story, capture the audience attention for a certain time, break the present atmosphere to prepare the public for the next acting step
  • he/she would usually speak a dialect, or a more or less correct language: in those times the Commedia was performing more abroad than in Italy or Venice
  • he/she would take the public's attention for a few minutes to give time to his/her fellow actors to change costumes, discuss proceedings, and maybe to somebody from the troupe to pass around in the public to ask for a financial contribution
  • he/she would make direct contact with the audience to test how the audience is feeling, to help future company's acting choices

I would like to see the Caratterista as sort of a drums or bass solo in Jazz, which gives the time to the other musicians to take a break and go drink something or put a new reed on their saxophone.

Anonymous Artist: "The Caratterista"
sort of a "Stenterello" character
in a 17th century engraving


Regional mask from Firenze, Tuscany

The character of Stenterello was created around 1791 by Luigi Del Buono (1751-1832), and Stenterello was the name he received from the public, having the looks of a weakling.

Stenterello is the beloved mask of Florence, impersonating the character of Florentinians in those times.

One of the puns that were used for him: Posa Piano, meaning "take your time" but in a sickly way, of somebody being kind of slow.

The character of Stenterello (= barely grown) can be seen as:

  • Skinny and quite frail
  • An exaustive chatterer
  • Sort of a fearful character
  • Quite impulsive and always ready to help other weak people
  • Generous and with the right answer always ready, strictly in the florentinian vernacular (but never vulgar)
  • Quick thinker, very lively and "posa piano" at the same time

He represents, in a way, the lower class Florentinian people, always oppressed, but at the same time still has the strenght to mock their situation and be happy.

Stenterello - "original drawing"
watercolor (19th century)


Regional mask from Torino, Piedmont

Gianduja has an intense name/character birth, but in practice he is a quite simple person.

He's an honest peasant of the Piedmontese countryland, he likes good food, good wine (especially Brachetto d'Acqui) and beautiful girls. How can he go wrong.

But at the same time he is strictly faithful to his (jealous) lover Giacometta.

The character Gianduja originated ca. 1630 in Genova, with the name of Geralmo della Scrofa (Jerome of the sow). In the early 19th century, a puppeteer by the name of Giovanni Battista Sales got in trouble using the character for his shows, because Napoleon's brother name was Jérôme, and Napoleon's had just invaded the region ... so Sales had to flee to Piedmont.

At this point he changed the character's name to the Piedmontese "Gioann dla Doja", sort of "John of the Jug", since he liked to drink, which later will become Gianduja.

And in Turin, Piedmont you will find the Gianduja chocolate (branding!) and the Giandujotti which are really special.

Maurice Sand: "Gianduja" (year 1858)
etching with hand coloring

ZACOMETO - Giacometto - Giacometo

A true Venetian Caratterista

Giacometto Spasemi, or Giacometo, more widely known as Zacometo - is a comic character from Venice - servant of Pantalone.

Zacometo was created in 1832 from Luigi Duse (grandfather of the famous actress Eleonora Duse) for the play "L’imbrogio delle tre muger di Iacopo Bonfio" (The scam of the three wives of Iacopo Bonfio), and it was a big success of public.

It was such an immediate hit that a series of comedies were written based on his character.
Did we ever think that the "TV series" were invented just a few years ago? LOL

Zacometo was fun-loving, always happy, permanently looking for money.

Also his attire was sort of remarkable: black wig with a downward pigtail, two heavy black marks as eyebrows, an XVIII century tricorn, blue jacket and flowery waistcoat, red trousers and white socks and ight black shoes with a buckle.

Hard to miss, really.

Anonymous Artist: Luigi Duse in the role of Giacometto
theatrical drawing (19th century)
Fondazione Giorgio Cini - Venezia

La BALLERINA - The Dancer

by Maurice Sand - 1823-1889

We have to remember that the Commedia dell'Arte was the first theater structure having "real female" participants among the acting troupe. Usually one.

Of course these women (in the beginning were prostitutes who couldn't perform their profession because of the Church's regulations ...) were not experienced at all in acting.

Up to that moment, all stage acting had been made by men - in female clothes when necessary - so the women in the troupe would need some time to catch up.

But we can imagine (and this is my personal assumption) that they could provide that little break/entertainment the Caratterista would make, singing or dancing, no need to be witty or to learn stories, nothing to do except some animation, some fun, for the excitement-hungry audience.

And in those times having a real woman onstage - dressed or less dressed - was already a huge innovation.

Maurice Sand: "La Ballerina" (year 1500)
etching with hand coloring

La CANTATRICE - The Singer

by Maurice Sand - 1823-1889

As much as La Ballerina, the Cantatrice here portrayed in a very nice etching by Maurice Sand, is an idea of mine of a "Caratterista Entertainer". But why not.

We know for sure that in every Commedia dell'arte troupe there was a woman, unskilled (especially at the beginning!) in the art of acting, but which maybe could offer another - and how much welcomed! - kind of performance.

And maybe a nice song - there must have been at least one of the actors capable enough to play a guitar in the background - could have been desirable.

And the non-common appearance on stage of a young woman, could be a treat for the public, and a break for the actors, that was what exactly what the Caratterista was supposed to offer.

Maurice Sand: "La Cantatrice" (year 1694)
etching with hand coloring

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