Venezia header: Piazza San Marco - Riva degli Schiavoni

Commedia dell'Arte Theaters

Anonymous artist: "Interior of a theatre in Venice"
"from The Travels of Henry Wanton to the Unexplored Southern Lands ..." - engraving (mid 18th century)

Theater birth in Venice was born in 1542 and the basic idea was educational, to show how life was in the past - no TV or Wikipedia back then - what were the good things to do, and to counteract what were considered the immoral shows of the Commedia dell'Arte that were so widespread and successful at the time.

The desired result was not fully achieved, of course, and the theater idea was rapidly corrupted by the Commedia dell’Arte, who introduced the Pantalone mask.

Anyhow, theater going became one of those customary "not too dangerous" pastimes during Carnival, still safer than playing cards at the Ridotto and losing the family fortune.

In the XVII century there were already 14 theatres in Venice, private or public owned.

In these theaters were performed any kind of play: in October we had the first plays and in November it was time of rehearsals for music shows.
This program was made for the big debut on the day of S.Stefano, beginning of Carnival.

"L'Andromeda" was the debut opera which was played in the new San Cassiano Theater
in 1637

The first real theater open to the general public in Venice was the San Cassiano Theater in 1637.

Made for Opera shows, but as is imaginable all the others too, it was probably open to any kind of program, as long as it could give some financial return.

The spectator's behavior inside the theater wasn't exactly classy: inside the boxes people would eat, drink, get drunk, talk loudly and throw stuff on the lower boxes and stalls.
Would throw sort of everything: spits, candle butts, you name it.

There were few seats in the parterre, and the occupants would reserve an empty area for "ladies' needs", so they could go and relieve themselves.

The public would yell its appreciation or critics for the actors or singers using foul language and not necessarily related to their performance, hope you get the image …

Read here a commentary from one of the humorists book writers of the time (Satire del Cavalier Bartolomeo Dotti - Satira sesta):

"Siavi pur chi s'affatichi,
A trovar chiavi di Palco,
Quanto i Chimici mendichi,
A stillar oglio di talco:
Io sto a basso, e a sputi tondi,
Come i bolli del Plateo,
Ho i miei drappi lordi, e immondi,
Più di quei dell'Arcoleo."

"It is quite tiring,
To get a key for a box,
As for the poor Chemists,
Was to distil oil from talcum:
I stay in a box at the bottom, and round spits
Are coming, looking like the cachets of Plateo,
My clothes are dirty, and filthy,
More than those of a certain Arcoleo*."

* Antonio Arcoleo was an Opera composer,
his most known work was "La Rosaura" and possibly in a situation was received with spits from the public.

Copyright by Roberto Delpiano 1998-2021 - visit my website