Carlo Osvaldo Goldoni (Italian: [ˈkarlo ozˈvaldo ɡolˈdoːni]; 25 February 1707 – 6 February 1793) was an Italian playwright and librettist from the Republic of Venice. His works include some of Italy's most famous and best-loved plays. Audiences have admired the plays of Goldoni for their ingenious mix of wit and honesty. His plays offered his contemporaries images of themselves, often dramatizing the lives, values, and conflicts of the emerging middle classes. Though he wrote in French and Italian, his plays make rich use of the Venetian language, regional vernacular, and colloquialisms. Goldoni also wrote under the pen name and title "Polisseno Fegeio, Pastor Arcade," which he claimed in his memoirs the "Arcadians of Rome" bestowed on him.
One of his best known works is the comic play Servant of Two Masters, which has been translated and adapted internationally numerous times. In 2011, Richard Bean adapted the play for the National Theatre of Great Britain as One Man, Two Guvnors. Its popularity led to a transfer to the West End and in 2012 to Broadway.
|Born||25 February 1707|
Venice, Republic of Venice, in present-day Italian Republic
|Died||6 February 1793 (aged 85)|
|Pen name||Polisseno Fegeio, Pastor Arcade|
|Occupation||Playwright • Librettist|
|Notable works||Servant of Two Masters|
The Mistress of the Inn
There is an abundance of autobiographical information on Goldoni, most of which comes from the introductions to his plays and from his Memoirs. However, these memoirs are known to contain many errors of fact, especially about his earlier years.
In these memoirs, he paints himself as a born comedian, careless, light-hearted and with a happy temperament, proof against all strokes of fate, yet thoroughly respectable and honorable.
Goldoni was born in Venice in 1707, the son of Margherita and Giulio Goldoni. In his memoirs, Goldoni describes his father as a physician, and claims that he was introduced to theatre by his grandfather Carlo Alessandro Goldoni. In reality, it seems that Giulio was an apothecary; as for the grandfather, he had died four years before Carlo's birth. In any case, Goldoni was deeply interested in theatre from his earliest years, and all attempts to direct his activity into other channels were of no avail; his toys were puppets, and his books, plays.
His father placed him under the care of the philosopher Caldini at Rimini but the youth soon ran away with a company of strolling players and returned to Venice. In 1723 his father matriculated him into the stern Collegio Ghislieri in Pavia, which imposed the tonsure and monastic habits on its students. However, he relates in his Memoirs that a considerable part of his time was spent in reading Greek and Latin comedies. He had already begun writing at this time and, in his third year, he composed a libellous poem (Il colosso) in which he ridiculed the daughters of certain Pavian families. As a result of that incident (and/or of a visit paid with some schoolmates to a local brothel) he was expelled from the school and had to leave the city (1725). He studied law at Udine, and eventually took his degree at University of Modena. He was employed as a law clerk at Chioggia and Feltre, after which he returned to his native city and began practicing.
Educated as a lawyer, and holding lucrative positions as secretary and counsellor, he seemed, indeed, at one time to have settled down to the practice of law, but following an unexpected summons to Venice, after an absence of several years, he changed his career, and thenceforth he devoted himself to writing plays and managing theatres. His father died in 1731. In 1732, to avoid an unwanted marriage, he left the town for Milan and then for Verona where the theatre manager Giuseppe Imer helped him on his way to becoming a comical poet as well as introducing him to his future wife, Nicoletta Conio. Goldoni returned with her to Venice, where he stayed until 1743.
Submitting it to Count Prata, director of the opera, he was told that his piece "was composed with due regard for the rules of Aristotle and Horace, but not according to those laid down for the Italian drama." "In France", continued the count, "you can try to please the public, but here in Italy it is the actors and actresses whom you must consult, as well as the composer of the music and the stage decorators. Everything must be done according to a certain form which I will explain to you."
Goldoni thanked his critic, went back to his inn and ordered a fire, into which he threw the manuscript of his Amalasunta.
His next play, Belisario, written in 1734, was more successful, though of its success he afterward professed himself ashamed.
He wrote other tragedies for a time, but he was not long in discovering that his bent was for comedy. He had come to realize that the Italian stage needed reforming; adopting Molière as his model, he went to work in earnest and in 1738 produced his first real comedy, L'uomo di mondo ("The Man of the World"). During his many wanderings and adventures in Italy, he was constantly at work and when, at Livorno, he became acquainted with the manager Medebac, he determined to pursue the profession of playwriting in order to make a living. He was employed by Medebac to write plays for his theater in Venice. He worked for other managers and produced during his stay in that city some of his most characteristic works. He also wrote Momolo Cortesan in 1738. By 1743, he had perfected his hybrid style of playwriting (combining the model of Molière with the strengths of Commedia dell'arte and his own wit and sincerity). This style was typified in La Donna di garbo, the first Italian comedy of its kind.
After 1748, Goldoni collaborated with the composer Baldassare Galuppi, making significant contributions to the new form of 'opera buffa'. Galuppi composed the score for more than twenty of Goldoni's librettos. As with his comedies, Goldoni's opera buffa integrate elements of the Commedia dell'arte with recognisable local and middle-class realities. His operatic works include two of the most successful musical comedies of the eighteenth century, Il filosofo di campagna (The Country Philosopher), set by Galuppi (1752) and La buona figliuola (The Good Girl), set by Niccolò Piccinni (1760).
In 1757, he engaged in a bitter dispute with playwright Carlo Gozzi, which left him utterly disgusted with the tastes of his countrymen; so much so that in 1761 he moved to Paris, where he received a position at court and was put in charge of the Theatre Italien. He spent the rest of his life in France, composing most of his plays in French and writing his memoirs in that language.
Among the plays which he wrote in French, the most successful was Le bourru bienfaisant, dedicated to the Marie Adélaïde, a daughter of Louis XV and aunt to the dauphin, the future Louis XVI of France. It premiered on 4 February 1771, almost nine months after the dauphin's marriage to Marie Antoinette. Goldoni enjoyed considerable popularity in France; in 1769, when he retired to Versailles, the King gave him a pension. He lost this pension after the French Revolution. The Convention eventually voted to restore his pension the day after his death. It was restored to his widow, at the pleading of the poet André Chénier; "She is old", he urged, "she is seventy-six, and her husband has left her no heritage save his illustrious name, his virtues and his poverty."
In his Memoirs Goldoni amply discusses the state of Italian comedy when he began writing. At that time, Italian comedy revolved around the conventionality of the Commedia dell'arte, or improvised comedy. Goldoni took to himself the task of superseding the comedy of masks and the comedy of intrigue by representations of actual life and manners through the characters and their behaviors. He rightly maintained that Italian life and manners were susceptible of artistic treatment such as had not been given them before.
His works are a lasting monument to the changes that he initiated: a dramatic revolution that had been attempted but not achieved before. Goldoni's importance lay in providing good examples rather than precepts. Goldoni says that he took for his models the plays of Molière and that whenever a piece of his own succeeded he whispered to himself: "Good, but not yet Molière." Goldoni's plays are gentler and more optimistic in tone than Molière's.
It was this very success that was the object of harsh critiques by Carlo Gozzi, who accused Goldoni of having deprived the Italian theatre of the charms of poetry and imagination. The great success of Gozzi's fairy dramas so irritated Goldoni that it led to his self-exile to France.
Goldoni gave to his country a classical form, which, though it has since been cultivated, has yet to be cultivated by a master.
Goldoni's plays that were written while he was still in Italy ignore religious and ecclesiastical subjects. This may be surprising, considering his staunch Catholic upbringing. No thoughts are expressed about death or repentance in his memoirs or in his comedies. After his move to France, his position became clearer, as his plays took on a clear anti-clerical tone and often satirized the hypocrisy of monks and of the Church.
Goldoni was inspired by his love of humanity and the admiration he had for his fellow men. He wrote, and was obsessed with, the relationships that humans establish with one another, their cities and homes, the Humanist movement, and the study of philosophy. The moral and civil values that Goldoni promotes in his plays are those of rationality, civility, humanism, the importance of the rising middle-class, a progressive stance to state affairs, honor and honesty. Goldoni had a dislike for arrogance, intolerance and the abuse of power.
Goldoni's main characters are no abstract examples of human virtue, nor monstrous examples of human vice. They occupy the middle ground of human temperament. Goldoni maintains an acute sensibility for the differences in social classes between his characters as well as environmental and generational changes. Goldoni pokes fun at the arrogant nobility and the pauper who lacks dignity.
As in other theatrical works of the time and place, the characters in Goldoni's Italian comedies spoke originally either the literary Tuscan variety (which became modern Italian) or the Venetian dialect, depending on their station in life. However, in some printed editions of his plays he often turned the Venetian texts into Tuscan, too.
The following is a small sampling of Goldoni's enormous output.
Gli amori di Zelinda e Lindoro is a comedy play by Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni. It was published in 1763.Griselda (Vivaldi)
Griselda (Italian pronunciation: [ɡriˈzɛlda]) is a dramma per musica in three acts that was composed by Antonio Vivaldi. The opera uses a revised version of the 1701 Italian libretto by Apostolo Zeno that was based on Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron (X, 10, "The Patient Griselda"). The celebrated Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni was hired to adapt the libretto for Vivaldi. The opera was first performed in Venice at the Teatro San Samuele on 18 May 1735.House of Carlo Goldoni
The House of Carlo Goldoni, or in Italian, Casa di Carlo Goldoni is writer's house museum located in a small palace or palazzetto, that served as the residence of the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni. Located in San Polo, Venice, it is now a museum and library of theater studies.Il cavaliere e la dama
Il cavaliere e la dama is a comedy play by Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni. It was published in 1749.Il feudatario
Il feudatario is a comedy play by Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni. It was published in 1752.Il finto astrologo
Il finto astrologo is an intermezzo by composer Niccolò Piccinni. The opera uses an Italian language libretto by Carlo Goldoni. The work premiered at the Teatro Valle in Rome on 7 February 1765 with a cast that included the famous castrato Venanzio Rauzzini as Clarice.Il finto astrologo is derived from Il mondo della luna, a libretto originally set to music by Baldassare Galuppi in 1750, with several modifications. The work of Piccinni has only two acts and is written for a reduced cast of four singers (Ecclittico, Buonafede, Clarice and Lisetta).The first performance in modern times was produced in Fermo in 1988. The finale of the first act (that describes the imaginary travel of Buonafede to the Moon), has been described as "a typical opera buffa jewel".Il vero amico
Il vero amico ("The True Friend") is a play by Carlo Goldoni written in 1750. It has been translated into English under the title The True Friend by Anna Cuffaro. The play is a comedy about two friends who are in love with the same woman.
In Memoirs (Carlo Goldoni's autobiography), Goldoni states: "This comedy is one of my favourites and I had the greatest pleasure in seeing that the audience confirmed my view" .La buona figliuola
La buona figliuola (The Good-Natured Girl or The Accomplish'd Maid), or La Cecchina (Cecchina), is an opera buffa in three acts by Niccolò Piccinni. The libretto, by Carlo Goldoni, is based on Samuel Richardson's novel Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded. This was Piccinni's most successful Italian opera. There was a sequel entitled La buona figliuola maritata (1761) by the same composer and librettist. La buona figliuola supposta vedova by Gaetano Latilla followed in 1766.La putta onorata
La putta onorata ("The honorable maiden") is a comedy play by Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni. It was published in 1748. It is rooted to the styles of the commedia dell'arte. The play was applauded in the theater Sant'Angelo in the carnival of 1749 for 22 nights in a row.Characters include Beatrice, Ottavio, Brighella, Menego, Bettina, Pasqualino, Catte, Pantalone, Arlecchino, Pasqua, Nane, Lelio, Tita and Scanna. Nane and Menego are two gondoliers who are eternally quarreling.
In 1968 it was made into a comedy film directed by Carlo Lodovici and starring Cesco Baseggio, Lia Zoppelli and Wanda Bendetti.Le donne vendicate
Le donne vendicate (also titled The Revenge of the Women, Il vago disprezzato and Le fat méprisé) is a musical farce that consists of two intermezzi by composer Niccolò Piccinni with an Italian libretto by Carlo Goldoni. Goldoni's text had already been used twice previously, in operas by Gioacchino Cocchi (1751) and Giuseppe Scolari (1757). Piccinni's version was first performed at the Teatro alla Valle in Rome in 1763.List of works by Carlo Goldoni
The following is a list of works by Venetian playwright and librettist Carlo Goldoni (1707–1793).Miranda (1985 film)
Miranda (also known as The Mistress of the Inn) is a 1985 Italian erotic drama film directed by Tinto Brass. It is loosely based on the three-act comedy La locandiera by Carlo Goldoni.The Boors
The Boors, also known as The Cantankerous Men (Venetian: I rusteghi), is a comedy by Carlo Goldoni. It was first performed at the San Luca theatre of Venice towards the end of the Carnival in 1760. It was published in 1762. The 'boors' are four merchants of Venice, who represent the old conservative, puritanical tradition of the Venetian middle classes, who are pitted against Venice's "new frivolity".The Fan (play)
The Fan is a 1763 comedy by Carlo Goldoni. It was first produced as L´éventail in Paris at the Théâtre de la comédie italienne in May 1763, with little success. The French version is lost. Goldoni revised the play during 1764 as Il Ventaglio and it was premiered at the Teatro San Luca, Venice, in February 1765 with great success.The Liar (Goldoni play)
The Liar (Italian: Il bugiardo) is a comedy by Carlo Goldoni. It was written as part of Goldoni's fulfilment of a boast that he had inserted into the epilogue to one of his plays that for the next season he would write sixteen comedies. The Liar, along with the fifteen other comedies, was staged in the 1750-51 season at the Teatro San Angelo in Venice. It draws on commedia dell'arte conventions and stock characters.The Mistress of the Inn
The Mistress of the Inn (Italian: La locandiera [la lokanˈdjɛːra]), also translated as The Innkeeper Woman or Mirandolina (after the play's main character), is a 1753 three-act comedy by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni about a coquette. The play has been regarded as his masterpiece. Frederick Davies describes it as Goldoni's Much Ado About Nothing.The Servant of Two Masters
The Servant of Two Masters (Italian: Il servitore di due padroni) is a comedy by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni written in 1746. Goldoni originally wrote the play at the request of actor Antonio Sacco, one of the great Truffaldinos in history. His earliest drafts had large sections that were reserved for improvisation, but he revised it in 1753 in the version that exists today. The play draws on the tradition of the earlier Italian commedia dell'arte.The Venetian Twins
The Venetian Twins (Italian - I due gemelli veneziani, or "The two Venetian twins") is a 1747 play by Carlo Goldoni, based on Plautus's Menaechmi. Recent productions include one at the Watermill Theatre and a 1993 production directed by Michael Bogdanov for the Royal Shakespeare Company. The play has also been adapted and staged as a 1979 Australian two-act musical comedy. The play was performed by Greene Shoots Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at C Venues (main) in August 2010. Shakespeare & Company (Massachusetts) is presenting it in English as part of its outdoor Bankside Festival, June 29-August 27, 2011, at Lenox, Massachusetts.The Venetian Twins (musical)
The Venetian Twins is an Australian two-act musical comedy. It was adapted from a commedia dell'arte play - I due gemelli veneziani by Carlo Goldoni - and the lyrics were written by Nick Enright; the music was composed and arranged by Terence Clarke.