Presented at the 2010 Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting: Venice, Italy, April 10, 2010.
This paper briefly explores the relationship between the theatricality of Venice and the expression of Venice in the theatre. I will do so by focusing on the wildly popular performances in 1641 of La Finta Pazza and the architecture of the Teatro Novissimo in which the opera was performed. The masking of identities, a central theme in the original story on which the opera is based, was given a particularly Venetian twist in the operatic retelling. Essential to the performance was the double entendre of the character Deidama who, feigning madness, performed both as a masked actor on the stage and as a Venetian in the audience. Giacomo Torelli’s set design further blurred distinctions between the world of the stage and the city of Venice. Concurrent to the production of La Finta Pazza was the unprecedented construction of new theatres and specifically the development of palchi, or theater boxes, in the Teatro Novissimo. Such boxes, rented out for the season and occupied by masked Patricians and foreigners, allowed conversation between the two groups that was forbidden by law. It is my wager that the nature of identity and participation shifts within a context that is simultaneously both theater and city.
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Renaissance Society of America website: http://www.rsa.org.