Biography of Carlo Goldoni
(1707 - 1793)
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Carlo Goldoni was born in Venice on the 25th of February 1707 from a well to do family. Uninterested in following in his father's footsteps as a doctor, he decided to study law. While working as a junior lawyer in Padoa, in 1733 he decided to escape to Milan to undertake a career as a playwright, a passion inherited by his grandfather. Following the outrageous fiasco of the operatic work Amalasunta of which he had written the libretto he realised that his future was in comic theatre. Having returned to Venice, the playwright wrote his first successful work in 1738 "Momolo cortesan" (Momolo the Court Man), which was followed in 1743 by "La donna di garbo" (The fashionable woman), the first text in which the roles were written - in Mamolo cortesan the only written part was that of the male lead. Thus began the Goldonian revolution of theatre that interrupted the tradition of "impromptu" performance, to which the author had also provided his own contribution with many plot outlines including "Il servitore di due padroni" (The servant of two masters), which was later to be transformed into a fully scripted comedy. The implementation of Goldoni's reform owes a great deal to the meeting with Gerolamo Medebach, the leading actor at the Sant'Angelo theatre in Venice. Having abandoned the legal profession altogether, the playwright wrote one of his first masterpieces for Medebach's Venetian company "La vedova scaltra" (The shrewd widow) (1748). Despite the criticisms levelled against him by his rivals and the complaints of the actors, Goldoni defended his revolution, which consisted in returning a level of literary dignity to the text and shifting from the "plot" based comedy to the comedy of "character" primarily centred on the in depth psychological investigation of the characters and the observation of real life, with a consequential abolition of the masks. In 1750 the author provocatively announced sixteen "new comedies" to be written in one year. This lead to the creation of his most successful works: "Il teatro comico" (The comical theatre), effectively a policy statement, in which the author represents himself attempting to deal with recalcitrant actors while attempting to change their way of acting and giving voice to his moral dictate (Second act - Anselmo: "Comedy has been invented to correct vices and put bad habits to shame"), "La bottega del caffé" (The Coffee shop), "La donna volubile" (The fickle woman), "I pettegolezzi delle donne" (Women's gossip), "La famiglia dell'antiquario" (the Antiquarian's family), "La serva amorosa", (the Loving Maid), "La figlia obbediente" (The obedient daughter), and finally "La locandiera" (the Mistress of the Inn), which marks the height of the author's career. Exasperated by the rivalry of Pietro Chiari, who was to take his place at the Sant'Angelo, and Carlo Gozzi, Goldoni left Medebach to move to the San Luca theatre run by Antonio and Francesco Vendramin, where he remained until 1762, despite the inevitable frictions, creating a number of his masterpieces: "Il campiello" (The little square), "I rusteghi" (the rustics), the "Trilogia della villeggiatura" (the holiday trilogy), "Sior Todero brontolon" (Mr Todero Grumble), "Le baruffe chiozzotte" (the Chiozza strife) and "Una delle ultime sere di carnevale" (One of the last evenings of carnival). Called to Paris by the artistic director of the "Comédie italienne", Goldoni had to come to terms with the Commedia players, who were much more adamant about defending their improvised theatre, and the coldness of the French audiences, who recognised as their author the Molière of the "Comédie française" and what it enjoyed of Italian shows were the jokes and pranks. With a strong wish to return to Italy, the playwright was held back by Louis X, who, in 1765, called him to court as the Italian master to his daughters. At Versailles for twenty years, Goldoni organised shows at court and in the theatres of Paris, and in a moment of renewed creative enthusiasm, wrote in French, in 1771, his last work, "le bourru bienfaisant" (the bear with a soft heart). Having obtained his revenge on the boards, the author then dedicated himself from 1784 onwards to writing his own memoirs, the "Memoires", published in 1787. Just as the publishers in Venice put this work into print, Goldoni, old and sick, living off a small pension, which, following the revolution, was revoked, spent his last years in abject poverty until his death that took place between the 6th and 7th of February 1793, one day before, , his royal pension was to be restored to him following a decision of the constituent Assembly.