Carlo Gozzi’s Il Re Cervo

Il Re Cervo

In the eighteenth century Italian comedy was in the midst of change and controversy. The old Italian comedy was improvised with the standard commedia dell’arte characters and conventions. Carlo Goldoni moved away from these conventions to create a comedy of manners based on real life characters and situations modeled on the plays of Moliere. Carlo Gozzi lamented the loss of the fantastic, charming and whimsical and their replacement with the mundane. He set out to create a series of plays with mythic, magical or supernatural plots including Il Re Cervo (The King Stag) which was written in 1762.

Contemporary theater is no longer concerned with the debate between the old Italian comedy and the new French comedy. However, even today, Il Re Cervo could make an excellent vehicle for skilled actors because the two main “characters” exchange bodies multiple times during the course of the play. The character (or personality/soul) of Deramo, the King, moves through the bodies of King, stag, old man and possibly back to himself again at the end.  Tartaglia moves from his own body to that of the King and then back to himself again. If the same actor plays the character, changing only his costume, wig, and make-up with each “change of body“ the audience can easily follow the character/personality/soul represented by the actor while the stage characters are confused. However, if the actors are up to the task, they could use mannerisms, tone, movement, etc. (i.e., acting) to convey the character/personality/soul as it migrates through multiple bodies (actors). In this case the audience will feel a similar sense of disbelief and confusion as the characters on stage, something that they too will have to get accustomed too. However, if done well by skillful actors would be an extraordinary display of their craft.


~ by severalfourmany on January 25, 2013.

2 Responses to “Carlo Gozzi’s Il Re Cervo”

  1. I haven’t tried any Italian play, it might be interesting to try this one. So, do you think this play is better for reading or stage performing?

    • I think the interest in this play is the magical transformations as stage effects. I’m not sure there is enough depth or character development to make for interesting reading. However, those very qualities might make it into a very good movie.
      Curiously enough Gozzi’s plays make really excellent operas. The simple plots translate well into that genre and the mythic, magical or supernatural stories inspire exciting musical scores. Turandot is transformed into something much greater in the hands of Puccini. Love of Three Oranges is delightful and gains added dimensions with Prokofiev score. Hans Werner Henze composed a complex and intricate score for The King Stag, which unfortunately, is too infrequently performed.

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