The tour continues at another theater…in different languages

On Sept. 26 at 7 pm, the remodeled Methuen High School, at 1 Ranger Road in Methuen, MA, will host PAZZI LAZZI TROUPE for a special Italian culture night. We will present two pieces.

Italian students from a Liceo Classico in Rome will also attend for an exchange program, and they will collaborate with the Methuen students to create this night of Italian music performances. It’s important for us to share this experience of Italian language with young people, even though we always play with different jargon and word games, as explained in the Grammelot.

In fact our shows had always been on a multicultural track. For example, when considering the relationship between Commedia dell’Arte and Spain, it is obvious to go straight to the boisterous character of Capitano with his long-nosed mask. Chiara Durazzini plays this character with a military stance and a feathered hat. Capitano is often portrayed as an outsider, a foreigner, and more often than not, he is Spaniard, assuming names like Capitan Sangre y Fuego (Captain Blood and Fire), Matamoros (Moors Killer) or Salvador de los Vírgenes Borrachos (Savior of Drunken Virgins)  Through his character and his outrageous adventures on stage, Italians could mock their enemy when Italy was under Spanish domination.

However, the relationship between Commedia dell’Arte and Spain goes beyond the rowdy caricature of the Capitano. It is also well known that the most important Spanish playwrights of the Siglo De Oro, like Lope de Vega, were greatly influenced by the Italian Comici visiting their country.

Starting in the 16th century, Commedia dell’Arte troupes travelled and performed throughout Europe, including Spain. For example, records (in the previous link) report that in 1571 the famous company of “I Gelosi” was present in Paris along with another Italian actor, Alberto Naseli, who also brought his character Zan Ganassa to Spain where he stayed with his group until at least 1582. Ganassa’s troupe performed in Madrid, Valladolid, Seville and Toledo, including performances before King Philip II.

Allardyce Nicoll writes in his book “The World of Harlequin” (Cambridge University Press, 1963) that Zan Ganassa was able to build a theatre in Madrid, a certain indication of appreciation by the Spanish audience towards the Italian Comici during that time. The Spanish interest in Commedia dell’Arte is also evident by the presence in the country of Tristano and Duisiano Martinelli as “Los Confidantes Italianos” around 1587-1588.

“All these companies pretty certainly played written as well as improvised comedies, yet since they spoke Italian, they probably in Spain as elsewhere reserved their liveliest pieces, where gestures largely supplied speech, for the public theatres; the uncultured rabbles enjoyed lazzi, songs and dances and catch the easy drift of a simple plot without knowing the language.” (Winifred Smith, “The commedia dell’arte: a study in Italian popular comedy, Volume 3”).

Capitano Spavento

Maurice Sand – Captain Spavento – 1577

Now, Chiara Durazzini, while playing il Capitano, throws in words and sentences in Spanish, mixing them with Italian and English. The result is a real Grammelot. And since the majority of our audience are college students, this would be particularly interesting for those studying foreign languages. And as far as Spanish is concerned, there are several Spanish language departments here in Massachusetts. Among them Boston College, UMass, Brandeis College, Boston University.  Pazzi Lazzi’s characteristic, being a Commedia dell’Arte group, is improvisation and its style of language, typically used in satirical theatre, is mostly a lingua franca or a  pastiche/macaronic language.

At Methuen High School’s Italian Night we use all of the above “tools”. In the first piece, or “canovaccio”, titled The Sweet Smell of Money, Pantalone, Balanzone and Arlecchino are each trying to obtain a bag of money: who will win the money? The stingy old man, the intellectual professor or the poor hungry servant?

In the second piece, Lady of the Rings, Colombina wants Pulcinella to pop the question, but when he meets a noblewoman named Flaminia all kinds of trouble happens, including a duel with the Spanish Capitano . The plot is rich in double entendres, misunderstandings and a mix of different languages, a real Grammelot!


P.S. Instead, if you are looking for classes in Spanish in U.S. and you don’t want to follow our example of “improvisation”, take a look also at this link (in Spanish) and this  published by Spain’s Education Office in U.S.







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