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Tourists at the Theater

A. C. Valéry (1828) summarized the theatrical offerings of Florence by declaring himself to have been disappointed on the whole. The opera at the Pergola (interpolated with dances as was the custom in Italy) seemed weak to him. At the Cocomero, on the other hand, it was not so magnificently staged as at the Pergola. He described the Teatro Goldoni as a «sort of variety theater». Then there was the French comedy of the Russian Demidoff, who put on chiefly vaudeville, and finally the Teatro Alfieri where a masked ball of great fame was staged that was nothing but a «parodia» of the Paris Opèra. A few years earlier (1820), similar views had been expressed by Ducos, who described the Goldoni as a theater of «buffoonery», that was hard for foreigners to appreciate since it was based on ambiguity, on the uninhibited use of a language that made extensive use of colloquial phrases. He spoke of the Cocomero as a more sophisticated kind of theater and did not like the dancing at the Pergola, apart from the furlana for which he nursed a true passion.

In the face of this critical attitude we must nevertheless recall the success of Italian drama abroad, with its leading exponents building a reputation and career in Europe even before they did in Italy. In 1822 Duprè, whose jingoistic spirit led him to regard the Athens of Italy, Florence, as much inferior to France, made a pertinent observation in this connection, after attending performances at the Pergola that he found not just bad but downright ridiculous: «there is no need to go to Italy to hear good music by famous composers and virtuosi […]. As no generosity is shown to them, they are obliged to go abroad. The most talented go to France and above all Paris».


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