Ferdinando Carlo Gonzaga-Nevers

Diana, Aurelia e le altre: attrici e capocomiche dell’ultimo duca di Mantova

Author: Michela Zaccaria
Institution: Università degli Studi di Firenze
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7224-6761
Year of publication: 2019
Source: Show
Pages: 103-117
DOI Address: https://doi.org/10.15804/IW.2019.10.1.19
PDF: iw/10_2/iw10206.pdf


This article introduces the activity of artistic directors Teresa Costantini, Angela Paghetti, and Colomba Coppa in the service of Ferdinando Carlo Gonzaga-Nevers, their generous patron and the last Duke of Mantua. Referencing studies that were initiated 30 years ago in the field of musicology and using recent historical research and archival sources, the essay highlights the artistic, organisational, and management responsibilities of commedia dell’arte directors. It reconstructs their relations with Ferdinando Carlo, ducal agents, and the Gonzaga court, while also focussing on their relations with Venetian Grimani impresarios, with whom the Duke of Mantua had established a lasting and generous collaboration. Performing women, prejudicially equated with prostitutes and beneficiaries of gifts and privileges, were depictions of love and glory for a discredited prince, whose array of artists was, however, amongst the most dense and dynamic in Italy. Actresses progressively moved away from the codes of courtliness and, as professionals registered and paid with money, they came to have strong bargaining power and levels of autonomy. However, they were subjected to rules and obligations, especially in Venice, where theatre owners made spaces available only to companies under the protection of the princes who were politically aligned with the Serenissima. During the years of the so-called Spanish succession war, Diana, Aurelia, and the others moved between Venice, Mantua, and Casale, where Ferdinando Carlo had moved after the blockade of Mantua, accompanied by a colourful procession of women, musicians, and commedia actors. Through theatrical misadventures mingled with military manoeuvres in Mantuan territory, and via changes of destination, programme, or repertoire, we read the story of a duchy that had lost its identity and of a rapidly changing theatrical market.

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