The world’s first commercial house opened in Venice in 1637, and by the Carnival season of 1642, revelers could chose from no fewer than seven different productions. Yet theatrical entertainments had been part of the Italian Carnivale since long before that.
Commedia dell’Arte was the name given to improvisatory plays performed by traveling companies of actors. Stock characters such as Arlecchino (a/k/a Harlequin), Pierrot and Columbine delighted audiences throughout Europe; their masks and costumes can be seen during celebrations to this day.
Pazzi Lazzi, a troupe based in Massachusetts, is focused on keeping this legacy alive. The name can be translated as “crazy routines”, a tribute to the signature plot devices of the genre. Their artistry will be on full display when – in affiliation with ImproNati – they bring a time-honored sensibility to “La Giara”. A 20th century work by Luigi Pirandello, it will be staged on the campus of Northeastern University.
The companies that made Commedia dell’Arte famous were generally based in northern Italy. Yet the clowning traditions of Naples were embodied in the figure of Pucinella. The March 26th production will incorporate southern Italian folk tunes. Indeed, Pirandello originally came from Agrigento on the southern coast of Sicily: about as far from Venice as one can get without leaving Italy. Originally written in Sicilian, Pazzi Lazzi’s production will be in standard Italian with English supertitles. Admission is free and open to the public.
In Louisiana and in Brazil, the Carnival custom dates back centuries. By contrast, Bacchanal Jamaica was established in 2000, after stormy weather prevented local soca enthusiasts from liming in the Trinidad & Tobago. This year’s celebration is centered around the theme of “Lost Kingdoms” from Atlantis to Shangri-La , Camelot to Xanadu.
As elsewhere, Carnival in T&T began as a period of indulgence before the austerity of Lent. By contrast, Jamrock’s rave kicks off on April 15th, three days after Easter, and concludes with a Road March on the following Sunday. The affair can be understood as an affectionate homage to, rather than an organic part of, The Tradition. Yet it’s hard to quibble with a celebration dedicated to “Sun on your shoulders, sweat on your brow, music in your heart and the spirit in your feet”
Guadeloupe and Martinique are integral departments of France located in the Caribbean Sea. It’s a region that has given the world soca and salsa, reggae, merengue and ska. With such a rhythmic abundance, it may be understandable that the style known as zouk is relatively unknown outside of the French Antilles. During Carnival, the slick and syncopated beats resound throughout the islands.
Kassav’, a band that formed in 1979, is one of the champions of the idiom. Their name means “cassava” in Antillean Creole – a tongue related to, but distinct from, Haitian Kreyol. Their music also has similarities to Haiti’s compas, but pioneering use of MIDI technology has produced a sound distinguished by more polished orchestrations. They have released over 20 albums as an ensemble, while individual members have put out a dozen solo discs.
The group will kick off their 2020 tour with a concert at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater on May 30th. From New York, they will head to France for a summer tour with shows in La Ferte sous Jouarre, Bayonne, and Orange.