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Bernini’s Two Theatres and the Trauma of Classical Reception

Thomas, Edmund

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This article compares how the theatrical architectural spaces of Francesco Guitti at Parma and Gian Lorenzo Bernini at Rome used classical traditions of spectacle to satisfy contemporary sensationalist demands. Guitti’s stage machinery devised after ancient treatises recreated an ancient naumachia as a finale to end the performance of the Mercury and Mars that celebrated the marriage of Odoardo, Duke of Parma, at the Farnese Theatre in Parma (see Colasanti, above). Bernini’s spaces at the Rome Carnival in the 1630s played on other memories and misremembrances of popular classical spectacula to target elite audiences, generating a Bakhtinian mood of destabilising carnival laughter. He transformed naumachiae by flooding a stage to recreate a Tiber flood, and on the open-air setting of the “‘Festa d’Agone’”, Domitian’s Stadium misremembered as a racetrack, he bestowed the authority of an ancient circus, with turning posts and obelisk. But his most destabilizing performance was to recast the disastrous mechanics of Gaius Curio’s legendary two revolving theatres in Republican Rome by means of a shocking pictorial perspective. This surpassed the technological schemes of other architect scenographers and exposed Rome’s gentry and curial classes to subversive spectacle.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 17, 2024
Online Publication Date Jul 19, 2024
Deposit Date Jul 4, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jul 5, 2024
Journal SKENÈ Journal of Theatre and Drama Studies
Print ISSN 2421-4353
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 1
Article Number 9
Pages 131-146
Keywords Bernini, Guitti, stage painting, commedia, architecture, carnival, Roman theatres
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Conference Name: Memory and Performance: Classical Reception in Early Modern Festivals


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