The Bankruptcy, or Economic risk according to Goldoni
by Carlo Goldoni
Out of superficiality, irresponsibility, poor bookkeeping and above all an unconquerable passion for women, Pantalone, the merchant of the Commedia dell’Arte, surrounded by predators and profiteers, brings his business, family and himself down in ruin. “Men do not know what is good until they are in want” is the last bitter statement of the play, while “Here is the bill” is the first!
Goldoni’s third comedy, La bancarotta, written in 1740 and first performed at the Teatro San Samuele in Venice, was a great success with the public. It is one of the plays that most clearly marks the passage from the old theater of the Commedia dell’Arte to the new one, which began to make inroads precisely through Goldoni’s reform. In practice the old scenarios, which left the dialogue to codified improvisation on the part of the actors, were gradually replaced by an entirely written script, and the traditional “masks,” by this time ossified into stereotyped performances, by a greater study and deeper understanding of the characters.
Thus La bancarotta reflects a moment of “crisis” in the theater, a time when the changes that were to lead from the old to new were beginning to emerge.
In our staging of the play the man of La bancarotta moves around an urban and densely populated space that leads him to run untiringly from one place to another, outdoors and indoors, driven by the wind of his passions, desires, needs and few virtues. Spaces of passage, where brief scenes occur and the story unfolds. Quick scenes, caught on the fly, a glimpse of life. The classical perspective, utilized for centuries and coinciding with the traditional stage, no longer seems to correspond to our point of view today, accustomed as we are to the moving image, to a vision of space that emphasizes its flights toward other spaces that can only be imagined. Space runs elsewhere and our passions and our desires, motors of our movement, run toward an elsewhere that eludes us. Here ancient and modern come to coincide in a reformed classicism.