Carlo Gozzi

Carlo Gozzi. The Venetian playwright (1720-1806) was renowned for his vigorous defence of the traditional “Commedia dell’arte”; against the dramatic reforms proposed by such contemporaries, as Carlo Goldoni and Pietro Chiari.

Gozzi’s works often incorporated elements of the supernatural or mythical, which he used as a medium for satire. His fairy tale-based plays were particularly popular and influential, leading to a revival of Commedia dell’arte in Italy.

Much acclaimed across Europe, his notable works include “The Love for Three Oranges” and “Turandot,” which were later adapted and translated by other prominent figures in European literature and theatre.

Biography: Early Life – Works – Death – European admiration – Links (internal-external)


Count Carlo Gozzi. Portrait by unknown artist. (b. December 13, 1720, d. April 4, 1806.)



Early life. Count Carlo Gozzi, was born in Venice on the 13th December 1720, into the Tiepolo family; of minor but poor Venetian aristocracy. His older brother Gasparo, also went on to become a well-known writer of the time.

At a young age, his parents were no longer able to support him financially, so he spent a three-year period in the army in Dalmatia. On return to Venice in 1744, he joined the Granelleschi Society – a reactionary group dedicated to the pursuit of preservation of Italian literature. One of his particular interests, was in saving traditional Italian comedy, such as Commedia dell’arte, from the influence of foreign culture.

Works. Carlo Goldoni and Pietro Chiari, two other Venetian writers, were moving away from the old style of Italian theatre, which threatened the work of the Granelleschi Society.

He began by attacking Carlo Goldoni, author of many fine realistic comedies, first in a satirical poem, “La tartana degli influssi” (1747) and then in an exotic commedia dell’arte play, “L’amore delle tre melarance” (“The Love of the Three Oranges”. Performed in 1761), in which he personified Goldoni as a magician and Pietro Chiari as a wicked fairy.

To perform his play, he obtained the services of the Sacchi company of players, a Commedia dell’arte troupe who due to dwindling interest in Commedia dell’arte . Their satirical powers thus sharpened by personal vendetta, the play was an extraordinary success and Gozzi donated his play and the rest of his fairy tales to Sacchi’s troupe, effectively saving the company. While some hailed Gozzi as the saviour of Commedia dell’arte, others debated this; due to the fact that he wrote out all his scripts, so they were not actually “improvised”.

Following the huge success of “The Love of the Three Oranges” play, Gozzi wrote nine other “fiabe” (fantastic plays; literally, “fairy tales”), based on puppet plays, Oriental stories, popular fables, fairy stories and the works of such Spanish dramatists as Tirso de Molina, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, and Miguel de Cervantes. The successful introduction of supernatural or mythical elements, had been merely used as a convenient medium for his satirical purposes. Gozzi’s “fiabe” were popular and brought back a revival for the Commedia dell’arte form, for a time in Italy.

  • Il corvo — “The Raven” (1761)
  • Il re cervo — “The King Stag” (1762)
  • Turandot (1762)
  • La donna serpente — “The Serpent Woman” (1762)
  • La Zobeide (1763)
  • I Pitocchi Fortunati — “The Fortunate Beggars” (1764)
  • Il Mostro Turchino — “The Blue Monster” (1764)
  • L’Augellino Bel Verde — “The Green Bird” (1765)
  • Zeim, Re de’ Geni — “Zeim, King of the Genies” (1765)

(Note. Turandot was first performed at the Teatro San Samuele in Venice in January 1762.)













His collected works were published under his own superintendence at Venice in 1792, in 10 volumes. Gozzi also wrote a vivid autobiography, “Memorie inutili” – Useless Memoirs (1777, published 1797).

In the last years of Gozzi’s life, he had begun to experiment by producing tragedies with largely comical influences, but these endeavors were met with a harsh critical response. He then began to work in Spanish drama, finding minor success before his death.

Death. Gozzi died on the 4th April, 1806. He is buried at San Michele Cemetery in Venice, located on the Isola di San Michele, situated between Venice and Murano. It’s interesting to note that while San Michele Cemetery is his final resting place, there are reports of him being buried in the church of San Cassiano in Venice. His remains could well have been relocated and hence the confusion online.

(Note. The Church of San Cassiano in Venice, where Carlo Gozzi was (first reported to be buried, is in the San Polo district and can be reached by getting off the waterbus at the San Stae stop on the Grand Canal. The 14th century church, which is dedicated to San Cassian of Imola, is in Campo San Cassiano. Its highlight is the painting of “The Crucifixion of Christ” by Tintoretto, which the art critic John Ruskin described as ‘the finest example of a Crucifixion painting in Europe’. Campo San Cassiano is also where the world’s first public opera house, Teatro San Cassiano, was located until it had to be demolished in 1812 after several fires.)

European admiration. His works had an even more lasting influence elsewhere in Europe, particularly in Germany, where they were published in 1777–78. They were much admired by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and the Schlegels.

Schiller turned Turandot into a serious play, and Friedrich von Schlegel compared Gozzi to William Shakespeare. Turandot was used later as the basis for operas by Ferruccio Busoni (performed 1917) and Giacomo Puccini (performed 1926).” L’amore delle tre melarance” provided the basis for Sergey Prokofiev’s opera The Love for Three Oranges (performed 1921).


Links (internalexternal)

Teatro Stabile del Veneto (Teatro Goldoni)

Teatro Fenice Website in English

Read in conjunction with my other theatre-related posts:

15 – Casa di Carlo Goldoni (Museum)

“Carlo Goldoni”

“Teatro La Fenice”

“The Malibran Theatre”



Carlo Gozzi    Carlo Gozzi    Carlo Gozzi

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