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Commedia dell’Arte is the standard name given to Italian improvised plays with masked ‘types’ from the 16th and 17th centuries. The Commedia Dell’Arte is the first instance of professional acting in history. It staged the comic sides of everyday life, taking its subjects from the lower classes of society. From 1545 onwards it was solely performed by professional actors.


The initial contents of the play were put in a scenario upon which the actors improvised. They put in as many references to current events and well-known personalities as possible.


Between scenes the actors performed humorous interruptions such as carefully planned tirades or acrobatic feats, complemented with music, dance and pantomime.

The five fixed characters from the Commedia Dell’Arte are Dottore, Pantalone, the Captain, Punchinello and Colombina. In late 16th century Venice, the masked commedia was staged by acrobatic dancers, actors, charlatans and buffoni.


This last group consisted of professional artists, performing as soloists or as part of a bigger ensemble in a dizzying variety of setups with visual humour. They made use of musical instruments, acrobatics, dance and many theatrical imitations. In short, they were artists of many talents.


The programme Buffoni! draws its inspiration from these characteristics of the Commedia dell’Arte, as well as the versatility of the buffoni: grotesque esthetics, constant dialogue, improvisation, hierarchy, outlining of characters (from the farcical Scaramooche to the thoughtful Columbine), accessibility and emotion. This is also the guideline for the new compositions.


The new compositions are connected to each other by  Interludes, short improvisations and own arrangements of master works of the past inspired by Commedia dell’Arte, such as Ouverture Burlesque by Georg Philipp Telemann (1717-22, Scaramouches, Harlequinade, Mezzetin and Turc), Suite italienne by Igor Stravinsky (1933) and the five voices Balleti a Cinque Voci by Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi (published in 1591).


All works inspired by Commedia dell'arte. Music by Guus Janssen, Roderik de Man, Frank Zabel, Nico Huijbregts, Igor Stravinsky, Georg Philipp Telemann and Giovanni G. Gastoldi a.o.


The thematic content of the Commedia dell’Arte in this project is mainly developed in the commissioned musical compositions.


As in the Commedia dell’Arte, there will not be an elaborate stage setting. Instead, it is minimalist, such as a temporary elevation in the street. Tables and stools make up an alternative stage to be used for the interludes. Instruments are used as props: the percussion (actual percussion instruments, but also bottles, chains, pots and pans, cups, saucers, saws, etc.) are scattered across the stage, large recorders hang at different points (the entire recorder family will be used in this production), and a very large bass panflute made out of carbon and placed behind the actors will determine the overall look of the stage. The bass panflute (1,5 meters across and its lowest pipe almost 2 meters high, the biggest ever built!) has been specially designed for this project by panflute builder Ion Preda from Bucharest.


This stage gives the musicians flexibility and suggests a spontaneous arrangement, although it is based on a very exact setup for the performance. At the beginning, the musicians will be wearing classical concert attire; as the programme progresses, coloured accents will appear in the black dinner jackets and shoes will change appearance as well; the performance will end in a multi-coloured finale. Instrumental music becomes a spectacle in which no one is what they seem to be.

Buffoni! is a concert of ca. 80 minutes, full of contrast and diversity: adventurous, grotesque and surprising.




- Vanessa Lann (1968): Arlecchino Unmasked (2014) *

for blockflute, panflute, viola, accordion and percussion


- Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi (ca. 1554 – 1609): Balletti a cinque voci  (1591)           

arr. for 5 voices and instruments

- Domenico Gallo (1730-1768): Moderato from Sonata nr. 1 in G (first publication 1780)

arr. for blockflute and  accordion


- Guus Janssen (1951): Zanni Walking (2013)*

for blockflute, panflute, viola, accordion and percussion


- Roderik de Man (1941): Buffoni! (2013) *

for blockflute, panflute, viola, accordion and percussion

- Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710 – 1736): Serenata di Polidoro (1735, arr. By Roderik de Man)

for blockflute, panflute, viola, accordion and percussion


- Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971): Tarantella (from Suite Italienne, 1932-33)

arr. for viola and accordion

- B.C. Manjunath (1976): Hari-Hara Sutha (arr. 2010)

for contrabass blockflute and cajón

- Enric Monfort (1979): Bottle Battle (2011)

for 5 bottles


- Florian Magnus Maier (1973): click Plan Be (2014) *

for blockflute, panflute, viola, accordion, percussion, electronics and toys


- Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 – 1767):  Mezzetin en Turc (uit Suite Burlesque, 1717-22)

arr. for blockflute, panflute, viola, accordion and percussion



* commisioned by the Netherlands Art Fund NL

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