Twelve Days of Christmas
The Twelve Days of Christmas are spread around the gardens and you are likely to hear other visitors humming the song in an effort to remember what display will be next. If you don't remember the days, here you go:
A partridge in a pear tree
Two turtle doves
Three French hens
Four calling birds
Five gold rings
Six geese a-laying
Seven swans a-swimming
Eight maids a-milking
Nine ladies dancing
Ten lords a-leaping
Eleven pipers piping
Twelve drummers drumming
You can astound your friends with your knowledge when you reach the "Eleven pipers piping" with the following information.
11 Pipers a-piping in the Italian Garden
Because the Italian Garden was chosen for their location, an attempt has been made to keep the Pipers "Italianate".
A façade has been constructed under the bowling alley reminiscent of the Doge's Palace on St. Marco's Square in Venice. The arches, quatrefoils and brickwork are borrowed from this architecture.
The "Pipers" are large marionettes. Puppet shows existed on The Gardens' Piazza as entertainment in days gone by, so it is fitting that we offer a modest salute to this entertaining genre.
These are the Commedia del' Arte characters you meet moving from the Star Pond to The Italian Garden in left to right order:Pantalone - (Pantaloon) is a caricature of an ancient Venetian merchant. He is rich, retired, mean and miserly. He has a young wife and adventurous daughter.
Pedrolino - In France Pierrot and akin to Pagliacci. He is a white faced, moon struck dreamer. In so many ways he is the grandfather of today's circus clowns.
Corallina - A sly and cunning servant, she is often courted by Pantalone. None of the women ever wore masks. These characters are called Zagne or Servette.
Tartaglia - He is the clumsy pharmacist or notary who is always ridiculed for his speeches.
Scapino - He is a crafty prankster and jokester. A servant of Pantalone.
Mezzetino - Another servant, he plays a role similar to Brighella. When Brighella's musician tasks must be given to another, Mezzetino serves the purpose.
Capitan Spezzaferro - He is a caricature of the ancient professional soldier. He is bold, swaggering, and cowardly. He is often laughed at by the cheeky, fearless mercenaries.
Trivellino - This is Arlecchino's younger brother. He is a musician with stars in his eyes and his head in the clouds.
Columbina - The lovers or Inamorato (male) and Inamorata (female) went by many names. The most famous female was Isabella. Columbina or Columbine was her maid. She is witty, bright, crafty and honest. She is sure of herself and knows the art of seduction. She is the beloved of Arlecchino.
Brighella - Roguish and sophisticated, he is a cowardly villain who will do anything for money. He does know how to put himself in grace. He often plays the role of waiter or landlord.
Arlecchino - Also known as Harlequin, he is an acrobat and a wit. He is child-like and amorous. The wooden sword he carries eventually became a vaudeville slap stick. He is the most famous scallywag servant.
Notes on Commedia del' Arte:
Commedia del' Arte is an old form of Italian theatre going back many years to early Roman times.
Masks were an important part of Roman theatre as they served an amplification function of the actor's voice. They may have been the first wireless mikes.
The Commedia character is still referred to today as a mask and refers to the face, costume and movement all together.
The Commedia form of theatre combines mime, improvisation, scripted dialogue, tumbling and acrobatics.
Commedia del' Arte shows were performed through Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries by troops of strolling actors.
Commedia evolved in the late 18th century into Vaudeville theatre.
Each Commedia actor was assigned a stock character or "mask" which had its own standard costume and established oddities. There have been changes through the years, but the characters are much the same today as they were hundreds of years ago.
Many terms from Commedia have found their way into modern entertainment. Zanni was the name of the jesting valet and "zany" is used to describe any comic cut-up on the stage.
The Marx Brothers would be proud. Shakespeare often used derivative Commedia characters in his plays. Even today, we have an expectation of what these characters will be like.