The Amorous Servant
Photography: Cylla von Tiedemann
November 18, 2005 – December 11, 2005
by Carlo Goldoni
translated by John Van Burek
directed by John van Burek
design: Michael Gianfrancesco
lighting design: Paul Mathiesen
music: Boyd McDonald
stage manager: Marinda de Beer
John Van Burek
Nicolas Van Burek
The Amorous Servant (La Serva amorosa) was written in 1752. This magnificent play by Italy's greatest classical playwright has never been performed in English.
The Amorous Servant is a delightful comedy about the ambiguities of love. It tells the story of Corallina, a beautiful young maid caught in that confusing middle ground between devotion and attraction. On the one hand, there is her padrone, for whom she cares deeply, a wealthy, aging widower who has taken on a second wife, while on the other, there is his young son who is Corallina's age, booted out of the house after fighting with the unwelcome step-mother. Corallina is devoted to both her masters but her feelings for the young man take on a different colour when she goes to live with him after he's been cut off by the cranky father. Into the mix comes a rival in the form of a beautiful girl who catches her young master's eye. As Corallina strives to bring peace back to the household, she finds herself having to broker conflicting loves, all the while needing to protect herself in this risky tangle of human affection, large fortunes and the suddenly open window of social advancement.
Ottavio is an elderly, rich merchant in Verona. A widower, he took it upon himself to remarry about a year ago. Beatrice moved into the house, along with Lelio, her dim-witted son from a previous marriage. Desperate for security for herself and her son, Beatrice immediately began to manoeuvre so that Ottavio would make out his will in her favour. This led to fights with Ottavio's beloved son, Florindo, who was being cut out of the picture so, in a clumsy attempt to buy time, the old man has kicked the boy out of the house. Because he can barely survive on his pittance of an allowance, Corallina has gone to join Florindo, who is also her age and like a brother to her. This dubious arrangement, with these two young people living together in Florindo's shabby lodgings, has compromised Corallina's honour and set tongues wagging all over Verona. The situation is further complicated by Florindo's growing attachment for Corallina, who is his servant, and at the same time by his burgeoning love for Rosaura, the young daughter of Pantalone, a wealthy colleague of his father's.
Through this tangle of emotions for the young people involved runs the thread of social convention and the high stakes of great wealth. It was quite revolutionary on Goldoni's part, in 1752, to give this "amorous servant" such freedom, wisdom and power over her masters. In addition, one of the great intrigues in this elegant, moving comedy has to do with Corallina's mastery over herself.