In collaboration with:

In collaboration with: By Bruno Daddi

The fascinating magic of Carnival at Viareggio

Fun, laughter, applause, interrupted unexpectedly by a loud voice that shouts: "Silence please, the performance is about to begin!" The buzz of voices gradually dies away, only to become even louder and stronger than before when it can finally acclaim the long-awaited arrival of the most popular magician of the year. He certainly makes a spectacular, gay and colourful entrance and, armed with magic wand and top hat, Mr. Carnival starts preparing his fantastic macromagic act. Who knows what incredible surprises this odd, amusing, jesting character, lover of the sea and pleasure, has reserved for us this year in his favourite town, Viareggio, where everyone joins in the Carnival masquerade? The Triumph of Life (1931) We cannot deny that when we talk about Carnival in Tuscany, we immediately think of Viareggio, capital of the spectacular parades of allegorical floats that have animated the streets, avenues and the hearts of the area for so many years, though many other events are held to celebrate this festival throughout the region. The traditional Viareggio Carnival, a spectacular event that attracts people from all over the world, dates from way back in the past. The first edition was in fact held as long ago as February 1873 and was the idea of some young people from the upper classes. What made their idea so new and original was the fact that they decided to celebrate the festive occasion with a parade of floats through the streets in direct contact with the townspeople. An idea that very soon became reality, for a series of processional floats were built by sculptors and craftsmen in wood, plaster and sackcloth for the occasion. From then on they were to become the monumental protagonists of the event, forefathers of a tradition that has been repeated every year, apart from during the First World War and the Belle Epoque, when the Carnival of Viareggio fell into disuse. However it was reinstated in 1921 and returned with renewed vigour. This can be seen from the incredible Carnival constructions of the period, which became more festive and daring than ever before, enriching the town's already wonderful surroundings set against the beautiful Apuan Alps. Telemonster (1990) In 1925 the float builders discovered new ways of making their fanciful constructions as lightweight and colossal as possible thanks to the introduction of papier machŽ; this was to bring them the enthusiastic praise of the national and international press which described them as the magicians of this technique. Ever since then, the Viareggio Carnival, which celebrated its 125 birthday two years ago (the revelry and merrymaking lasted a whole month), has always been an extremely popular attraction and naturally, this year, it intends to greet the arrival of the new century with more floats, parades, revels in the town quarters, carnival balls, exhibitions and events of all kinds; plans have been made to construct a Carnival City, a group of buildings that will include an arena for performances, a multimedial museum, a school of papier machŽ and allow other cultural initiatives and entertainment. This year, for the joy of adults and children alike, social and political subjects, with clear references to the year 2000, will make up the main themes for the floats on parade on Viareggio's famous promenade on February 20th and 27th, and March 5th, 7th and 12th. The first float to open this edition is dedicated to the memory of Alfredo Morescalchi and entitled "Make way for his Majesty Carnival", with a series of personalities created by the late master of carnival floats. This will be followed by the "Carnival Concert" by Fabrizio Galli, who entrusts the orchestra conductor with the task of interpreting the festival as a musical event, "The South calls the North", carried out by Emilio Cinquini with the collaboration of Sergio Staino, "The hour of the Apocalypse", by Roberto Vannucci, symbolic of the fear of the unknown, and "Collateral effect" carried out by Franco Malfatti.Silvano and Arnaldo Avanzini's float, "2001, a century for peace", metaphorically linked to the importance of peace, vaguely reminds us of a famous film by Kubrick. These are followed by constructions alluding to personalities in the forefront of the world of politics, "Jubilee 2000: even D'Alema and company is on parade at Viareggio, amen", by Renato Verlanti and Giovanni Lazzarini and "Abracadabra", by Simone Politi and Federica Lucchesi, dedicated to Carlo Azelio Ciampi, disguised as a magician trying to create a trait d'union between the opposition and the governmental majority. Pierrot (1967) So Mr. Carnival, while we wait for the curtain to come down, we can only hope that your acrobatic magic will manage yet again to surprise us, make us dream and ironically exorcise all the fears and problems that grip humanity as a whole. After all, as someone once said, life itself is also rather like a dream. Translated by Susan Glasspool İMEGA Via Faentina 69 50134 Firenze tel. +39 055 4288418 fax +39 055 412931 Email

Translated by Susan Glasspool

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