The Harlequin is one of the stock characters in the
Commedia dell'arte, or 'Italian Comedy,' a genre of
largely improvisational theater that was extremely
popular in Italy beginning in the 15th century. A
typical troupe had 10 stock characters, played either
by actors or by puppets, and the plays were based around
conventional comedic situations.
Jean-Francois Marmontel (1723-1799) describes the
character of the Harlequin, one of the most important
of the stock characters, in much the same way one might
describe the character of the contrabassoon.
'The model Harlequin is all suppleness and agility, with
the grace of a young cat, yet equipped with a
superficial coarseness that renders his performances
more amusing; the role is that of a lackey, patient,
faithful, credulous, gluttonous, always in love, always
in difficulties either on his master's account or on his
own, afflicting himself and consoling himself again with
the readiness of a child, one whose sorrows are as
amusing as his joys.'
This Harlequin Sonata was written in 2006 at the request
of Susan Nigro. Total duration approximately 8 minutes.
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