The Impresario (Untitled)


68 pages
ISBN 0-919473-49-0




Translated by Donald Beecher and Massimo Ciavolella
Reviewed by David E. Kemp

David E. Kemp is a drama professor at Queen’s University and the
author of The Pleasures and Treasures of the United Kingdom.


The Impresario is another play in the excellent series “Carleton Renaissance Plays in Translation,” whose General Editors are Donald Beecher and Massimo Ciavolella.

One of the remarkable things about this particular play is that it was written by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), the great Italian sculptor and architect who was responsible for The Baldacchino in St. Peter’s in Rome as well as the magnificent colonnade which flanks the great basilica. It may well be surprising to those of us who are not intimately connected with the life and works of Bernini to learn that he probably wrote as many as twenty plays, of which The Impresario, although unfinished, is the only surviving text. It is here translated into English for the first time.

Although the characters in the play are essentially drawn from the commedia dell’arte and the stock plot from the commedia erudita, one should not be misled into thinking that Bernini’s play is merely a conventional exercise in the commedia tradition.

The Impresario is in fact an entertainment that makes its contract with the audience in the spirit of deception and play. It is a witty manifesto of baroque art and an ironic revelation of the artistic ego. The play’s structure is unconventional, with a self-conscious manipulation of illusions and an almost childlike delight in witty word play.

Bernini’s ideas for the play tease our understanding and in doing so not only present his play as an intellectual game but suggest possibilities for the seventeenth century theatre that until now were not thought possible before the twentieth.

As the play is, in many instances, remarkably modern, one longs for a stage production of this long-neglected gem of artifice and wit.



Bernini, Gian Lorenzo, “The Impresario (Untitled),” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,