War becomes ballet: the Battle of Magenta (1859)

The Risorgimento in ballet – Episodes between chronicle and legend from the world of the dance – 3rd instalment

Carlo Bossoli - The Battle of Magenta

The Second Italian War of Independence had its apex in the pitched battle of Magenta near Milan. On June 4th, 1859 the Austrian army commanded by Count Ferencz Gyulai met the Franco-Piedmontese army led by the French Emperor Napoleon III and Victor Emmanuel II King of Sardinia. The Austrians were defeated, and on June 8th Milan greeted the victorious troops.

The cities of central Italy rose in arms, including Bologna which was abandoned by the Austrians on June 12th with the consequent end of the Pope’s rule. At the Teatro Nosadella, which mostly presented puppet shows interspersed with dances, during the carnival season 1859-1860 the epic battle was evoked in the ballet Il ritorno del volontario bersagliere dalla battaglia di Magenta (The Volunteer Bersagliere returning from the Battle of Magenta) by an unknown choreographer. A year later in Naples the ballet Un episodio della Guerra d’Italia nel 1859 (An Episode of the War of 1859 in Italy), by Dario Fissi with music by Giuseppe Giaquinto, was played in a splendidly illuminated Teatro di San Carlo as a celebration of the annexation of Southern Italy. (R.Z.)

«Finalmente sarà permesso a Gianduja di abbracciare le sue sorelle» A cartoon from “Il Canocchiale”, Bologna 1859-1860, portrays Gianduja (the traditional mask from Turin) finally allowed to embrace his sisters, the provinces of Florence, Modena, Parma and Romagna.

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