Batiston, the roots of La Spezia carnival
Batiston, a true La Spezia local aiming at being the king of Carnival. A short story of the traditional mask from La Spezia.
In Neaple Pulcinella, Venezia has its Pantalone and Colombina, Viareggio has Burlamacco, Bologna its Balanzone, Arlecchino is from Bergano and Gianduia from Turin, Baciccia goes around Genova. It’s very clear that Carnival is spread in Italy throughout Italy, but what is the traditional mask of La Spezia? Starting from the fact that in the eastern Liguria the carnival doesn’t seem to be essential as it is in other regions, the figure that most resembles the other masks is the one of the Batiston.
Who is Batiston?
The character of Batiston appears for the first time in 1869 in a popular song and in some posters of the time.
The character’s features are similar to those of the inhabitants of the eastern Liguria. Batiston is a typical countryside person, lively, full of strenght, witty and mean, always talking straight forward and lazy.
Where does it come from?
Investigatin on its origins, traces seem to lead to an actually exited man, a very popular one, basically one of the so-told sogeti (characters) who have always lived La Spezia and elevated to a real myth. A very popular practice in small villages and cities, where often popular and extroverted characters are known by everyone and their names become part of the local or familiar language usually asa negative example, not to be imitated.
Maia, Batison’s wife.
Ver soon, Batiston is coupled with anothe character, Maià (Maria in local language), also a straight forward and friendly woman, considered to be the Carnival King’s daughter, an important stage to elevate Batisotn to an actual protagonist of the carnival, tightly connected to the feast’s spirit.
La Spezia Carnival before Batiston and hos wife.
Before this wedding, in hte 50ies of the 19th century, La Spezia carnival was a enthralling village feast (note that at the time La Spezia was a tiny village, even in the years immediately before the building of the local national naval arsenal) to which everybody would take part.
The most important charcater was the Carnival King on shrove tuesday. In a bouroughs parade, made of a caravan of chariots, the Carnival King mask was accompanied by the sound of satirical songs in local language and burnt on the marina.
Traditionally, the dying Carnival king would leave a legacy to the people: initially just a list of objects, that then became in a “graces list”, advice that gradually became a satyrical song.
When on the stage appears Batiston – stepson of the Carnival King – he would read the king’s testament to his people.