Zan Ganassa

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Zan Ganassa (c. 1540 – c. 1584) was the stage name of an early actor-manager of commedia dell'arte, whose company was one of the first to tour outside of Italy.[1] Ganassa's real name was probably Alberto Naseli[2] (also spelled Naselli).[1]

He was known for playing Zanni, comic servant roles,[1] hence his stage name, and is one of the first actors believed to have played the Zanni subtype known as Harlequin (Arlecchino in Italian), which subsequently became one of the most important leading roles in commedia dell'arte plays.[3]

Ganassa is first mentioned in 1568 as the leader of a troupe in Mantua.[1]

After his troupe had performed in Paris in 1571, they were invited by Charles IX of France to take part of the festivities surrounding the marriage of the King of Navarre (later Henry IV) to Charles's sister Marguerite de Valois in August 1572.[2][4]

From 1574 to 1584 Ganassa performed in Spain, where he exerted considerable influence on early Spanish professional theatre. He was so popular that the authorities in Seville withdrew the troupe's license: workers were neglecting their jobs in order to see the plays. Ganassa is mentioned numerous times by Lope de Vega, who may have based his comic servant Gracioso on commedia dell'arte types. Gracioso later became a stock character of Spanish comedia.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e Senelick 1995a, p. 409.
  2. ^ a b Hartnoll 1983, "Ganassa, Zan" pp. 313–314.
  3. ^ Senelick 1995b, p. 472.
  4. ^ Baschet 1882, pp. 24–26.


  • Banham, Martin, editor (1995). The Cambridge Guide to the Theatre (new edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-43437-9.
  • Baschet, Armand (1882). Les comédiens italiens à la cour de France sous Charles IX, Henri III, Henri IV et Louis XIII. Paris: Plon. View at Google Books.
  • Hartnoll, Phyllis, editor (1983). The Oxford Companion to the Theatre (fourth edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-211546-1.
  • Senelick, Laurence (1995a). "Ganassa [Zan Ganassa; Alberto Naseli or Naselli]" in Banham 1995, p. 409.
  • Senelick, Laurence (1995b). "Harlequin" in Banham 1995, p. 472.

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