Monday, July 28, 2014

Annual "Carnival of Bagolino" in Val Sabbia - Part 1

The dancers and masks of the traditional Carnival of Bagolino

By Claudia Moreschi - - July 2, 2014

Dancers, masks and weird traditions. This is Bagolino Carnival!

Bagolino is a small village in Sabbia Valley, in the province of Brescia, on the border with Trentino Alto Adige. It is in the dairy production area of the local “Bagòss” cheese and is famous for its peculiar Carnival celebrations that date back to the XVI century, as documented by the writings preserved in the municipal archive.

Because of the isolated position of the village, the Carnival of Bagolino (also called ‘Bagosso‘ carnival) has preserved its historic characteristics during the years. Due to its particular folklore it has become increasingly renown drawing also the attention of scholar ethnologists. The Carnival of Bagolino has been ranked among the most important ethnological discoveries of the past 200 years.

The celebrations of the Bagolino Carnival are made up of 2 different performances, led by:

* the ‘Balarì‘, elegant dressed dancers and players

* the grotesque ‘Maschér‘ (masks).

The musical origins of the ‘Bagosso Carnival’ are yet to be discovered. Probably its music reportory roots in Continental Europe: according to scholars, it inherited the practice of instrumental musicians from Austrian Tyrol.

The movements of the dancers mime the ancient court dances, revisited and voiced in their own way by the Bagolino inhabitants.

The Balarì

‘Balarì‘, the dancers, perform only on the Monday and Tuesday of Carnival along the streets and in the squares of Bagolino. Their show is the most spectacular of all the Bagolino Carnival because of their peculiar music and refined dance. A unique event in Italy with only few equivalents in Europe. It provides a striking example of the level of complexity which a folk musical culture can reach.

Violin is the main instrument that gives the leading melody of the various songs that make up the large music repertory that accompanies the dances.

The dancers’ costumes are very characteristic. They wear a felt hat entirely covered by a long red ribbon cleverly folded, adorned with embroidery, jewelry and multicolored ribbons that make up a large bow. On the red band there are family (or borrowed) gold jewels (chains, brooches, earrings, rings etc.). That’s why they don’t peform their dance outdoors in case it rains : there is the risk of losing the gold!

The dancers’ face is hidden by an ivory mask and they wear a dark suit with jacket and pants to the knees, dark tie, white shirt, white gloves, white decorated socks and black shoes. On their shoulders they wear a large shawl with fringes falling down on their back and a wide silk stripe over their left shoulder with flower embroidery or lace inserts.

The Maschér

The tradition of the ‘Maschér‘ – the masks – has a more popular origin referring to the Carnival jokes. Identity is kept unknown.

The masks disordely move among the crowd wearing grotesque or frightening masks and wooden clogs that makes noise on the street pavement. They mock people by touching their genitals, an old habit reminiscent of ancient fertility rituals. Tradition has it that in ancient times the jokes had as polemical target the Counts of Lodrons, often hated by the Bagolino inhabitants.

The masks wear ancient traditional dresses; they usually move in pairs dressed disguised as old woman (‘vecia‘) and old man (‘vecio‘). In addition they move with an awkward posture, stomping and with a falsetto voice.

The maschér ritual is infused with symbolism and many gestures related to a courtship ritual.

The Carnival of Bagolino takes place every year on Sunday, Monday and Mardi Gras. This year will be on March from the 2nd to the 4th 2014.

Participation is free and recommended to anyone who doesn’t want to miss such an extraordinary and unique Carnival!


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