School of the Arts

Servant of Two Masters

Servant of Two Masters logo

California State University, Chico’s School of the Arts presents a modern translated version of the 18th century classic, A Servant of Two Masters. Performances take place Thursday–Saturday, March 5–7 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday–Sunday, March 7–8 at 2 p.m. in Wismer Theatre. Purchase tickets at the University Box Office or by calling 530-898-6333. Seating is limited and purchasing tickets in advance is recommended.

The translated version by Edward J. Dent contains all the charm of the original work by Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni. Beatrice, along with her quirky servant Truffaldino, has come to Venice disguised as her dead brother. She is searching for the man who killed him, Florindo, whom she is also in love with. She is disguised as her brother, Federigo, so she can collect his dowry from the father of Clarice, to whom he was betrothed. But since his death, Clarice has fallen in love with Silvio. Beatrice’s servant Truffaldino, the main character of the play, is always complaining of an empty stomach and eats everything in sight. He accepts a job to be a servant to another master, Florindo, since it is an opportunity to have an extra dinner. Truffaldino struggles with balancing his work without arousing the suspicions of either of his masters.

The play was written by Goldoni by request of Antonio Sacco, the first actor to play Truffaldino. It was first performed in 1745, likely in Venice, with the title Il servitor di due padroni. As it was a commedia dell’arte, Goldoni wrote only an outline of the play and the actors improvised the dialogue. In later performances, he transcribed and edited the dialogue. The script he came up with in 1753 is the version still used today. 

The popularity of the play has encouraged many translations and adaptations over the years. This production’s version was translated by Dent for a performance by the A. D. C. Cambridge in June 1928. There are adaptations in other languages as well, including plays in Dutch and Scottish and a TV movie in Russian. In 1966, it was made into an opera by Vittorio Giannini. Mozart also considered turning the play into a comedic opera but never completed his idea. 

A Servant of Two Masters is now considered a standard in the tradition of commedia farce (a comic dramatic piece with exaggerated, unlikely situations and stereotyped characters). The double banquet scene is the most famous of the play. Truffaldino has to serve a banquet for each of his masters at the same time without either banquet party finding out about the other, resulting in Truffaldino not getting a bite to eat.