In the city of Venice, a wealthy upper class socialized not only in their homes, but also in theatres and the adjacent ridotti. The ridotto was a space behind the theatres, much like a foyer, where visitors of all layers of society mingled and engaged in discussion, gambling, or other spirited forms of entertainment. Most visitors wore masks. It was the famous black and white bauta which made recognition virtually impossible.
In all of the approximately 20 ridotti of Venice, gambling was the main activity, but also, young aristocrats sold their military duty to poor souls in need of money. Servants, poets, flower girls, singers, merchants, foreign visitors, and dignitaries all passed through the ridotto. Casanova praised the beautiful women, playwright Goldoni found willing listeners to his fantastic stories. The painters Longhi, Guardi, and Tiepolo all found inspiration in the dark-lit establishment.
In the late 18th century, all ridotti were closed by the Doge of Venice on the suspicion of conspiracy, only to be re-opened as state-run casinos. The profits now went to the impoverished Republic. Guiseppe Verdi celebrated the success of his opera Rigoletto in 1851 in the Ridotto San Moise, one of the most flamboyant ridotti of all.Â Â Â
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