On Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, Montorio al Vomano (TE) holds ‘La Morte di Carnevale’ (Death of the Carnival). The procession was first staged at the end of the 1920s to mock and show social criticism and opposition to Mussolini’s fascist regime. By lampooning the established authorities of the time, the community wanted to show that spontaneity, irony, satire, freedom and, therefore, ‘Carnival’ itself had in fact died with the regime.
The fascists managed to prohibit the insurgence and further performances of ‘La Morte di Carnevale’ and it wasn’t until after the 2nd World War that the town’s citizens fulfilled their notion that satire and objection never die, once more the parody was begun and is still going strong today.
To begin the funeral of Carnival, there is first a vigil held by the desperate Carnival Widow, the band then strikes up and begins to alternately play sombre funeral marches and cheery dance tunes as the traditional open casket is drawn around the historic centre. Inside a dead man is laid out in his mourning clothes, his hands superstitiously arranged in the sign of the horns, the devils to be exact that will help drive away bad luck, or maybe it is just one hand to insinuate those male mourners are cuckold! The coffin is pulled by hooded gravediggers and accompanied by a fake priest, and the devil. The Carnival Widow openly declares her infidelity by being escorted by her lover, but happily receives condolences and grieves in a grotesque way that taunts her accompanying daughter and the other characters who play the role of friends and family.
As is usual in ‘Carnival’ men play all the female roles and most of the community are masked. There are several mini-performances that satirise the grotesque in local, international news and politics. The funeral oration pronounced by the priest helps dispose of ‘reality’, which is a constant theme of carnival, the poor can become rich for the day, the servant can become the master and it is this buffoonish performance that brings Carnival back to life.
The procession ends in Via dei Mulini where the deceased Carnival (now represented by a puppet) is thrown into the Vomano river by the Madonna del Ponte and the celebrations commence with mulled wine and chestnuts.
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Thanks to Francesca Liberatore for use of her article and photography.