Get to know Casanova

Casanova - 4-8 April

Giuliano Contadini as Casanova, Victoria Sibson as Madame de Pompadour Photo: Emma Kauldhar

Northern Ballet’s latest work, Casanova presents the life of a real renaissance man – lover, thief, spy, priest, and so much more.

To get you up to speed before the show arrives here on 4 April, here are 5 things you (probably) didn’t know about the man who’s remembered today as history’s greatest lothario.

He was a bit of a genius

As well as being a diarist (his Histoire De Ma Vie runs to almost 4,000 pages), Giacomo Casanova demonstrated his ferocious intellect when he was admitted to the University of Padua at the age of 12, graduating with a low degree at just 17. That’s even more impressive when you take into account the fact that he didn’t learn to speak until age five, and spoke three languages fluently by 10.

He would go on to form friendships and working relationships with leading philosophers of the day like Voltaire and Rousseau, and even met Benjamin Franklin  when the two of them attended a lecture on the future of balloon travel.

Abigail Prudames and Luke Francis as Masqueraders in Casanova.
Photo: Emma Kauldhar

He was a man of the cloth

That’s right; the famously fast-living libertine of legend was a priest in the Catholic Church. That’s just one of the contradictions which make Casanova such a fascinating character.

In fact, it’s something that this ballet explores; he was a practising Catholic at a time when the Church’s role in society was undergoing a fundamental change.

He was an escaped convict

Arrested for ‘affront to religion and common decency’ in 1755, Casanova was imprisoned in the east wing of the Doge’s Palace in Venice. He had to have been aware that no-one had ever broken out before. But break out he did, with the help of a metal spike hidden beneath a bowl of pasta. From Venice, he would flee to Paris, where he claimed to be an alchemist searching for the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone.

You can thank him when you win big on the EuroMillions

One of the reasons that Casanova picked Paris to flee to was that a friend from his days in the Church, François-Joachim de Pierre, had recently become the French Foreign Minister. It never hurts to have friends in high places, and Casanova was tasked with the job of coming up with new ways to raise money for the state.

Putting to good use his experience of winning and losing huge sums of money at the card tables, Casanova was one of the trustees of the first ever national lottery, and apparently one of its best ticket sellers. Of course, he netted himself a sizeable fortune too.

He wrote the words for another great lover

Given the gift for writing which he demonstrates in his memoirs, perhaps Casanova was a logical choice to help complete the libretto (or text) to accompany Mozart’s thrilling score to Don Giovanni. What did Casanova think of the grisly, supernatural punishment being meted out to a man whose sins dovetailed so neatly with his own hedonistic ways? History doesn’t record…


Learn more about the life of this fascinating man, when Northern Ballet brings his scandalous, sensational tale to the stage. It is here from 4-8 April, and tickets are available now.