5 Italian historical theatres not to be missed

Italy has always been the cradle of art and culture: over the years have been built several historical theaters famous all over the world, which have hosted great musicians, dancers, singers and artists of all kinds. There are several Italian architects who have designed and built some of the most beautiful historical theatres, so let’s find out together what they are!

1. Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele, Palermo

The teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele is one of the most important historical theatres in the world: located in the Sicilian capital, with its 7730 square meters is the largest opera house in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. It was built on land where there were the Church and the Monastery of the Stigmata, the Church and the Monastery of San Giuliano and the Church of Sant’Agata.

Built in 1875 by the great architect Giovan Battista Filippo Basile and finished by his son, Ernesto Basile, neoclassical-eclectic style is one of the symbols of the city, a architectural wonder to admire.

The theatre was officially inaugurated on May 16, 1897 with the Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi, until that day never performed in Palermo, under the direction of maestro Leopoldo Mugnon.

Fonte: ArcheoMe

Initially it was built to hold over 3000 spectators, to date it hosts up to 1358: inside there were many premieres, including Barbarina by Gino Marinuzzi and Mimì Pinson by Ruggero Leoncavallo.

It is currently one of the historical Italian theaters to visit absolutely: you can in fact do guided tours both during the weekdays and weekends, or participate in one of the shows in programming that include not only operas and ballets but also concerts, artistic experimentation and all kinds of performing arts. Another thing that few know is inside the theater is also the sartoria artistic theater, in which there are professionals able to enhance even more the beauty of the works thanks to the fabrics, the models and the beauty of the costumes as a whole!

Fonte: Sartoria Artistica Teatrale

2. Teatro alla Scala, Milan

The Teatro alla Scala in Milan is one of the most famous historical Italian theaters in the world: few know that it was built following a fire that occurred in mysterious circumstances in 1776 destroyed the Teatro Regio Ducale and left the Lombard capital without a theater.

Then the architect Giuseppe Piermarini was commissioned to build a new theater by the will of Maria Theresa of Austria: the theatre at La Scala was inaugurated in 1778 after two years of work and today it represents a real temple of the Opera.

Neoclassical in style, it hosts 6 levels of stages and galleries, with over 2000 seats: in 1812 it was named among all the historical theatres thanks to Rossini, the place chosen for the performances of Italian melodrama.

Fonte: Get Your Guide

Later in 1943 the theater was damaged due to the bombing of the Royal Air Force but was quickly rebuilt: between 2002 and 2004 there was a major restoration and modernization carried out thanks to Mario Botta.

Among the most famous lyrical compositions were represented for example Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Tancredi, Otello, Norma and saw at work some of the most famous artists including Pavarotti, Verdi, ToscaniniMaria Callas, and Zeffirelli, Carla Fracci and Riccardo Muti.

Fonte: Oggi

3. Petruzzelli Theatre, Bari

The Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari is among the largest historical theatres in size and the largest private theatre in all of Europe: initially designed to accommodate 3500 people, later the capacity was reduced to 1250.

Located in the city center the history of the theater begins when Antonio and Onofrio Petruzzelli, traders and shipowners from Trieste, present the project engineer Angelo Cicciomessere, their brother-in-law at the headquarters of the municipality of Bari. The project for the construction of a new theatre was welcomed with enthusiasm and in 1898 work began on the construction of the opera in the Umbertino style: the interior was frescoed by Raffaele Armenise and the inauguration took place in 1903 with the Huguenots of Meyerbeer.


Later in it took place the great “premieres”: “Ifigenia in Tauride” by Piccini and “I puritani” by Bellini written for Maria Malibran.

Not only operas: the Petruzzelli hosts in fact also concerti, musical, ballets , which have seen some famous personalities including Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Eduardo De Filippo, Riccardo Muti, Luciano Pavarotti, Carla Fracci, Ornella Vanoni, Giorgio Gaber and many other artists.

Thanks to the splendor and beauty of its interiors, the Petruzzelli Theatre has also been chosen among the historical theatres as a film set by directors including Franco Zeffirelli and Alberto Sordi. In 1991 there was a serious arson that threatened to compromise forever the activity of the theater: fortunately in 2009, after a long reconstruction activity, the theater returned to shine.

Fonte: Conoscoop

4. San Carlo Theatre, Naples

The teatro San Carlo was born in the heart of the capital of Naples: included in UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, has made the history of Italian opera.

It was built in 1737 by the architects Giovanni Antonio Medrano and Angelo Carasale for the will of re Carlo III di Borbone, in order to enhance Naples with a theatre that could perfectly represent the power of the Bourbon kingdom. The works ended after only eight months of work that led to the construction of the theater in neoclassical style, able to accommodate 1386 guests and with the first horseshoe plant, on which model were also built other historic Italian theaters. Also inside the room the dominant colors are fire red and gold, in addition to being present on the royal stage also the coat of arms of the Savoy that replaced the previous of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Fonte: Teatro San Carlo

Since the inauguration the San Carlo has hosted many prominent personalities including Rossini, Donizetti, Mozart, Hyden, Verdi, Handel, Paganini, Bellini and among the dancers Fanny Cerrito, Amelia Brugnoli, Carla Fracci , and more recently Roberto Bolle, Eleonora Abbagnato.

5. La Fenice Grand Theatre, Venice

The gran teatro La Fenice di Venezia is a building with a rather complex history: designed by Gian Antonio Selva and built between 1790 and 1792, twice risked destruction due to fires that hit it. Despite these drawbacks, the theater, as the name suggests, was able to rise literally from its own ashes, was rebuilt with care and today remains one of the most beautiful historical theaters in Italy.

The neoclassical structure is characterized by a pronaos with four Corinthian columns: there are sculptures representing Dance and Music, built by Gian Battista Meduna inside the niches. In the frieze in the center there is the Phoenix, from which the theater takes its name.

Fonte: Fest Fenice

With a capacity of 1500 spectators, it is one of the most prestigious theaters and for this reason it has hosted important artists including Verdi, Rossini, Bellini,  Donizetti and today not only continues to host numerous shows every year but is also the venue of the International Festival of Contemporary Music.

La Fenice Theatre, one of the most beautiful historical theatres in Italy, is located in the Venetian capital famous also for the carnival characterized by some of the most famous theatrical masks: Who in fact has never heard of Colombina, the mischievous servant and Pantalone the elderly merchant?

Fonte: Venezia Help

As the great Eduardo De Filippo said: “Theatre is nothing but the desperate effort of man to give meaning to life”.

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