Le Marche's Theatres
The Joy of Theatre in Le Marche
Le Marche is justifiably famous for the extraordinary number of historic theatres that exist in the region, and has the highest concentration of theatres in the world. There were at one time over a hundred functioning theatres, but sadly many of them are derelict and some have been partially renovated but are not yet fit for use.
However, there are still 70 gems of theatres in use, and a further 40 which can be visited, dating from as early as the 16th century. This large number is unparalleled, given that the population of the region is only around a million and a half!
The reason for this abundance is the economic and cultural boom that took place in the 1700s. The people of Le Marche are extremely proud of their cultural heritage and they have every reason to be. So many internationally celebrated figures throughout history have been nurtured in this culturally rich climate.
Theatres range from little venues seating only 99, such as ‘La Fenice’ in the pretty village of Amandola (See below), to the magnificent open air ‘Sferisterio’ in Macerata (See link) which shows major scale operas and seats an audience of over 3,500.
The following are a small selection of theatres in the region which are well worth a visit.
Below you will find a list of Theatres arranged according to the distance from Montefiore dell'Aso (from closest to furthest).
Fermo - Teatro dell'Aquila
The beautiful old theatre in Fermo is well worth a visit both for the quality of the entertainment on offer and to experience the building itself being used for its original purpose. The first theatre, or rather performance room in the town was established in the 1500s in the Palazzo dei Priori, which is Piazza del Popolo. This was burnt down in 1774, and the town council decided to build a purpose built theatre nearby. It was designed by architect Cosimo Morelli and work started in 1780.
The hall has five tiers of boxes, 124 in all, with continuous parapets decorated with gilded stucco neoclassical motifs by Vincenzo, Enrico and Riccardo Maranesi.
There are also gilded wooden lamps between the boxes. The auditorium Is elliptical, with the tiers of boxes overlapping the stage. The stage itself originally featured three proscenium arches, in the French style. The chandelier with 56 gilded arms was built in Paris in 1830.
The theatre first opened in 1790 for a trial performance of the oratorio The Death of Abel. Then in 1791 the official inauguration of the theatre took place, with the performance of another sacred oratorio, The Destruction of Jerusalem, by the same composer, Giuseppe Giordani (known as
Giordaniello) a Neapolitan composer who was the director of the Cappella Musicale Metropolitana in Fermo. The newly designed stage by Lucatelli allowed the addition of an extra box at both ends of each tier.
In 1828, the artist Luigi Cochetti painted The Gods of Olympus intent on Apollo singing in the vault, and Harmony gives the zither to the Genius of Fermo on the curtain valance. In 1829 Alessandro Sanquirico, stage designer at the famous La Scala Theatre in Milan, made six new backcloths, four of which still exist.
This historical theatre, still renowned for its great acoustics, seated an audience of 1000 people. After through restoration, completed in 1997, the theatre – which now complies with strict modern safety regulations– can hold an audience of more than 850.
The Teatro dell’Aquila programme includes plays, operas, concerts and special events, such as international conventions. In May each year has hosted an International Violin Competition (Concorso Violinistico Internazionale Andrea Postacchini) for young violin players from all over the world. It is named after a violin maker from Fermo, Andrea Postacchini (1781-1862), who was known as the Stradivarius of Le Marche.
Amandola: Teatro La Fenice
Records show that in the 15th century, in common with the rest of the region, plays were performed in a room inside the Ducal Palace. It later became necessary to build a theatre capable of showing larger, more complex productions in the modern style. The present theatre reflects innovations in the grand 19th century theatres, but in miniature, with an elliptical stage and three levels of boxes, and elaborate stucco and paintings on the ceiling. These are by the local artist Vincenzo Pascucci.
The theatre closed in 1958, but the theatre has been lovingly renovated and a grand reopening ceremony was held in August 2002.
Ascoli Piceno - Teatro Ventidio Basso
Ascoli has a long and rich theatrical tradition with the first theatre dating back to 1579. The present theatre was started in 1840, with the architect Ireneo Aleandri from Sanseverino, but he abandoned the task in 1846 due to numerous squabbles with the committee.
A team consisting of Marco Massimi, Gabriele Gabrielli and Giambattista Carducci took over, making numerous modifications and innovations to the original designs. The brick façade is neoclassical and features six ionic columns and niches with statues by Emidio Paci. The foyer is on the first floor and has impressive gilded stucco decorations.
There are many other interesting paintings and frescoes of the muses, including the stage curtain showing the triumph of Ventidio Basso over the Parthians. Basso was a great Roman general who came from humble origins in Ascoli and became close to Julius Caesar himself. He is also briefly mentioned in the Shakespeare play Anthony and Cleopatra.
The theatre is oval shaped and has four tiers of boxes and seats an audience of 842 with red velvet seats. The elaborate stage mechanisms were created by Gabriele Ferretti from Ancona.
Ancona - Il Teatro delle Muse
This large theatre has a neoclassical façade but also a stunning modern interior, and boasts cutting edge technology. It also has a fireproof curtain painted by the 20th century artist and director, Valeriano Trubbiani and seats over 100 people.
The new Teatro delle Muse was opened in 1878 to take the place of the earlier smaller and less grandiose theatre. A new opera, (‘the Devil’s Violin’) was written by Agostino Mercuri for the opening performance, with the scenery designed by Girolamo Magnani, who was Giuseppe Verdi’s favourite scenographer.
The interior of the auditorium is intricately decorated in classical style, with marbled pillars, paintings, gilded wood and candelabra. The artist was Alessandro Venanzi from Perugia, who also painted the curtain which represents the Emperor Federico Barbarossa in the act of honouring the Duke of Svevia as the Imperial Vicar of Perugia. This curtain has been meticulously renovated and restored and appears in all its original glory. A collection of costumes, old operating systems and machines for stage equipment, including a curious light system using saline solution, all take us back to the golden age of this temple to the performing arts.
Jesi - Teatro Pergolesi
The theatre was originally named the Teatro della Concordia when it was the rival to the original 1732 opera house in the city, the Teatro del Leone, which burnt down in 1892.
The concept of the Concordia began in 1790 with a request to the city government to build a new opera house on the Piazza della Morte (now the Piazza della Reppublica), an area in need of re-development. The city agreed, on condition that there should be two boxes reserved for the councillors, and, with some interruptions, it was finally opened during the Carnival of 1798 showing Portogallo's Lo Spazzacamino Principe (The Chimneysweep Prince).
It had four tiers of boxes, all sold to wealthy subscribers. Modifications were made in 1835 to create a gallery and a more suitable entrance on the orchestra level. On the 170th anniversary of the locally-born composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi the theatre was renamed in his honour.
In 1925 the theatre closed down due to urgent need for repair but the surviving heirs of the original construction, the Società Teatrale, were unable to continue to support the theatre, and in March 1929 it was acquired by the city. It was completely renovated in 1995 and is still in use today, "one of the few opera houses in Italy from the late 1700s that has never been destroyed by fire or bombs".
Fano - Teatro della Fortuna
The town of Fano is a renaissance jewel and was the home of the powerful Malatesta family in the 1400s. The Teatro Della Fortuna is the largest in the region, with 900 seats, and was constructed within the original Romanesque Palazzo della Podesta in the 19th century in neo-classical style. It was re-opened after restoration about ten years ago.
It features a ceiling decorated with alternate round and square stucco panels, containing restored brightly coloured paintings by the Roman painter Francesco Grandi. He also painted the monumental safety curtain showing the entry of Emperor Augustus into the Roman town of Fanum Fortunae (modern Fano).
Pesaro - Teatro Rossini
This historic theatre was inaugurated in 1818 with a performance of Gioacchino Rossini's ‘La Gazza Ladra’ (The Thieving Magpie) conducted by the great composer himself.
It seats 860, has an auditorium designed in the classic horseshoe shape with four tiers of boxes and a gallery. After a long restoration it reopened again in 1980 – for the premiere of the annual Rossini Opera Festival. It has been the venue for the traditional summer festival ever since.
Urbino - Il Teatro Sanzio
The construction of this great theatre was begun in 1845 and completed in 1853, and at the grand opening "Il Trovatore" by G. Verdi was performed before an enraptured audience. Before this date a small theatre had existed inside the Ducal Palace called the Teatro dei Pascolini. The theatre stands at the top of the famous ‘Rampa’, thereby changing the whole visual impact of the original 1400 design by Francesco Di Giorgio Martini for the Duke of Montefeltro, enabling horses to be ridden right up to the front gates of the Palace.
The illustrious architect Vincenzo Ghinelli from Senigallia won the competition for the design of the new theatre, and he was also given the task of restructuring the area surrounding the theatre.
The brick built façade has two stone bas reliefs and an architrave supported by doric columns. Inside, the design is traditional, but the most notable features are the paintings in the vaulted roof by Raffaele Antonioli di Gubbio and the painted curtain, which represents the Glory of Urbino, by the local painter Francesco Serafini.
Unfortunately, the busts of the grandees of Urbino which ornamented the balustrades were, rather controversially, lost in the more recent renovations. The atrium still contains busts of Raffaello Sanzio and Bramante himself.
After many years of neglect, the theatre was renovated in 1970 by the urban architect Giancarlo De Carlo, who made some major changes, particularly to the triangular foyer, opening it up to the floors above. This project was completed in 1982 and the theatre was reopened after thirty years of inactivity.
Urbania - Teatro Bramante
There had been two theatres already in Urbania before the construction of the Bramante began in 1855. It was funded by wealthy local citizens and designed by a local architect, Ercole Salmi. It was opened soon after the Unification of Italy with a production of Il Trovatore (Verdi) in 1864. The brick façade is in neo-classical style, decorated with a double row of doric and ionic columns, and between them, unadorned doors and windows. The interior is delightfully traditional with a horseshoe shape, three rows of boxes and an open balcony. The painter Romolo Liverani, painted the curtain and the wings with views of Piazza San Cristoforo. The medallions on the ceiling were painted with mythological images representing the four elements by Lancisi da Sant’Arcangelo.
The sculptor Pietro Gai produced the busts of the renaissance architect Bramante and Girolamo Crescenti, (a composer and renowned teacher), and the gilded stucco around the medallions representing important local figures from the Renaissance and the Risorgimento. The prompt box is particularly notable, with gaudy garlands and cheerful cherubs on a bright blue background, created by the local artist Enrico Mancini.