Did you know that in the Greek Theatre of Syracuse, which dates back to the times of classic Greek drama, actors still perform without microphones? And that Florence’s Teatro della Pergola is history’s first example of “Italian theatre” architecture, in which a deep stage, a horseshoe-shaped auditorium and tiered boxes helpfully combine good acoustics and maximal economic output? And that the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the world’s leading opera venue, was built in order to celebrate Austrian vanity but, thanks to Giuseppe Verdi, became the heart of the Italian Risorgimento? Italy is perhaps the only Western country that possesses theatres (that is, performance venues) belonging to all eras, thus comprising a veritable open-air history of theatre. The country hosts venerable, well-preserved ancient theatres dating back to Ancient Greece and Rome, the Renaissance (Vicenza’s Olimpico), the Baroque era (the Teatro della Fortuna in Fano, rebuilt according to Giacomo Torelli’s original, 17th-century plans; Florence’s Pergola), and magnificent 18th-century venues (Rome’s Argentina and Valle). The country also has countless small palace theatres (practically one in every town) and splendid 20th-century theatres, ranging from the Art Nouveau-style Jovinelli in Rome to the many modern multi-purpose halls; during the 1960s and 1970s, many creative avant-garde plays were performed in historic “cellars”. The societies that built and lived in those theatres have left traces in friezes, seating plans, stage machinery, entrance lobbies and dressing rooms.
Nicola Fano – theatre historian, journalist, playwright – is currently a member of the managing board of the Teatro di Roma.