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Teatro dell’Aquila of Fermo

The Teatro dell’Aquila of Fermo was inaugurated in 1791. Ever since, it underwent many restorations and hosted numerous famous celebrities.

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The theater, one of the largest in the Marche region, inaugurated in 1792, was built following the 1780 project of the architect Cosimo Morelli. The building was built to replace the old wooden theater located in the Palazzo dei Priori: it was called “dell’Aquila” in honor of the majestic bird of prey symbol of the city. The lack of a monumental facade is one of its peculiarities despite the various unsuccessful attempts over the years to fill this apparent gap: for this reason today the main entrance of the theater is located on one of its sides. Great artists trod his stage: sopranos, tenors, singers and actors of world fame.

Teatro dell’Aquila: a stage of great names

The Teatro dell’Aquila, strong point and proof of a glorious musical and artistic past of the city, is able today more than ever to lure not only a good number of enthusiasts, but also artists of national and international fame and great companies. Every year a rich agenda full of events is offered to Fermo citizens, including opera, music and prose performances and events for younger people.
The activities of the theatre season is rich and varied, thanks to the collaboration among Teatro dell’Aquila and many other regional organizations like AMAT Associazione Marchigiana Attività Teatrali, the Fondazione Rete Lirica delle Marche, of which is a founding partner, the FORM Fondazione Orchestra Regionale delle Marche, Fondazione Rossini Opera Festival. This synergy allows the city to count on a prestigious lyrical season and of symphony orchestra concerts, in addition to lyrical production and classical operas’ representations’ activities.

Many Italian and International artists worked in Teatro dell’Aquila to enact their prose performances: Toni Servillo, Pierfrancesco Favino, Cristina Comencini, Angela Finocchiaro, Simona Izzo, Ricky Tognazzi, Milena Vukotic and Stefano Accorsi, Alessandro Baricco are only some of them.

Many singers and players performed in front of Fermo’s audience from the stage of Teatro dell’Aquila, like Max Gazzè, Mogol, Negramaro, Ron.

Furthermore, Teatro dell’Aquila organizes every year drama schools for younger people, to support the knowledge of theatre and actorial activities, educating in this way young citizens about the importance and beauty of artistic activities. Some of the ventures promoted by Fermo City Hall are Opera Domani and A tutta velocità and also acting classes like TIR – Teatrinrete, Scuola di Platea, Scuola teatro per bambini e ragazzi.

Architectural background of Teatro dell’Aquila

The first news of the edification of Teatro dell’Aquila in Fermo dates back to 1774.

Precisely in those years, in Marche a fine theatrical tradition already begun at the end of the XVI century was about to strengthen, leading to the building of numerous structures between the end of 1700s and the early 1800s.

Theatre constituted a “status symbol” for the society of the time, as it was a gathering spot, not only for the aristocracy and the emerging middle classes, but for the whole population, so Fermo that owned just a little residents theatre at Sala Grande in Palazzo dei Priori, recognized the need for a new theatre with a suitable architectural structure. The construction took long and faced numerous challenges, but citizens always kept up interestedly with it.

In 1774 the City Council decided to identify a suitable site for the “New Teatro dell’Aquila”. The chosen place, in the current via Mazzini, was “next to the curving road, and precisely the half-plane facing south, past the Palazzo Apostolico del Governo”, as stated by the transcript of the Council.

The original project

The choice of the place conditioned the development of the original architectural structure of Teatro dell’Aquila, which was born with the main façade, the long side of the Theatre, overlooking the street, while the lateral ones were left undefined.

The original structure of the theatrical building was realized between 1780 and 1790 by the foreman Luigi Paglialunga, with a project by Cosimo Morelli. The original drawings are not reachable anymore, but the economic reports and the descriptive appraisals of the works refer to his project’s cartographies. Also, the building’s plant of Teatro dell’Aquila clearly resembles the drawing of Teatro dei Cavalieri Associati in Imola, a work by Architect Morelli.

The first building plant followed the rules of the 18th-century theatre with an elliptical plan hall, 105 boxes in tiers and tripartite stage, as reported by non-autograph drawings, preserved in the Municipal Library of Fermo. The map shows also the two so-called “fabbriche annesse” (adjacent buildings) to the theatre: one, called “della Nobiltà” (of the Nobility), was supposed to contain the hallway, planned towards the Government Palace, the other one, called “dei Musici” (of the Musicians), was meant to be realized on the side towards the Girfalco.

The theatrical structure was built by Luigi Paglialunga throughout a decade (from 1781 to 1791), while the internal finishing works were carried out between 1788 and 1790. The stage mechanization was realized by Antonio Pizzoli, while the internal finishing of the hall was realized by the painter Vincenzo Mazza, both close collaborators of Architect Cosimo Morelli.

Of these original 18th-century decors there is no trace left, but the documents specify them to have been “painted, not embossed”, presumably in “imitation marble”, as usual for contemporary theatres.

The building of Teatro dell’Aquila

The construction works of the Theatre were frequently interrupted both for economical reasons and for the remarkable disagreements about the location of the building. In that place was contained the theatre’s entrance hall on the side facing Palazzo Apostolico, where also the ancient donjon, relic of the Girfalco fortification’s walls, was located.

The first performance was performed on 26 September 1790, “to assay the long-awaited mechanization and painting of our Teatro dell’Aquila and test the lighting” The official opening was in August 1791, with the representation of the drama The destruction of Jerusalem, by Giuseppe Giordani.

However, in 1791, the works were not completed. The “fabbrica della Nobiltà” had only the ground-floor; the two upper floors and the 18th-century linking staircase, which we can still admire, were constructed by designer Paglialunga between 1791 and 1793, as attested by autograph designs conserved in the State Archive of Fermo.

Since its building, the Theatre has been used for different purposes and not just as a theatre. For example, it was rent in November 1793 by lawyer Vincenzo Falcone, who used it as personal residence, although he was obliged to leave the first floor rooms free during performances.

In 1793, the “Fabbrica dei Musici” was completed as well, and in September, Candido and Giò Battista Germani signed a renting contract, which required them to act as custodians and leave enters and spaces used by musicians and theatre troupe free.

Since its inauguration, Teatro dell’Aquila was not fully approved by the residents. For this reason, many substantial changes to the stage were necessary, including its reduction from three stage arcs to one, while the painting of the sceneries and the internal finishings of the hall had to be completed.

After Carnival 1792, Teatro dell’Aquila was closed, opened again to the public only for Carnival 1796 and then closed again. It was left unused until 1800.

Between 1796 and 1798, Architect Giuseppe Lucatelli realized many other modifications to the stage arc and to the stage and added some features to the internal finishing, such as the painting of the ceiling and of some scenes. He also proposed the adding of other twenty boxes, but never carried it out, because of Lucatelli’s occurred health issues. The Theatre was opened to the public again in 1800 and employed for performances and Carnival celebrations until 1826.

The fire of 1826 and the following restoration works

During the night between 23 and 24 January 1826, a fire damaged a side of the Hall, from the floor to the roof covering, affecting the stability of eight boxes near the second and third orders, of a portion of the perimeter of the hall, of the ceiling and part of the roof.

Significant restoration and renovation works of the inside finishing were carried out between 1826 and 1830, under the direction of engineer Dasti.

The current shape of the Teatro dell’Aquila hall, featuring 124 boxes, proscenium and one stage arc, is the result of the transformation of that period based on a project by Giuseppe Ghinelli, architect of Teatro delle Muse in Ancona and Teatro Rossini in Pesaro.

On this occasion many other modifications to Teatro dell’Aquila were made: a large part of the roof was restored, the ceiling was lowered, the boxes were reinforced. The decors, the frames, the stuccoes were remade, the stage arc and the curtains were painted and the lighting system was fixed. The floor of the hall, slightly inclined, was lowered about 50 cm (20 in) and it was made with bricks “alla rustica”. Under the stage a 180 cm (6 ft) excavation was made to improve the harmonic.

The ornamental finishing of the parapets of the boxes, including the embossed decorations “a mecca” (a kind of paint), the marbles and all the colours, were realised by painter Biagio Baglioni from Macerata, between December 1827 and August 1828. The tempera painting of the ceiling is a refined masterpiece by Luigi Cochetti, realised in 1828.

In 1830, the gilded iron chandelier, with wooden leaves and 56 branches, originally powered by carbide, was purchased in Paris and it was recently restored.

In those years, the interior assumed the 18th-century style characteristics we can still gaze at in Teatro dell’Aquila.

The most considerable refurbishing of the inside was carried out around the years 1876/1878, under the guidance of engineer Pietro Dasti, municipal technician, of count Guglielmo Vinci and of engineer Michele Bernetti as foremen. This series of interventions aimed at retaking and renewing the paintings and decors of the Hall, restoring the painting of the ceiling and modernizing the furnishings and finishing in the theatre boxes. The descriptive evaluation related to these works is preserved in the State Archive of Fermo.

During this last intervention, some decorative items of the theatre were added or replaced such as the zoomorphic figures in papier-mâché and the rosettes at the intersections of the meanders. The gorges, the pillars, the capitals, the entrance door, the rose windows and the tresses of the stage arc were regilded. The interiors of the boxes were also refinished, the upper orders were painted and the lower orders were covered with moiré red wallpaper

With this last substantial change, the hall assumed the stylistic-decorative characteristics we can still admire today in Teatro dell’Aquila.

The XX century interventions

The interventions carried out in the XX century in Teatro dell’Aquila in Fermo solved static problems (from 1920 to 1926 and from 1961 to 1966), improved and updated the systems (electrical from 1903 to 1914, fire-fighting in 1941, steam heating in 1909), adapted the safety systems, made layout changes and ordinary maintenance works.

The building of Teatro dell’Aquila, since its first public opening, has continuously undergone redrafting, minor restorations, structural and functional adjustments, interspersed by noteworthy interventions on the structural and formal level.

The ever-present financial burdens, the bureaucratic issues to endorse the works, the persistent reconsiderations, the changes in assignment and the numerous arranged works imposed by urgency have often resulted in interventions which were disrespectful towards the peculiarities of the structure. All the maintenance interventions of the stylistic-decorative system have been conservative, but not always respectful of the intervention techniques and of the pictorial aspect, thus changing the overall chromatic impact of the Hall.

For all these reasons, in 1984, the Theatre was closed again.

A new global intervention of restoration of the structure began and lasted up until 8 March 1997, day of the official reopening of Teatro dell’Aquila.


The Teatro dell’Aquila between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

The ideal journey through the history of the Teatro dell’Aquila of Fermo can only begin on September 26, 1790, the date on which a “trial” opening of the theater factory was carried out with the performance of the opera-oratorio La morte di Abele by Giuseppe Giordani. In August of the following year the theater was officially opened with The Destruction of Jerusalem, also by Giordaniello.

The real activity of the Teatro dell’Aquila, however, begins in 1796 with the Carnival. The chronicles of the nineteenth century portray the Lyrical Seasons as a real boast for the city of Fermo, so much so as to cause general displeasure when, in 1821, the theater did not program anything due to lack of funds. The disappointment was redeemed already in August with three works by Rossini: La pietra di parragone, L’italiana in Algeri and La Cenerentola.

The public was particularly demanding. In the chronicles of 1861, during the winter opera season, he expressed his strong disappointment at the poor quality of the artists Don Pasquale of Donizetti and Florina of Pedrotti, to the point of having the performances suspended and the theater closed. As for elegance, it was usual to run into worldly news about the spectators’ clothes:

“… great elegance of the ladies of Fermo. I personally counted 64 rather low-cut toilets instead of no! … ”

The programming of the billboards was also very important: very new works were often given, a few months after their execution in capitals such as Paris, London and St. Petersburg, and the great artists knew Fermo well thanks to the Teatro dell’Aquila.

Giacomo Puccini, for example, was present on August 17, 1886 at the performance of his first early opera Le Villi; subsequently La Bohème was represented in August 1896 (the first regional one in Fermo) on the occasion of the inauguration of the Polesio aqueduct, after only six months compared to the first of the “Regio” in Turin. The success was enormous: the director and the artists were accompanied in triumph out of the theater and Puccini himself wrote to Fermo to express his gratitude.

Other great characters passed through the doors of the Teatro dell’Aquila: on January 17, 1849, Giuseppe Garibaldi assisted to a play by Cesare Trevisani; at Verdi’s L’Orefici, staged in 1888, was attended by the young Arturo Toscanini, who expressed great admiration for the theater and for the perfect execution of the opera.

Artists, works and curiosities in the 200 years of life of the Teatro dell’Aquila

The golden age of the opera

The theatrical and musical activity of the Teatro dell’Aquila was particularly lively during the 1940s. Although the Second World War had caused the closure of the main Italian theaters, in Fermo from 1939 began a series of shows with the greatest names in Italian opera, whose memory and success still remain alive in the memory of the Fermo people: they trod the stage of the Theater artists like Lina Pagliughi, Maria Caniglia, Beniamino Gigli, Ferruccio Tagliami, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Giulio Neri, Tito Gobbi, Pia Fassinari and subsequently Fedora Barbieri, Franco Corelli, Giulietta Simionato, Margherita Carosio, Anita Cerquetti, Renata Febaldi, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Renata Scotto, Mario Del Monaco, Anna Moffo, Renato Bruson, Nicola Rossi Lemeni e Aldo Protti, just to name a few.

Not only opera: from 19th century prose to the present day

Big names have made the history of the theater with memorable prose performances.

On September 6, 1861, the dramatic company directed by the artist Ernesto Rossi and conducted by Cesare Dondini, performed, for the first time in Italy, the famous drama by Paolo Giacometti La morte civile. In 1868 Adelaide Ristori, the greatest tragic actress of her era, portrayed La Medea by Gabriel Legouvè and Giudittaby Paolo Giacometti. Ermete Novelli, another great name in the field of prose (his mother Giuditta Galassi was born in Fermo), was in the city with his company in 1899, 1914 and 1917.

Among the illustrious names that have trod the stage stop we mention Angelo Musco, Armando Falconi, Ruggero Ruggeri, Emma Grammatica, Lilla Brignone (grandson of the amateur dramatics of Fermo Adelaide Andreani), Ugo Pagliai, Valeria Moriconiand Franco Enriquez, up to the present day with Franco Branciaroli, Mariangela Melato, Umberto Orsini, Flavio Bucci, Alessandro Gassman, Luca De Filippo, Piera Degli Esposti, Gianrico Tedeschi, Carlo Cecchi, Christian De Sica, Massimo Ghini, Giuseppe Fiorello, Stefano Accorsi, Claudio Bisio, Massimo Dapporto, Sabrina Ferilli, Michelle Hunziker.

Today the Teatro dell’Aquila of Fermo It is chosen by the most important international productions such as Slava (4 million spectators all over the world), STOMP and many others. It hosts national premieres, exhibition residences and concerts of the biggest names in Italian and international music: Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gianna Nannini, Fiorella Mannoia, Elisa, Claudio Baglioni, Negramaro, Gino Paoli, Ornella Vanoni, Patty Pravo.


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