The Real Teatro di San Carlo (Royal Theatre of Saint Charles), its original name under the Bourbon monarchy but known today as simply the Teatro di San Carlo, is an opera house in Naples, Italy It is located adjacent to the central Piazza del Plebiscito, and connected to the Royal Palace
The San Carlo Theater, formerly Real Theater of San Carlo, often referred to as the San Carlo Theater, is a lyric opera in Naples, as well as one of the most famous and prestigious in the world. Overlooking the street and side streets of Trieste and Trento, the theater, in line with the other great architectural works of the period, such as the great Bourbon Bourges, was the symbol of a Naples that remarked its status as a major European capital .
It is the oldest opera house in Europe and the world still active, being founded in 1737, as well as one of the most extensive Italian theaters of the peninsula. It can accommodate 1386 spectators and has a large square (22 × 28 × 23 m), five rows of horses, plus a large royal stage, a log cabin and a stage (34 × 33 m). Given its size, structure and antiquity, it has been a model for subsequent European theaters.
It is the oldest continuously active venue for public opera in the world, opening in 1737, decades before both the Milan’s La Scala and Venice’s La Fenice theatres. The opera season runs from late January to May, with the ballet season taking place from April to early June The house once had a seating capacity of 3,285, but has now been reduced to 1386 seats Given its size, structure and antiquity was the model for the following theatres in Europe
The destiny of Naples, European capital of music and art, has always revolved around a history mixing and mingling with that of the oldest theatre in Italy, now recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site The San Carlo is the symbol of the city where Italian opera music was born, built 41 years before Milan’s La Scala and 55 before Venice’s La Fenice
Thus, the San Carlo was inaugurated on 4 November 1737, the king’s name day, with the performance of the opera Domenico Sarro’s Achille in Sciro, which was based on the 1736 libretto by Metastasio which had been set to music that year by Antonio Caldara As was customary, the role of Achilles was played by a woman, Vittoria Tesi, called “Moretta”; the opera also featured soprano Anna Peruzzi, called “the Parrucchierina” and tenor Angelo Amorevoli Sarro also conducted the orchestra in two ballets as intermezzi, created by Gaetano Grossatesta, with scenes designed by Pietro Righini The first seasons highlighted the royal preference for dance numbers, and featured among the performers famous castrati
The most touched by the hand of luck at San Carlo between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were the operas by Puccini and the music of the “young school” of Mascagni and the Neapolitans – either by birth or by schooling – Leoncavallo, Giordano, Cilea and Alfano Covent Garden, 1946, and a tournée meeting with success in London: San Carlo is the first Italian theatre with the courage to start up again after the war Even today, San Carlo continues in the wake of that tradition The Lirico has indeed touched with his tour in the last three years, three different continents confirming itself as fine ambassador of Italian culture and the Neapolitan tradition in the world
At the time, Neapolitan School of opera enjoyed great success all over Europe, not only in the field of opera buffa but also in that of opera seria The Neapolitan school of opera composers included Feo, Porpora, Traetta, Piccinni, Vinci, Anfossi, Durante, Jommelli, Cimarosa, Paisiello, Zingarelli, and Gazzaniga Naples became the capital of European music and even foreign composers considered the performance of their compositions at the San Carlo theatre as the goal of their career These composers included Hasse (who later settled in Naples) Haydn, Johann Christian Bach and Gluck
Similarly the most prominent singers performed and consolidated their fame at the San Carlo These included Lucrezia Anguiari, called “La Cocchetta”, the renowned castrati Giovanni Manzuoli, Caffarelli (Gaetano Majorano), Farinelli (Carlo Broschi), Gizziello (Gioacchino Conti) and Gian Battista Velluti, the last castrato Caffarelli, Farinelli, and Gizziello were products of the local conservatories of Naples
Among the conductors and composers appointed by the Teatro San Carlo was the famous and eccentric French harpist and composer Nicolas-Charles Bochsa, who was accompanied by his lover, the English prima donna Anna Bishop, with whom he was touring the world. He conducted several operas (1844–1845) in the San Carlo with Anna Bishop as prima donna. She sang there 327 times in 24 operas.
The unification of Italy in 1861 lead to Naples losing its status as the musical center of Italy and the home of the country’s leading opera house to La Scala as power and wealth moved northwards By 1874 the fall in income from performances lead to the closing of the opera house for a year Its fortunes were able to recover due to the continued support in the later half of the nineteenth century.
The theater, built on a project by Giovanni Antonio Medrano, Spanish Colonel Brigadiere in Naples and Angelo Carasale, former director of the San Bartolomeo Theater, is located at the north side of the royal palace with which it is communicating through a door that opens right behind of the royal stage, so that the king could go to shows without having to go down the street. The works, completed in eight months at a total cost of 75,000 ducats, saw the creation of a 28.6 meter long room and 22.5 meters wide with 184 boxes arranged in six orders, plus a real stage capable of accommodating ten people, for a total capacity of 1379 seats. The project introduces the horseshoe plant, the oldest in the world, a model for Italian theater. On this model, the following theaters of Italy and Europe were built, among others, the court theater of the Caserta palace, which will become the model of other Italian theaters such as the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
In 1767 Ferdinando Fuga carried out the renovations at the wedding of Ferdinand IV with Maria Carolina and in 1778 redesigned the boccascena.
In 1797 a restoration of the hall decorations was carried out by Domenico Chelli.
In 1809 Gioacchino Murat commissioned the Tuscan architect Antonio Niccolini for the project of the new main facade that was executed in a neoclassical style inspired by the design of Paschal Poccianti for the villa of Poggio Imperiale in Florence.
The theater was rebuilt in just nine months on the project of Niccolini after a fire that destroyed it on the night of February 13, 1816. The reconstruction returned it to the city in its present form, except the colors that continued to be those of 1737. These , able to give him an even more atypical appearance than the contemporary one, they saw the silver decorated with gold-plated (now all in gold) decorations, while the stages as well as the velvet and the curtain in blue (now red); these are all official colors of the Casa Borbonica. Only the actual stage was “pale” red (so it was called Stendhal), before all the theater upholstery became red fire. The changes it had in 1816 concerned: the stage, which was expanded to overcome by size the audience; the ceiling, which was raised with respect to the Cammarano’s veil performed on the same occasion; Finally, the proscenium was added.
In 1834 a new restoration was started by the same Niccolini. By choice of Ferdinand II, in 1844-45, the authentic colors in blue and silver-gold were replaced with the red and gold matching, typical of European opera theaters. Francesco Gavaudan and Pietro Gesuè, with the demolition of the Old Guard, realized the western prospect, towards the palace.
In 1872, at the suggestion of Giuseppe Verdi, the “mystical gulf” was built for the orchestra; in 1937, on the other hand, the foyer connected to the royal gardens of the adjoining palace by a double ramps monumental staircase. Destroyed during the bombing of Naples in 1943, in the immediate aftermath of the war it was rebuilt as it was.
On March 27, 1969, the Nicolini sculptural group of Partenope, present on the central acrotero of the fronton of the main facade, crumbled because of lightning and rainfall infiltrations; this event required a part to be removed. In the early seventies, after a cover fire, the survival of the original sculptural group in masonry and stucco was also removed.
In 1980, the coat of arms of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was restored under the arch of the proscenio, thus replacing the Savoyard desired by the kings of the newborn kingdom of Italy following the unity. In fact, during some cleaning operations, it was found that the coat of arms was simply superimposed on the original coat of arms and detached from it with a special thickness.
On 11 June 2007, after eight shades, the Parthenope’s Triad was restructured and ready to rise again at the top of the building, thanks to the initiative of the cultural association Mario Brancaccio, on the project of restoring the architect Luciano Raffin.
On January 23, 2009, the theater of San Carlo was returned to the city. Renovation and restoration works, coordinated by architect Elisabetta Fabbri, lasted five months: from July 2008 to December of the same year. A new foyer was built below the theater hall; the room itself has been restored, with the complete cleaning of all decorative reliefs, golds, paper mills and painted patines. An air conditioning system has also been added for which the air flow is entered into the hall through a mouth located below each of the 580 armchairs and in each single stage of the room. The restoration of the 500-square-meter canvas, decorated in the ceiling of the room, required the use of about 1500 nails and 5000 syringes for the fixation of the pictorial film. In addition, the lounge chairs were completely replaced, which also underwent an intervention to improve the view of viewers and acoustics, which was already considered extraordinary before the intervention.
The acoustics of San Carlo have been considered since its construction, almost perfect. The event that determined more to achieve this result however is in 1816, when the theater ceiling is raised from the past.
The work of Niccolini and Cammarano then saw the creation of the veil (the Cammarano canvas) in a position below the roof. This mechanism creates a sort of acoustic chamber, as if there was a huge drum over the plate.
The acoustics have also been considered perfect because it does not change depending on the audience’s position (audience, stage, loggione).
The determining factors in the result are also the balustrades, not smooth, and the interior decorative elements, the series of small ripples. The materials and techniques of performing these details gave the theater the ability to absorb the sound without it being reflected in the consequence of having a bad reverb.
The San Carlo Orchestra was born together with the Foundation in 1737 to perform the Achilles in Sciro, the inaugural opera of the theater; Over the years he has always had a theatrical approach, destined to first performances of works written, among others by Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti and Giuseppe Verdi. In particular, the only and only Verdi’s string quartet was composed for the Maximilian Neapolitan Orchestra, whose manuscript is still preserved at the San Pietro a Majella Conservatory. If until the end of the nineteenth century at San Carlo there were solo guests and guests (often foreigners), it is in 1884 that symphonic tradition begins with the direction of a young Giuseppe Martucci who performed a program composed by Weber’s music, Saint-Saëns and Richard Wagner. From Martucci there are great directors such as Arturo Toscanini (1909), Victor De Sabata (1928), and composers such as Ildebrando Pizzetti and Pietro Mascagni. On January 8, 1934, Richard Strauss directed the ensemble of the Theater, with the execution of songs exclusively of his own composition.
After the Second World War, leading the Orchestra were followed by names such as Vittorio Gui, Tullio Serafin, Gabriele Santini, Gianandrea Gavazzeni among the Italians and Karl Böhm, Ferenc Fricsay, Hermann Scherchen, André Cluytens, Hans Knappertsbusch, Dimitri Mitropoulos among foreigners, with Igor Stravinskij in October 1958. The next decade saw the direction of two emerging young people: Claudio Abbado at his debut in 1963 and Riccardo Muti in 1967.
San Carlo is the first Italian theater to go abroad after World War II (which, however, leaves it structurally almost intact). In 1946, the ensemble was at Covent Garden in London, in 1951 at the Strasbourg Festival and Paris Opera for the 50th anniversary of Verdi’s death. In addition to this, after the Festival of Nations in Paris in 1956 and in Edinburgh in 1963, San Carlo began a Brazilian tour in 1969; He is also in Budapest in 1973, in Dortmund in 1981, in Wiesbaden in 1983, 1985 and 1987, as well as with Il Flaminio by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi in Charleston and New York in the United States.
After the long, prestigious superintendence of Comm.Pasquale di Costanzo, completed in 1973, the Theater suffered a period of decline that ended at the end of 1978, with a temporary two-week shutdown and commissariation.
Departments like scenery, tailoring, dancing, did not work anymore; the orchestra was under organic and did not work well; the chorus, dignitously. Commissioner Carlo Lessona nominated Master of Arts and Music Director of the orchestra Master Elio Boncompagni, then director at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. The orchestra was brought back to its basic staff, increasing it to 107 units, still organic. All the theater departments were reactivated: a fundamental commitment was the creation of a new Tetralogia by Wagner with the most famous set designer of then, Günter Schneider-Siemssen. Despite the October 1980 earthquake, the Theater continued to operate with two performances for Naples of the Ballet du XXème Siècle by Maurice Béjart from 29 November to 5 December 1980. During this period up to the middle of 1982, the “first “For the Teatro San Carlo, (Jenufa of Janácec, Mozart’s Clemency of Mozart, The Rake’s Strawinskj Progress), Te Deum’s” World’s First “for Penderecki’s Pope Voityla, three concerts with the mythical Mitsevic Rostropovič. Celebrities like Muti, Abbado, Domingo, Patané, returned to San Carlo. In 1981, the San Carlo Theater was for the first time in Germany, in Dortmund, with Il Trovatore’s new production, with the musical direction of Elio Boncompagni. This event then opened the way for the Wiesbaden Festival.
The Orchestra then has Daniel Oren as a stable director, especially as far as the operatic section is concerned; From 1982 to 1987, he was superintendent Francesco Canessa. In the next decade, a resurgence of symphonic activity has taken place, in collaboration with Salvatore Accardo, attested by presences, including Giuseppe Sinopoli in 1998, and Lorin Maazel in 1999 for a particularly appreciated and applauded Nona di Beethoven.
Over the last ten years, there were also Georges Prêtre, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Mstislav Rostropovic, Gary Bertini, Djansug Khakidze and Jeffrey Tate (who has been acting as a theater director since May 2005). In addition to Tate, San Carlo has seen the musical direction of Bertini in the 2004-2005 season, and by Gabriele Ferro from 1999 to 2004. With the same Iron, San Carlo takes the Persephone-Œdipus Rex Stravinsky diptych in the ancient theater of Epidaurus in Greece, performing with a case composed, among others by Gérard Depardieu and Isabella Rossellini. In June 2005 he is in Japan, Tokyo and Otsu, with Luisa Miller and Il Trovatore di Verdi, and in October of the same year in Pisa with the Cantate for San Gennaro (with the musical revision of Roberto De Simone and the musical direction of Michael Güttler), guest of the International Festival of Sacred Music “Anima Mundi”. The Orchestra also contributed to the double victory, in 2002 and 2004, of the prestigious Abbiati Award assigned by the Italian music critic.
Even before the construction of the new Theater, among the provisions of King Charles I of Bourbon, there was the limitation of “funny intercourse” in the interplay of serious opera, in favor of a choreography that resumed the main themes of the work represented. At the opening of San Carlo, this arrangement was maintained, extending afterwards to entire dance performances, which led to the establishment of a true “Neapolitan school”, which went on to affirm itself with the fame that the Theater took in Europe.
Gaetano Grossatesta was the first choreographer of the new Theater, and was the author of the three dances that accompanied the inaugural work of San Carlo, the Achilles in Sciro by Domenico Sarro: one was performed before the beginning of the opera, another in the interval and the last after the conclusion; the titles were: Sailors and Gypsies, Four Seasons, Credentials). The Grossatesta remained active in San Carlo for over thirty years, composing regularly all the music of his ballet. The tradition of coinciding with choreographer and composer was interrupted by Salvatore Viganò, Neapolitan, who was very active at St. Charles and in the theaters of major European capitals (Paris, London, Vienna), imposing a dramaturgical evolution of dance performance, landing then to the “action ballet” and to the “coreodrama”. To remember other famous choreographers formed at San Carlo: Carlo Le Picq, Gaetano Gioia, Antonio Guerra and Carlo Blasis, who with his wife Annunziata Ramazzini later taught at the nascent Bol’shoj School in Moscow.
In 1812 San Carlo was born at the oldest dance school in Italy.
Among the dancers are Amelia Brugnoli, Fanny Cerrito and Fanny Elssler who with Maria Taglioni formed the legendary backdrop of the French romantic ballet. Among the choreographers are also Salvatore Taglioni (Uncle Maria), director of dances at San Carlo from 1817 to 1860, and dancers Carlotta Grisi and Elisa Vaquemoulin.
Dance at San Carlo undergoes the changing tastes of society between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. The aesthetic crisis of romance is overcome, but without finding its own identity, but relying on the national fashion of the festive meatballs at Manzotti, between Ballo Excelsior and Pietro Micca. The great “international star” Ettorina Mazzucchelli moves his footsteps.
At the end of the war, the Company of the San Carlo Theater regains prestige, hosting among others: Margot Fonteyn, Carla Fracci, Ekaterina Maximova, Rudolf Nureyev and Vladimir Vassiliev, and many choreographies of the performances represented in the Theater are entrusted to the latter. More recently they danced as guest Roberto Bolle, Ambra Vallo, Eleonora Abbagnato. In recent years, Roland Petit’s contribution: The Bat and Duke Ellington Ballet is to be emphasized. Followed by Luciano Cannito, Elisabetta Terabust, Anna Razzi, Giuseppe Carbone, Alessandra Penzavolta and Chang Lienz, the latter being the current director.