San Carlo Theatre Naples

“There is nothing in all Europe, I won’t say comparable to this theatre, but which gives the slightest idea of what it is like…, it dazzles the eyes, it enraptures the soul…”.

(Stendhal, Rome, Naples and Florence in 1817)

The origins
Next to Plebiscito Square, one of the symbols of Naples, stands the shrine to Italian opera, whose foundation precedes  the Scala theatre in Milan  by 41 years and the Fenice theatre in Venice  by  55 years. It was in 1737 that the first king of Bourbon, Charles III became the promoter of a project that combined magnificence with amazement and became a clear sign of his power: a theatre! It was the architect Giovanni Antonio Medrano, the Spanish colonel brigadier stationed in Naples, who was responsible for the design. The work was contracted to Angelo Carasale who completed  the “real fabrica” in about eight months at a cost of  over 75.000 ducats, according to contemporary accounts. Medrano’s design was of a hall of 28.6 x 22.5 mt, with 184 boxes distributed in six tiers and a Royal box for ten people, for a total amount of 1379 seats.
The opening evening of November, 4th, the sovereign’s name day, was celebrated with the performance of Achilles in Sciro by Pietro Metastasio, with music  by Domenico Sarro and “two dances as an intermezzo” created by Grossatesta and scenes by Pietro Righini. At that time, women used to play the main character of operas, so Achilles was interpreted by Vittoria Tesi, called “La Moretta”, with the primadonna soprano  Anna Peruzzi, called «la Parrucchierina» and the tenor Angelo Amorevoli.

Paganini and  Bellini
All the geatest artists have performed, at least once in their lifetime,  have performed on the San Carlo stage, such as Niccolò Paganini who in 1819 gave two concerts, (on 26th June and 7th July). This prestigious venue  was also  beloved by Vincenzo Bellini , who in 1826 made his debut with Bianca e Gernando, written especially for San Carlo. Legend has it that the young composer, still a student at the conservatoire in Naples, was forced  to abandon the reherasals at San Carlo “to sit an exam at the presence of the Royal commission”. The great Nicola Zingarelli, at the head of the prestigious instution, seeing Bellini declared: “I honestly believe it is excessive, if not pointless, to examine this young man who in a few months will hve to be examined by judges who are much stricter than us: the San Carlo spectators who will see the opera he is composing Bianca e Gernando.”

See here 2014 season:


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