The Renaissance of the early 16th century brought culture and commerce to Europe, leading to a decline in religious drama in favour of subjects supporting and flattering wealthy patrons of the arts.

Very few texts from the Italian golden age survived, but it was during this period that the proscenium arch and horse-shoe auditorium was introduced.  This created the template for most theatre buildings across the globe.  Painted scenery was another innovation of the age and, for the first time, professional actors were organised into companies creating regular entertainment.

Teatro all'Antica: Interior by SabionettaSociety of London Theatre & UK Theatre

In 1588–89 Scamozzi designed the Teatro all’Antica, a small court theatre for the Gonzaga family at Sabbioneta. Unlike the Teatro Olimpico the stage here is a single architectural vista behind a shallow-raked open platform, after the manner of the stage illustrated by Sebastiano Serlio. At Sabbioneta a divided horsehoe-shaped bank of seating leaves an empty arena, at floor level, in front of the stage.  

Ballet Essay (1940/1950) by Gjon MiliLIFE Photo Collection

Subjects for performances returned to classical themes and also led to the development of opera and ballet from lavish court entertainments.  This Italian Age is often seen as the cradle of modern theatres and more historic theatres survive here than in any other country.

Goldoni's Servant of Two Masters, based on the Commedia format, was itself adapted by Richard Bean into one of the National Theatre's greatest successes of recent years - One Man, Two Guvnors starring James Corden.

War 1586-1604 England V Spain Camp Sea Spanish Armada Plans Ect 1LIFE Photo Collection

Wondering what made the Elizabethan era of theatre so golden?  Check out the next story here.

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