Farnese Theatre

A stage used less than 10 times

By Palazzo della Pilotta

Palcoscenico del Teatro FarnesePalazzo della Pilotta

The Farnese Theatre occupies a huge hall used as an arms room for the court's chivalric exercises, adapted and transformed into a performance hall between late 1617 and autumn 1618.

Built using unusual materials such as painted wood, straw, and stucco, the theater has rational features of ovate-shaped structure, two orders of loggias, moving scenes, and balanced decorations.

Ingresso alla platea del Teatro FarnesePalazzo della Pilotta

It was wanted by Ranuccio I Farnese (1592-1622), fourth Duke of Parma and Piacenza, who wished to celebrate Grand Duke Cosimo II de' Medici, whose trip to Milan was planned to visit the tomb of St. Charles Borromeo, strengthen relations with Florence, speeding up the marriage negotiations between his eldest son Odoardo and a Medici princess, daughter of the Grand Duke, as well as wanting to emulate the Medici court in the generation of the splendor of a theater.

The construction was entrusted to Giovanni Battista Aleotti, called l'Argenta (1546-1636), architect and military engineer, scholar and author of theatrical structures and machines; his first design experience had been the Theater of the Intrepids of Ferrara, completed in 1605.

Teatro Farnese dalla prima loggiaPalazzo della Pilotta

Later, he was replaced by the Marquis Enzo Bentivoglio, assisted by Pier Francesco Battistelli and Count Alfonso Pozzo, creator of the iconographic program, which involved painters, plasterers and workers from Parmigian, Piacentine, Bolognese, headed by Lionello Spada, and Cremonesi.

After Cosimo's journey was cancelled for health reasons, the inauguration of the theater took place only in 1628, on the occasion of the wedding between Margherita de' Medici and Duke Odoardo Farnese, with an allegorical show entitled Mercury and Mars – text by Claudio Achillini, music by Claudio Monteverdi –, enriched by a tournament and culminating in a naumachia.

Palcoscenico del Teatro FarnesePalazzo della Pilotta

The theatre was used only eight more times, from 1652 to 1732, on the occasion of illustrious visits or ducal weddings. It is no coincidence that in 1689 a small court theatre was built, wanted by Ranuccio II in the adjacent spaces, to a design by Stefano Lolli from Bologna.

Farnese was abandoned when Maria Luigia commissioned Nicolò Bettoli in 1829 to build the new Ducal Theatre.

It remained not, however, empty and silent: almost continuous was, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the pilgrimage of princes, artists, literas who stopped in Parma to admire it, testifying to the condition of degradation in which the hall was found.

It is with the end of the 19th century that the first evidence of restoration is 19th century. On May 13, 1944, Allied bombing hit and severely damaged an imposing area of the Pilotta Complex, affecting much of the wooden cavea, completely restored in 1953 and the sculptural cycle, now only partially preserved, while the pictorial decoration remained intact.

Ingresso alla platea del Teatro FarnesePalazzo della Pilotta

The restoration site was closed around 1965. In 2018 the 15th anniversary of its construction was celebrated with the inauguration of a path that underlines the action of re-ization of the complex, marked by the opening of two sections, the Gallerie del Teatro, and the project of recovery of stucco and straw decorations by Luca Reti.

Credits: All media
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