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San Carlo Opera House

Angelo Carasale, Giovanni Antonio Medrano

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)4.11.1737 | opening
Opened with Sarro's "Achille in Sciro".



San Carlo Opera House is one of the most original, logical and powerful of all theatre fronts, and a monument of Neodassicism. Its massive rustication is relieved on the lower level by garlands and heads, on the upper by a series of reliefs alluding to music and poetry. Above the balcony, in complete contrast, a graceful Ionic colonnade shields the large windows of the salon. Largeness of scale is emphasized by such details as the six-foot-high bollards.

The old San Carlo opera house of 1737 was one of the largest and most splendid in Italy. It was praised by Patte in particular for its circulation. Three staircases led to a vestibule which ran along the whole front of the house. The horseshoe-shaped auditorium had six tiers of boxes, making up 184 altogether, of which seventy belonged to noble Neapolitan families who were forbidden to give them up without royal permission. Acoustically, however, it was open to criticism, and until 1810 it lacked an impressive facade. In that year King Joachim (Napoleon's general, Joachim Murat), as part of his efforts to gain popularity among his reluctant subjects, held a competition for its completion, which was won by Antonio Niccolini. Niccolini's design was perfectly calculated to appeal to the king—Italian display expressed in French revolutionary terms. It is divided horizontally by an emphatic projecting balcony. The lower zone consists of five giant rusticated arches, with panels of relief sculpture running above them; the upper of a long colonnade of fourteen Ionic columns.


In: Tidworth, Simon : Theatres: An Illustrated History. London 1973 p. 147



Author: Simon Tidworth

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