Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Teatro Olimpico Vicenza

Something short and sweet tonight. I just had this photo up to add to my thesis catalogue. Some of you probably know it - the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy. Designed by Andrea Palladio and  then completed by Vincenzo Scamozzi. It is unusual for its survival, theatres usually have terribly short life spans, especially before the advent of electric light when the combination of many many candles and a lot of flammable wood and paper meant they tended to burn down. It is also unique as an example of an attempt to recreate an ancient Roman theatre. It was built for the humanist Accademia Olimpica in Vicenza who wished to perform plays in it after the style of ancient Rome, both revivals of ancient plays as well as new plays written in the same style. It is very closely based on antique examples with the semi circular seats (the cavea) the permanent scenery (scaenae) with its screen of columns and sculptures (columnatio). The streets are very much based on 16th scenery, though we do know that Roman theatres did have some kind of scenery behind the columnatio. By the time it was completed in the 1580s the interest in reviving ancient plays was on the wane and instead most theatrical productions were using a theatre in a style that is still very familiar today, with  a semi-circular auditorium, a single proscenium arch and scenery on some kind of moveable machines and a backdrop. You can still watch plays and operas in this theatre, I have never been there at the right time of year though.
The illusion is quite amazing and one always wants to wander up the street to see just how short it really is.

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