Art and Culture

San Carlo Theatre - Naples

The History

The San Carlo is the oldest working theatre in Europe (it is 41 years older than Milano's La Scala and 51 years older than Venice's La Fenice) and its regular seasons have only been interrupted once, in 1874 and 1875 due to a lack of funds.
The San Carlo was built by King Charles of Bourbon who wished to endow his capital city with a theatre to take the place of the old and crumbling San Bartolomeo which belonged to the Casa degli Incurabili.
On the 4th March 1737 a contract was signed with the architect Giovanni Antonio Medrano and the contractor Angelo Garasale.
The contract was fulfilled with astonishing precision: on the 4th November 1737 - the king's nameday - the San Carlo was inaugurated with Metastasio's opera Achille in Sciro, music by Domenico Sarro who also conducted the orchestra, and with two ballets as intermezzos created by Grossatesta.
This first cycle of the life of the San Carlo, which had in the meantime had its outside renewed by the architect Antonio Niccolini on the orders of Murat, came to a close on the night of the 12th February 1816, with the tragic episode of the fire in which the theatre was completely destroyed.
It was an event which threw the whole town into mourning and which was described by all the newspapers of Europe with great emotion.
In the same way however, only ten months later, they reported in marvelled and amazed tones how by the end of the same year, the Theatre had been completely rebuilt.
Only six days after the fire had King Ferdinand of Bourbon already given orders for the theatre to be rebuilt without delay.
The task was entrusted to Antonio Niccolini, with the assurance that it was to be restored as it had been before the fire.
Medrano's plan was in fact respected: the auditorium remained 28,60m long and 22,50m wide; the 184 boxes were arranged in six tiers, including the royal one.
The acoustics of the theatre was however, considerably improved and to the present day it is unanimously considered to be perfect.
The stage was enlarged (33,10m x 34,40m) and the decorations were renewed by Camillo Guerra and Gennaro Maldarelli, including the work in bas-relief and the clock set on the inner proscenium arch.
The huge ceiling canvas ("velarium"), still existing, is by Giuseppe Cammarano and depicts «Apollo introducing the greatest poets in the world to the goddess Minerva».
This artist was also responsable for the house curtain, which was later substituted by Giuseppe Mancinelli's «Parnassus» which is still in use.
Apart from the creation of the "orchestra pit" suggested by Verdi in 1872, the installation of electricity in 1890, the subsequent abolition of the central chandelier and the construction of the new foyer with a new wing dedicated to the dressing rooms, the theatre has undergone no substantial changes.
The hall is the same today as when Stendhal saw it on the evening of its second inauguration, the 12th January 1817: «...There is nothing in all Europe, I won't say comparible to this theatre, but which gives the slightest idea of what it is like..., it dazzles the eyes, it enraptures the soul...».

Naples, Via San Carlo (in front of "Umberto I Gallery")

GUIDED TOURS of the Theatre

From Mondys to Friday from 9.00 to 19.00 (last entrance at 18.40)
Sartuday and Sunday from 9.00 to 18.00 (last entrance at 17.40)

EUR 5,00 Adults
EUR 3,00 under 18 years old

Additional Notes
The tours are also effected for English, French, German and Spanish language.

Box Office Theatre
Book and buy all Theatre performance tickets in Hotel for all Opera, Ballets and Concerts Season.
Moreover, this service is available in advance before the arrival in the Hotel; our guests will receive the tickets directly at the Reception.

How you can get there from the Hotel
From Piazza Amedeo take the bus n° C25 and get off at Piazza Trieste e Trento stop: the Theatre of San Carlo is in Via San Carlo, in front of Gallery of Umberto I.

Calendar Season 2006 / 2007 of Opera, Ballets and Concerts


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