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  • Andy

Theatrical Architecture in the Veneto

Updated: Mar 13

The classical theaters that I admire most are concentrated in the Veneto. There are historical and cultural reasons for which the Venetians conceived the most remarkable theaters before anyone else.

Teatro Olimpico by Palladio
Teatro Olimpico by Palladio

The Republic of Venice had been, until the 15th Century, one of the wealthiest countries in Europe with an income 15 times higher than Paris, Madrid, or Rome. A tiny country on the Adriatic sea with trading posts all over the Mediterranean, it was a dominant political force and one of the most important commercial ports, to which ships from the Orient came loaded with spices and luxury products that Venice resold all over Europe.

In the 16th century Italy became a battlefield where Henri II of France and Charles V of Spain fought ferociously. Venice resisted and did not submit but after fighting seven wars between 1396 and 1718 with the very powerful Ottoman Empire, and with the introduction of vigorous competition from the new sea routes created by Spain, France, and Portugal, her decline was unavoidable. The Mediterranean had became less important than the Atlantic after Christopher Columbus discovered America and Vasco da Gama had travelled around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope.

Teatro Farnese in Parma
Teatro Farnese in Parma

In the meantime, however, Venice offered unique freedoms. The Carnival was a Venetian invention that enabled the rich and the poor to be equals for a few days each year, and allowed some license under the cover of masks. Freedom included—as it always does—the possibility of intellectual curiosity. It was with the addition of great affluence that Venetian merchant princes who wanted to ensure their legacies could commission great artists to celebrate their glories. Increasing global consumption allowed Venice to maintain its substantial income until 1560. Though it would no longer be a dominant political or military power, Venice enjoyed a cultural supremacy in which the arts and—rather importantly—architecture flourished.


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