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Three Italian Renaissance Theaters, Term Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1701

Term Paper

Three Italian Renaissance Theaters that are still remaining in Italy

Renaissance Italian Theater developed in the courts of the nobility in settings that differed radically from those of the past[1]. The invention of perspective painting in the 14th and 15th centuries led to painted scenery that attempted to create the illusion of reality. This paper discusses the three remaining Italian Renaissance theaters, their interior as well as the architects that influence them. The period of the Italian Renaissance is studied and the important details of the structured are enumerated[2]. These three theaters are namely: the Teatro Olimpico by Andrea Palladio, the Teatro all’antica by Vincenzo Scamozzi and the Teatro Farnese by Giovanni Battista Aleotti. Their differences and similarities are discussed, and the reasons for their interior are explained. The theaters were created during the same era, however were of different years. Each influenced the next.

The word “Renaissance” comes from the French word meaning “Rebirth”. This era was roughly throughout the years 1400-1650 A.D. This was an age of humanism, discovery and exceptional art. Throughout this era of the Italian Renaissance, man is seen to change his way of thinking and rediscovers classical periods of Greek and Rome to create a new classical period which is to rival the old[3]. In this era, we see the system of Patronage to be through the development from merchant princes to wealthy merchant families such as the Medici family in Florence, Italy[4]. The development of Theater in the Italian Renaissance period was through theater performed in Court theaters for wealthy patrons whom give financial support for artists. The academies in which theater is taught in are formal institutes of learning, and the works of Greeks and Romans are studied; these are works such as those of Aristotle, Horrace, and Virtruvius. During this time, there was a desire to see studied plays, thus the theaters were constructed to fulfill this desire[5].

The innovations during this time of the Italian Renaissance in theatre architecture and scene design have been unmatched in theatre history[6].  For the next 200 years, anyone seen attending a theatre anywhere in Europe would be in a proscenium-arch playhouse watching the stage action from the pit, a box, or a gallery, this was developed during this time.  The scenery would consist of painted-flat wings and shutters which could be shifted either by Torelli’s mechanized pole-and-chariots system or-like in England, the Netherlands and the United States-by stage hands who pulled them off in grooves[7].  The Italian Renaissance also produced Opera, Commedia dell’arte, and the neoclassical rules of dramatic structure.  Although this period left theatre no significant plays the rigid neoclassical rules help shape much of the drama presented worldwide through the 18th Century.  Commedia dell’arte was highly popular until the 1700s and has influenced many playwrights, contemporary movements and theatrical experimentations. The three theaters of note in this era are the Teatro Olimpico by Andrea Palladio, the Teatro all’antica by Vincenzo Scamozzi and the Teatro Farnese by Giovanni Battista Aleotti.

The Teatro Olimpico was designed for the Vicenza Accademia Olimpica by Andrea Palladio[8]. Its purpose was to house the theatrical performances of this school. Padillo had designed this structure after studying several ancient theaters as well as classical theater design, and this he accomplished and executed through his incorporation of the two in his own illustrations. This was said to be specifically designed for Daniele Barbaro’s translation of Vitruvius. This is considered as Pallidio’s grand masterpiece and ranks as his highest masterworks.

Palladio was asked to produce a design,however the awkward shape of the old fortress had limited this therefore he decided to use the space to recreate an academic reconstruction of the Roman theatres that he had so closely studied[9]. In order to fit a stage and seating area into the wide, narrow space, it was necessary for Palladio to flatten the semicircular seating area of the Roman theatre into an ellipse.

Inside the theater, there is an exterior brick box, then the theater interior is made of elaborate wood which is a half circle of steep tiers of seats; the benches are wood covered. These seats face a rectangular proscenium stage. Additionally, the colonnade is made of wood and is decorated with cornice as well as figures which sit atop the seats[10]. The ceiling was first left as it was however was later painted blue which creates a feeling of an open sky above the theater.

The walls as well as ceiling of the proscenium are decorated elaborately and are articulated with architectural details;this is through carvings statues which are made of wood and plaster. Within the theater, you can find a central arched opening which dominates the back wall; this is flanked by two smaller doorways serving as the entrance to the backstage. Through these openings, elaborate stage sets of streets angle backstage, a triad through the central opening and single streets through each side[11]. These sets, which designed later by Scamozzi, use techniques of tilting the floors and contracting the angle between the street walls and the heights of their building which create a facades to make foreshortened streets in perspective. This was because Pallidio left no plans as to what kind of scenery should be on stage. His initial illustrations were of an Idealized Roman scene of Vitruvius; his sketches shown no perspectives of streets which were later built in the theater.

The Teatro all’Antica di Sabbioneta was designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, the architect who created the perspective vistas for Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico. This was constructed during the years 1588 and 1590 under the commission of Duke VespsianoGonzaha[12]. The importance that theater had come to hold, as a sign of the civilized society that the Duke was trying to create, is indicated by the prestigious location that was reserved for the theater in the principal street of the town, the Via Giulia, and by the fact that a separate building was erected to hold the theater.

This small, intimate, 250 seat playhouse contained only five rows in the cavea and a scenic vista containing a single street. It is generally believed that this playhouse is the first European indoor theatre built specifically as a theatre. (Teatro Olimpico was built into an existing structure.) Carved into the exterior facade of the playhouse is “roma quanta fuitipsaruinadocet”, which means “How great Rome has been herself the ruins teaches”. Scamozzi’s plan and sectional study to the left the sharply raked stage floor and the location of the perspective vanishing point outside of the building.

As discussed above, the Teatro all’Anticawas created by Scamozzi who is the architect responsible for the perspectives which form the onstage scenery of Palladio’s theater[13]. However, Scamozzi’s theater is much different because of the building it was constructed in; this was because Scamozzi had learned through the mistakes of Pallidio. The theater building is roughly three times as long as it is wide, whereas the space occupied by the Teatro Olimpico is approximately square. The longer, narrower structure of the theater building meant that Scamozzi was unable to build the seating area in the form of the semicircle that had been seen by Palladio as the ideal form for an audience, based on the model of ancient Roman theaters. Where the wide, shallow space available in the converted building that was used to house the Teatro Olimpico had forced Palladio to stretch the ideal semicircle into an ellipse, the opposite change was forced upon Scamozzi in Sabbioneta, and the seating area was transformed into a horseshoe. Additionally, Scamozzi was said to abandon completely the classical design which inspired Pallidio’s creation.

The biggest development which is known in Renaissance theater architecture was the creation proscenium arch which was different and curved, as opposed to the traditional rectangular frame enclosing the stage, this style is found in many modern theaters today[14]. This differentiated it from the earlier theaters as previously discussed. The first theater to use the proscenium arch was the Teatro Farnese, a Baroque-style theater, which was designed by architect Giovanni Battista Aleotti in Parma, Italy. This U-shaped seating area for the audience in the Teatro Farnese also influenced theater design and is now a common feature of European theaters and Opera Houses[15].

The three theaters which still remain in Italy today have major differences in design, yet are the same in terms of influence[16]. Pallidio’s, however, is more of a classical design and Aleotti’s is seen as more modern, and takes on a Baroque-style. Scamozzi’s theater is seen to resemble more of Pallidio’s, as he had helped remodel Pallidio’s theater after his death. The three theaters serve as great influence to modern theater design today and still stand in Italy as great models of architecture.

Bibliorgaphy

Hartnoll, Phyllis. The Oxford Companion to the theatre. Oxford University Press, 1951.

Heydenreich,Ludwig G. Architecture in Italy, 1400 to 1600. Wolfgang Lotz. Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1974.

King, Kimball. Western Drama Through the Ages. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. p. 550

Kuritz, Paul. The making of theatre history. Published by Paul Kuritz, 1988. p. 167.

Laver, James.Drama–Its Costume and Decor. London: Studio Publications, 1951, p. 77.

Pevsner, Nikolaus.A History of Building Types. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976, p. 66

Smith,G.E.Looking at Architecture. New York: Harry N. Abrams Publishers, 1990.

 

[1]Hartnoll, Phyllis. The Oxford Companion to the theatre. Oxford University Press, 1951.

[2]Heydenreich,Ludwig G. Architecture in Italy, 1400 to 1600. Wolfgang Lotz. Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1974.

[3]Kuritz, Paul. The making of theatre history. Published by Paul Kuritz, 1988. p. 167.

[4]Pevsner, Nikolaus.A History of Building Types. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976, p. 66

[5]Smith,G.E.Looking at Architecture. New York: Harry N. Abrams Publishers, 1990.

[6]Heydenreich,Ludwig G. Architecture in Italy, 1400 to 1600. Wolfgang Lotz. Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1974.

[7]Laver, James.Drama–Its Costume and Decor. London: Studio Publications, 1951, p. 77.

[8]Pevsner, Nikolaus.A History of Building Types. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976, p. 66.

[9]Laver, James.Drama–Its Costume and Decor. London: Studio Publications, 1951, p. 77.

[10]Smith,G.E.Looking at Architecture. New York: Harry N. Abrams Publishers, 1990.

[11]Pevsner, Nikolaus.A History of Building Types. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976, p. 66

[12]Smith,G.E.Looking at Architecture. New York: Harry N. Abrams Publishers, 1990.

[13]Heydenreich,Ludwig G. Architecture in Italy, 1400 to 1600. Wolfgang Lotz. Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1974.

[14]Pevsner, Nikolaus.A History of Building Types. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976, p. 66

[15]Pevsner, Nikolaus.A History of Building Types. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976, p. 66

[16]Kuritz, Paul. The making of theatre history. Published by Paul Kuritz, 1988. p. 167.

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