Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Oct 2013                      

The season starts tonight, Oct. 3, with Nabucco.
Poster by Rafal Oblinski.

The Giuseppe Verdi Municipal Theater in Salerno

“Salerno is a pleasant surprise…you have the theater, for example, perhaps unique in all of Italy in that there is no meddling from the state.”
--(Franco Zeffirelli)
The main venue for opera in the city of Salerno is the Giuseppe Verdi municipal theater. It is in the Port quarter of the city at Piazza Matteo Luciani, the square named for the first mayor of Salerno after the unification of Italy (1861) and the person behind the construction of the theater. It was built between 1864 and 1869; the architects were Antonio D’Amora and Giuseppe Menichini. The theater was not inaugurated until 1872, and sources on the title of the first performance differ —either Verdi’s Rigoletto or the opera The Normans in Salerno by Temistocle Marzano (1821-1896), a relatively obscure composer from the island of Procida. In any event, the theater was originally called simply the Municipal Theater, but renamed for Verdi in 1901 when the composer passed away.

The design of the interior was based roughly on the proportions of the San Carlo Theater in Naples but considerably smaller. The interior is horseshoe-shaped; there are four rows of boxes above the main auditorium and a gallery at the top. The theater seats 610 persons. The interior design is the work of a number of artists, but the painting by Pasquale Di Criscito on the ceiling stands out: it shows Gioacchino Rossini conducting. The main curtain is also noteworthy and has been called the most beautiful one in Italy. It depicts the expulsion of the Saracens from Salerno, based on an historical event from the year 871 and is by Domenico Morelli, one of the most important Neapolitan painters of the 1800s. Also on the premises is a noteworthy bronze statue, Pergolesi Dying, by Giovanni Battista Amendola.

The theater was damaged during the Allied invasion at Salerno in 1943 and was not reopened until 1952. It was badly damaged again by the 1980 Irpinia earthquake and remained closed until 1994. The theater has hosted performers of great renown and has an excellent reputation. Whether this is because of the lack of “meddling from the state,” I don't know, but it wouldn’t surprise me. In any event, as noted in the photo caption (above), the 2013/14 season opens tonight with Verdi’s Nabucco, directed by Daniel Oren, the current regular conductor of the orchestra. The orchestra doubles as the G. Verdi Symphony Orchestra of Salerno and performs separate concerts, usually in the same theater. The theater, as well, hosts other musical groups from Italy and abroad.

I don’t know who perpetrated this fun frieze frozen on the façade of the theater, showing really nasty looking putti (chubby, naked, male children) carrying on as if there were not great music being played just a few feet away. These ornery kids have nothing to do with cupids and cherubs. One putto has an erection and is chasing another putto. A third putto is kicking a fourth one in the crotch to avoid being clubbed. Sculptors must get bored sometimes. I guess maybe you just had to be there. (photo credit: Roquejaw)

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