The large building that hosts Teatro Grande, or the Grand Theatre, has an architecturally complex structure, created over the course of more than three centuries of remodelling and improvements. With a unique continuity of functions, the Teatro Grande is located in the same place where the first public theatre opened in Brescia in 1664.
The current hall of the Teatro Grande was built in 1810 based on the design by the architect Luigi Canonica and was decorated in 1862 by Girolamo Magnani. Another remarkable feature is the ceiling of the current day sala del Ridotto with the fake balustrade overlooking the sky animated by numerous figures of the Olympian gods. The Ridotto, or Grand Foyer, which opened in 1772, is one of the most remarkable examples of 18th-century architectural splendour applied to a theatre.
In the ceiling you look can see the allegorical groups of Dance, Comedy, Tragedy and Music frescoed by Luigi Campini. Another interesting element is the stage, which still retains part of the 19th-century structure, and the so-called "soffittone", a large area once used for the preparation of the painted scenes that is now used as a hall for rehearsals, small events and parties.
From the late 19th century to the present day some of the most important operas of the Italian tradition have been staged at the Grande, almost always presented to sold-out audiences. The greatest Italian artists of international renown have continuously taken the stage of the Brescia theatre, for both operas and concerts held for various events. Some of the most memorable performances held include La Bohème in 1896, directed by Arturo Toscanini, and the 1963 production featuring Zeani and debut tenor Luciano Pavarotti (who had already performed in Rigoletto the previous year), the 1937 season that marked the debut of Magda Olivero and the tenor Giuseppe Lugo, and the 1950 opera season with Maria Callas in Aida.
A fun fact: Puccini's Madam Butterfly was enthusiastically received at Brescia's Teatro Grande on 28 May 1904, following the first unsuccessful performance at La Scala. This would mark the beginning of Puccini's successful career.
The theatre's program of events, spanning from tradition to modernity, include performances of opera, dance, music and cultural events. Every year in spring the Teatro Grande also hosts the International Piano Festival of Brescia and Bergamo, one of the world's most important piano events.
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