The Ponchielli Theatre was founded in 1747 when a group of nobles decided to give the city of Cremona a public theatre to replace the aristocratic theatres of the age. The design was entrusted to Giovanni Battista Zaist and it was given the name the Nazari Theatre. However, the building as it appears today is the result of a series of various interventions lasting 250 years. After being destroyed by a fire in 1806 (a frequent occurrence due to the wooden structure of 18th-century theatres), the theatre was immediately rebuilt. This time the project was entrusted to Luigi Canonica, a student of Piermarini, and was given the new name of the Concordia Theatre. A second fire in 1824 destroyed part of the structure and lead to a final restructuring that gave the theatre its present shape of a horseshoe, with a vast parterre topped by three tiers of boxes, a gallery and a loggia decorated with stucco, gold and ivory. Its new name was given at the beginning of the 20th century: the theatre was named after Cremona's greatest composer, Amilcare Ponchielli.
Today, the Ponchielli Theatre continues to thrive with events divided by season: opera from October to December, concerts and prose from December to April. As for opera, the theatre's season is part of the Circuito Lirico Lombardo (Lombardy Opera Circuit), with a presentation of rarely performed operas to the public. The concert season includes a series of performances for season ticket-holders and other shows for non-members, along with plays. The calendar of events also features shows for more mature audiences, such as operettas, or family performances, such as musicals and puppet shows. An international contemporary choreography exhibition is held in the spring while from November to May every year, the Ponchielli Theatre sponsors the Oltreibanchi series for school groups, with insights and workshops for teachers as well.