At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

13 February 2016

Fire at Teatro di San Carlo

Royal theatre reopens quickly after blaze 

 The damage wreaked by the 1816, captured in a painting by an unknown artist
The damage wreaked by the 1816 fire, captured in a
painting by an unknown artist
Fire broke out during a dress rehearsal for a ballet at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples on this day in 1816.

The flames spread quickly, destroying a large part of the building in less than an hour.

The external walls were the only things left standing, but on the orders of Ferdinand IV, King of Naples, the prestigious theatre was rebuilt at once.

It was reconstructed following designs drawn up by architect Antonio Niccolini for a horseshoe-shaped auditorium with 1,444 seats. A stunning fresco was painted in the centre of the ceiling above the auditorium depicting a classical subject, Apollo presenting to Minerva the greatest poets of the world.

The rebuilding work took just ten months to complete and the theatre reopened to the public in January 1817.

Teatro di San Carlo had opened for the first time in 1737, way ahead of Teatro alla Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice.

Gioachino Rossini is among the former artistic directors at San Carlo
Gioachino Rossini is among the former
artistic directors at San Carlo
Built in Via San Carlo close to Piazza Plebiscito, the main square in Naples, Teatro di San Carlo had quickly become one of the most important opera houses in Europe, known for its excellent productions.

The original theatre was designed by Giovanni Antonio Medrano for the Bourbon King of Naples, Charles I, and took only eight months to build.

The official inauguration was on the King’s saint’s day, the festival of San Carlo, on the evening of November 4. There was a performance of L’Achille in Sciro by Pietro Metastasio with music by Domenico Sarro, who also conducted the orchestra for the music for two ballets.

This was 41 years before La Scala and 55 years before La Fenice opened. San Carlo is now believed to be one of the oldest remaining opera houses in the world, if not the oldest.

Both Gioachino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti served as artistic directors at San Carlo and the world premieres of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Rossini’s Mosè were performed there.

During the Second World War the theatre was damaged by bombs but after the liberation of Naples in 1943 it was repaired and was able to reopen.

Between 2008 and 2009 a major refurbishment was carried out but the theatre reopened again to the public in 2010.

 Inside Teatro di San Carlo, looking down  from above the royal box
Inside Teatro di San Carlo, looking down
from above the royal box
Travel tip:

In the magnificent auditorium, the focal point is the royal box surmounted by the crown of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Opera enthusiasts can take a guided tour of the theatre and see the foyers, the auditorium, the boxes and the royal box. Tours run at 10.30, 11.30, 12.30, 14.30, 15.30 and 16.30 between Monday and Saturday and at 10.30, 11.30 and 12.30 on Sundays. Booking is recommended.

Travel Tip:

Close to Teatro di San Carlo in the centre of ‘royal’ Naples, there are many other sights, such as Galleria Umberto I, Caffè Gambrinus, the church of San Francesco di Paola and Palazzo Reale, that are all well worth visiting.

Check out Naples hotels with 

More reading:

The 1996 fire that destroyed La Fenice opera house in Venice

How Pietro Metastasio progressed from street entertainer to renowned librettist

Donizetti - the musical genius born in a darkened basement

Also on this day:

1571: The death of painter Benvenuto Cellini

1960: The birth of football referee Pierluigi Collina


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