4 November 2015

Teatro San Carlo Naples

Oldest opera house in the world opens its doors

Teatro di San Carlo in Naples was officially opened on this day in 1737, way ahead of La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice.

Teatro San Carlo opened on 4 November 1737
(picture by Radomil Binek)
Built in Via San Carlo, close to Piazza Plebiscito, the main square in Naples, Teatro di San Carlo quickly became one of the most important opera houses in Europe and renowned for its excellent productions.

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

The official inauguration was on the King’s saint’s day, the festival of San Carlo, on the evening of 4 November. 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, if not the oldest, remaining opera houses in the world.
Both Rossini and 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. 
Piazza Plebiscito is close to Teatro San Carlo

In the magnificent auditorium, the focal point is the royal box surmounted by the crown of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. 

It is a lasting demonstration of the power of the Bourbon King Charles I in Naples at the time, which, thankfully, he used to give the city, and the rest of the world, a magnificent opera house.

Travel Tip:

Close to Teatro San Carlo in the centre of Naples, Galleria Umberto I, Caffè Gambrinus, the church of San Francesco di Paola and Palazzo Reale are all well worth visiting.

Travel Tip:
National Unity and Armed Forces Day (Giorno dell’Unità Nazionale e Festa delle Forze Armate) is held in Italy on 4 November to commemorate victory over Austria-Hungary in 1918. You may see parades and celebrations, but the day is no longer an official public holiday.

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