Spoleto’s Teatro Caio Melisso and power
The splendid Caio Melisso opera house in Spoleto was built in the second half of the 1600s, rising over the foundations of what was meant to become Palazzo della Signoria in the 14th century – when designs to create a new center of power had been implemented, only to run aground.
The fact it took over the same location seems ironic, considering the contrasts and collusions that have always existed between politics and theater. In the genre’s humanistic rebirth, indeed, playwrights often took it upon themselves to celebrate the wonderful qualities and lifestyles of princes and their courts.
The Caio Melisso – replacing earlier theaters, namely Teatro della Rosa and Nobile Teatro di Spoleto, thanks to the efforts of a local association, Accademia degli Ottusi – was the first public theater in Italy. It was named after a local writer at the end of the 1800s, after one of the many renovations it endured over its long history.
Gaius Melissus was a Latin playwright who lived in the 1st century BC, famous for inventing an original form of satirical comedy, the ‘fabula trabeata’, which probably mocked consuls, knights, and other notable figures in the world of Roman politics.
As you see, theater and power seem to intermingle over and over. Perhaps they are meant to coexist forever.