Teatro Massimo, the largest theater in Italy
by Rino Alessi
An icon if Italian musical excellence in Sicily, Palermo’s Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele – more simply known as Teatro Massimo – is the biggest theater in Italy, and one of the largest in Europe.
Designed by architect Giovanni Battista Filippo Basile and his son Ernesto, the Massimo was built starting in 1875. The opening was held in 1897, before the structure was even completed, with Verdi’s “Falstaff” skillfully conducted by Leopoldo Mugnone. In 1997, the Massimo reopened after a long period of neglect – which had begun in 1974 when, after a sad “Nabucco” concert performance, it was closed for renovation.
Works supervisor Giovanni Rutelli influenced the exterior of the structure, a typical example of architecture inspired by ancient Greece and Rome. Ernesto Basile was put in charge of the architecture of the great hall, while Vittorio Ducrot was the author of the decorations and box seat arrangement. Luigi Di Giovanni, Rocco Lentini, Michele Cortegiani and Ettore De Maria Bergler decorated and painted the interior of the horseshoe-shaped hall, which was fitted with “petals” – that is, mobile wood panels that can be adjusted to allow air to flow.
In 2014, the Teatro Massimo celebrates the 150th anniversary of Richard Strauss’s birth with a rare performance of “Feuersnot” (“The Need for Fire”), with conducting and ‘mise en scène’ entrusted to two noted Sicilians: Gabriele Ferro and Emma Dante. The 2014 season also features Verdi (“Otello”), Mozart (“Don Giovanni”), Bellini (“Norma”), Donizetti (“The Daughter of the Regiment”), Puccini (“Tosca”), and finally another rarity – Weinberger’s “Svanda dudak” (“Schwanda the Bagpiper”) in a staging by Dresden’s Semperoper.