Teatro Sociale di Amelia and the Marquis of Grillo
The splendid Teatro Sociale di Amelia – built in the late 18th century and designed by the local aristocrat Stefano Cansacchi – has been the filming location of many Italian and foreign movies.
Likely a model for Venice’s La Fenice theater by Giannantonio Selva – Cansacchi’s friend and fellow member of the Drawing Academy in Perugia – Teatro Sociale di Amelia was chosen even by Mario Monicelli for some scenes in his masterpiece, “The Marquis of Grillo”, starring Alberto Sordi.
Composer Nicola Piovani – who won the Academy Award for the best original soundtrack in 1999, with Roberto Benisgni’s “Life is Beautiful” – has shared his memories of filming for Monicelli’s famous film:
“The script had a scene set inside a Roman theater from the early 19th century: a French company was to present a new work, and for the first time in Rome women would play female roles [women at the time were forbidden from acting, and castrati were employed instead – editor’s note]. The event tickled the imagination of Romans, divided between progressive admirers who rushed to admire the show and moralist conservatives who rushed to protest against it.”
“The Marquis Onofrio del Grillo, played by Alberto Sordi, was one of the many who were curious of seeing female graces on stage. The critics instead included the castrati, who saw the introduction of women in theater as a threat to their profession. […] The scene ended with a duel between a French female soprano and a Roman castrato, who jumped on stage from the audience: a duel that begins with high-pitched notes and ends in slapping […].”
“I prepared singers and actors: on the day set by the production calendar, we were all ready on the set inside the minuscule Teatro di Amelia – one of the many architectural jewels that dot the Italian peninsula – with a small orchestra.”
“At the end, the moralists were supposed to throw vegetables from the galleries to sabotage the show. But on the first take, instead of aiming their fruit and vegetables at the female soprano as the script said, all the extras threw everything against the Marquis of Grillo, that is Alberto Sordi. Whether just for fun, to play a prank, or out of envy, no one could resist the temptation to throw a tomato on his beautiful, white costume…” (translated from N. Piovani, “La musica è pericolosa”, Rizzoli, Milan 2014).