Teatro Massimo. Celebrations for 120 years

Teatro Massimo celebrates 120 years from the opening, which was on 16th may, 1897.

It is the biggest in Italy, and one of the largest of Europe (the third after the Opera National de Paris  and the Opernhaus in Vienna), renowned for its perfect acoustics. It was designed by the Palermo born architect Giovan Battista Basile and overseen by his son Ernesto.

Basile was inspired by ancient and classical Sicilian architecture and, thus, the exterior was designed in the high neoclassical style incorporating elements of the Greek temples. Realized in the late-Renaissance style, the auditorium was planned for 3,000 people, but, in its current format, it seats 1,350, with 7 tiers of boxes rising up around an inclined stage, and shaped in the typical horseshoe style.

n 1974, the house was closed to complete renovations required by updated safety regulations, but cost over-runs, corruption, and political in-fighting all added to the delay and it remained closed for twenty-three years, finally re-opening on 12 May 1997, four days before its centenary.

At the press conference there were the mayor Leoluca Orlando, the vice mayor Emilio Arcuri, the intendant Francesco Giambrone and the music director Gabriele Ferro.

For the occasion there will be a very good season starting with a concert on May 12 at 8.30 p.m. It will be performed Symphony No. 2 by Gustav Mahler, known as the Resurrection Symphony conducting Gabriele Ferro, soprano Rachel Harnisch, Mezzosoprano Marianna Pizzolato, orchestra and choir Teatro Massimo. It’s the same Symphony which was played on 16th may 1997 when the theater was re-opened after being closed for more than 20 years.

The program also includes nine operas, three ballets, two special projects, thirteen concerts and an important tourneè in Japan as well.

To celebrate the 120 years it will be an exhibition of stage costumes. It is conceived and designed by Gloria Martellucci, former of the association “Amici del Teatro Massimo” with the musicologist Anna Tedesco.

The exhibition opening next 11th may at 5,30 p.m. at the Sala Pompeiana.

The intendent, Mr. Giambrone, also announced that important restorations and renovations are going to start. They will cost about 22 millions Euros. The most important is that not just one day the theater will be closed for the works which will be done with the theater working as normal.

The end of the works is expected on 2023.

Artists and craftsmen of excellence.
Stage costumes of the Teatro Massimo.

The exhibition I present as Amica del Teatro Massimo is due to the existence of a treasure guarded in the Foundation’s stores, to the fascination of that field made of art, creativity and material wisdom and my will to bring to light at least one part, certain that knowledge and culture have the most value as they are more usable and shared.
The treasure are the twelve thousand costumes of the Teatro Massimo, which I had occasion to admire for a few months in one of the Foundation’s stores, in their crowded mute presence. Naturally, thousands of precious sketches and figurines kept in the Theater Archive must be added to these.
The fascination is what audiences are looking for in the vision of artists and directors who stage performances, the encounter with the protagonists, the magic of the stage. What remains, after the show, which is a unique and unrepeatable experience each time,  is ephemeral: the curtain closes, the lights turn off, the scenes are removed. Only the costumes are stacked as we have seen them, witnesses and protagonists together, of so many stories, from the first intuition of those who have imagined them, drawn, studied, to the mastery of those who realized them, they also tell the anxieties, joys, emotions of those who wore them, who dressed on the stage Tosca, Violetta, Don Giovanni, Siegfried.
The will to bring to light and catalog a part of the Foundation’s costume was backed by the passion of history, from the intention to make a contribution to the safeguarding, divulging and sharing of that heritage, in particular cataloging and Historical-artistic analysis of the originals.
The opportunity to offer this tribute to the Theater and the City was the coming of the anniversary of the reopening of the Massimo of Palermo.
I have been involved in this project by the Association of Friends of the Massimo, which has among its aims to organize cultural activities connected with the musical theater, work to consolidate and enhance the prestige of the Teatro Massimo, to support initiatives suitable for the development of art and culture . The aim is the legal recognition of theatrical gown as a cultural asset, more specifically the creation of the much-anticipated Museum of the Teatro Massimo.
I could not find more attentive and available interlocutors than the President of the Foundation, Mayor Leoluca Orlando and Superintendent Francesco Giambrone, whom I thank for my name and the Association, and more enthusiasm and collaboration from all those who work at the Teatro Massimo. I am very pleased that this tribute to the Theater and the City takes place in the ambience of this magnificent monument because I remember that in 1997 a small exhibition organized by me on the Centenary of the Theater and its reopening was possible thanks to Piero Caldarera’s sensitivity and curiosity , was held in his beautiful Corimbo Gallery, which however was a “other” place than the deputy headquarters, the Teatro.
Looking at the photos of the reopening days, we read on the faces of people photographed, joy, contentment and a lot of emotion and participation. There are no more but we have started along a path that we must continue to follow, with small and big steps.
Here are Artists and Craftsmen of Excellence. Most of the costumes of the Teatro Massimo. Taking part in the activity of the Sartoria of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo and in the activities of costume designers and stage designers in a production theater, which has been and which is the Massimo Theater, means identifying an artistic path and refined material wisdom to which they contributed and keep contributing to the most important personalities of the twentieth century and of our age, and the creators, architects who, with their mastery, passion for their work, perpetuate a tradition that has its origins in the history of Italian theater and culture , In the history of melodrama, in the great lesson of painting and iconographic themes of the Italian “Manner”.

Artists, Painters, Architects, Sculptors, and Costumists, among the most prominent personalities in Italy, and not only in Italy, have been called in the years by the Teatro Massimo  for memorable works of art and ballets contributing to the formation of a precious field I spoke to ‘ beginning.
Artisans, master-creators of the Sartoria of the Teatro Massimo, gave body to those drawings, to the directions, to the demands of the artists. The Sartoria del Teatro Massimo has been and is an excellence at the international level, according to those who worked in the tapestries of the major theaters of the world, which boasts a tradition and heritage of great value, treasure of material culture and of the highest tailoring level.
Once a set designer and costume designer were not mentioned, this was also the case with directors, indeed their figure did not even exist. Sometimes in the late 19th and early 20th century posters it reads “the scene takes place …” just an indication for the public. In Palermo, one has to wait in 1905 for the name of Francesco Santonocito “scenographer” in Alberto Franchetti’s “Germany” poster. It was the theater of entrepreneurs, houses like Memories, naturally also composers, singers. Messainscena has little more than a century, it can be said that it is a modern art, an arena of the creativity of artists and inventors. Today, we live in the civilization of the image, and messinscene is an important component in the programming of a show, sometimes perhaps too exaggerated: it is the theater of directors. Often the same set designers and costumers working for the theater worked or worked for cinema. The results are almost always excellent and the Italian “way” I use this term again requires it.
Among the authors of the stage costumes of the Teatro Massimo presenting in the Show include Oscar-winning artists, as they say in jargon: Franca Squarciapino, Danilo Donati, Piero Tosi who in 2013 had an honorary Oscar for career, undisputed master of a generation who worked at the Massimo and also at “Il Gattopardo” by Visconti. In the contributions of Dada Saligeri and Francesco Zito is remembered Franco Folinea, assistant to Tosi for “The Gattopardo” and then great core of the tailoring of the Theater for more than thirty. Tailoring is now entrusted to the professionalism and sensitivity of Marja Hoffman who left Berlin to live and work in Palermo.
The exhibition, produced in a short time and few means, consists in fifty scene costumes made in the tapestry of the Teatro Massimo for the last twenty years (except two or three exceptions) accompanied by the catalog made by students of the Musicology Course Performing Arts Sciences, University of Palermo, held by Anna Tedesco. The costumes represent some fifty figurines that belong to artists of the likeness of Afro, Benois, Bussotti, Casorati, Escoffier, Guttuso, Scialoja, Zancanaro, to name but a few, for works and ballets from 1942 to 1979
There are also some scene photos, from 1997 onwards, of significant performances for the Theater, whose costumes are not available or are deliberately dismissed given the subject of the work
I conclude with a quotation by Danilo Donati, of which several costume shows, Oscar in 1968 for Romeo and Juliet of Zeffirelli and in 1977 for Casanova di Fellini: “To be costumers you must know everything: painting, history, music, art culinary “.
 Gloria Martellucci

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