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Culture: Theatres


The Joy of Theatre in Le Marche

Le Marche is justifiably famous for the extraordinary number of historic theatres that exist in the region, and has the highest concentration of theatres in the world. There were at one time over a hundred functioning theatres, but sadly many of them are derelict and some have been partially renovated but are not yet fit for use.
However, there are still 70 gems of theatres in use, and a further 40 which can be visited, dating from as early as the 16th century. This large number is unparalleled, given that the population of the region is only around a million and a half! 

The reason for this abundance is the economic and cultural boom that took place in the 1700s. The people of Le Marche are extremely proud of their cultural heritage and they have every reason to be. So many internationally celebrated figures throughout history have been nurtured in this culturally rich climate.

Theatres range from little venues seating only 99, such as ‘La Fenice’ in the pretty village of Amandola (See below), to the magnificent open air ‘Sferisterio’ in Macerata (See link) which shows major scale operas and seats an audience of over 3,500.


Please find below a selection of theatres in each of the five provinces of Le Marche which are well worth a visit:

Teatro della Fortuna, Fano, Province of Pesaro & Urbino
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The town of Fano is a renaissance jewel and was the home of the powerful Malatesta family in the 1400s. The Teatro Della Fortuna is the largest in the region, with 900 seats, and was constructed within the original Romanesque Palazzo della Podesta in the 19th century in neo-classical style. It was re-opened after restoration about ten years ago. 

It features a ceiling decorated with alternate round and square stucco panels, containing restored brightly coloured paintings by the Roman painter Francesco Grandi. He also painted the monumental safety curtain showing the entry of Emperor Augustus into the Roman town of Fanum Fortunae (modern Fano).


Teatro Rossini, Pesaro, Province of Pesaro & Urbino
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This historic theatre was inaugurated in 1818 with a performance of Gioacchino Rossini's ‘La Gazza Ladra’ (The Thieving Magpie) conducted by the great composer himself.It seats 860, has an auditorium designed in the classic horseshoe shape with four tiers of boxes and a gallery. After a long restoration it reopened again in 1980 – for the premiere of the annual Rossini Opera Festival. It has been the venue for the traditional summer festival ever since. 

© Lorenzo Gaudenzi / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0


Il Teatro Sanzio, Urbino, Province of Pesaro & Urbino
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The construction of this great theatre was begun in 1845 and completed in 1853, and at the grand opening "Il Trovatore" by G. Verdi was performed before an enraptured audience. Before this date a small theatre had existed inside the Ducal Palace called the Teatro dei Pascolini. The theatre stands at the top of the famous ‘Rampa’, thereby changing the whole visual impact of the original 1400 design by Francesco Di Giorgio Martini for the Duke of Montefeltro, enabling horses to be ridden right up to the front gates of the Palace. 


The illustrious architect Vincenzo Ghinelli from Senigallia won the competition for the design of the new theatre, and he was also given the task of restructuring the area surrounding the theatre.

The brick built façade has two stone bas reliefs and an architrave supported by doric columns. Inside, the design is traditional, but the most notable features are the paintings in the vaulted roof by Raffaele Antonioli di Gubbio and the painted curtain, which represents the Glory of Urbino, by the local painter Francesco Serafini.


Unfortunately, the busts of the grandees of Urbino which ornamented the balustrades were, rather controversially, lost in the more recent renovations. The atrium still contains busts of Raffaello Sanzio and Bramante himself.


After many years of neglect, the theatre was renovated in 1970 by the urban architect Giancarlo De Carlo, who made some major changes, particularly to the triangular foyer, opening it up to the floors above. This project was completed in 1982 and the theatre was reopened after thirty years of inactivity. 


© Valedami / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-4.0 / GFDL  

Teatro Bramante, Urbania, Province of Pesaro & Urbino
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There had been two theatres already in Urbania before the construction of the Bramante began in 1855. It was funded by wealthy local citizens and designed by a local architect, Ercole Salmi. It was opened soon after the Unification of Italy with a production of Il Trovatore (Verdi) in 1864. The brick façade is in neo-classical style, decorated with a double row of doric and ionic columns, and between them, unadorned doors and windows. The interior is delightfully traditional with a horseshoe shape, three rows of boxes and an open balcony. The painter Romolo Liverani, painted the curtain and the wings with views of Piazza San Cristoforo. The medallions on the ceiling were painted with mythological images representing the four elements by Lancisi da Sant’Arcangelo. 


The sculptor Pietro Gai produced the busts of the renaissance architect Bramante and Girolamo Crescenti, (a composer and renowned teacher), and the gilded stucco around the medallions representing important local figures from the Renaissance and the Risorgimento. The prompt box is particularly notable, with gaudy garlands and cheerful cherubs on a bright blue background, created by the local artist Enrico Mancini. 


Teatro Pergolesi, Jesi, Province of Ancona
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The theatre was originally named the Teatro della Concordia when it was the rival to the original 1732 opera house in the city, the Teatro del Leone, which burnt down in 1892.

The concept of the Concordia began in 1790 with a request to the city government to build a new opera house on the Piazza della Morte (now the Piazza della Reppublica), an area in need of re-development. The city agreed, on condition that there should be two boxes reserved for the councillors, and, with some interruptions, it was finally opened during the Carnival of 1798 showing Portogallo's Lo Spazzacamino Principe (The Chimneysweep Prince). 

It had four tiers of boxes, all sold to wealthy subscribers. Modifications were made in 1835 to create a gallery and a more suitable entrance on the orchestra level. 

On the 170th anniversary of the locally-born composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi the theatre was renamed in his honour. In 1925 the theatre closed down due to urgent need for repair but the surviving heirs of the original construction, the Società Teatrale, were unable to continue to support the theatre, and in March 1929 it was acquired by the city. It was completely renovated in 1995 and is still in use today, "one of the few opera houses in Italy from the late 1700s that has never been destroyed by fire or bombs". 

delle Muse

Il Teatro delle Muse, Ancona, Province of Ancona
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This large theatre has a neoclassical façade but also a stunning modern interior, and boasts cutting edge technology. It also has a fireproof curtain painted by the 20th century artist and director, Valeriano Trubbiani and seats over 100 people.
The new Teatro delle Muse was opened in 1878 to take the place of the earlier smaller and less grandiose theatre. A new opera, (‘the Devil’s Violin’) was written by Agostino Mercuri for the opening performance, with the scenery designed by Girolamo Magnani, who was Giuseppe Verdi’s favourite scenographer. 

The interior of the auditorium is intricately decorated in classical style, with marbled pillars, paintings, gilded wood and candelabra. The artist was Alessandro Venanzi from Perugia, who also painted the curtain which represents the Emperor Federico Barbarossa in the act of honouring the Duke of Svevia as the Imperial Vicar of Perugia. 

This curtain has been meticulously renovated and restored and appears in all its original glory. A collection of costumes, old operating systems and machines for stage equipment, including a curious light system using saline solution, all take us back to the golden age of this temple to the performing arts. 


Sferisterio, Macerata, Province of Macerata
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Le Marche boasts the second-largest open-air opera arena in Italy, the Sferisterio, located in the province of Macerata. Originally constructed in the 15th century for the local game of Pallone col Bracciale, the Sferisterio evolved over the centuries to host various events, including circuses and bullfights.


Its modern incarnation, erected in the 1820s by architect Ireneo Aleandri, features an impressive neoclassical design with a towering wall, arches, columns, and box seats. Opera performances began in 1914, and in 1921, the renowned Opera Festival debuted with Verdi's "Aida," funded by soprano Francisca Solari. Since the late 1960s, under Macerata Opera's direction, the festival has flourished, offering a modernized arena with state-of-the-art technology, accommodating over 3,500 spectators and boasting exceptional acoustics.

The Sferisterio's rich history and elegant design contribute to its reputation as a premier cultural venue. The festival's legacy includes notable performances, such as Beniamino Gigli's 1927 benefit concert for Great War invalids. Today, the Opera Festival continues to captivate audiences with world-class productions, maintaining the Sferisterio's status as a cherished destination for opera enthusiasts. With its vast stage and modern amenities, the arena provides an immersive theatrical experience, ensuring that visitors witness performances of unparalleled quality in a breathtaking setting reminiscent of Italy's grand artistic traditions.

Lauro Rossi

Theatre Lauro Rossi, Province of Macerata
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In 1765, spurred by the cultural aspirations of forty-six noble citizens, Macerata embarked on the ambitious endeavour of constructing a new city theatre. The project took shape within the premises once occupied by the old Town Hall, where the enduring legacy of the "Sala della Commedia" persisted until 1662. Tasked with this grand vision was none other than Antonio Galli, renowned as Bibiena, the preeminent theatre architect of his era. Collaborating closely with Galli, architect Cosimo Morelli assumed leadership in 1769, overseeing the meticulous execution of their shared vision. Finally unveiled to the public in 1774, the inaugural performance of Pasquale Anfossi's "Olimpiade" marked the dawn of a new cultural epoch. Renamed in honour of Macerata native Lauro Rossi in 1884, the theatre stands as a testament to the enduring commitment of its patrons to the arts.

The architectural marvel of the Macerata theatre epitomizes the late Baroque aesthetic, with its distinctive bell-shaped layout and opulent adornments. Adorned with three tiers of time-honoured boxes, embellished balconies, and a transformative fourth tier converted into a gallery in 1855, the venue exudes grandeur at every turn. Throughout its storied history, the theatre has undergone meticulous restoration efforts, most notably under the discerning eye of Piero Ghinelli in 1833, whose addition of an elegant scissors staircase enhanced the venue's allure. Today, with a seating capacity of 426, the Macerata theatre stands as a peerless jewel of 18th-century Italian artistry, offering a glimpse into a bygone era of cultural opulence. A unique touch of warmth emanates from its wooden walls, evoking a sense of intimacy and inviting guests to immerse themselves in its rich heritage.


Theatre Feronia, San Severino, Province of Macerata
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The enduring relationship between the quaint town of San Severino and its theatre stretches back to ancient times, resonating through the grand halls of noble palaces since the 16th century. These opulent settings were meticulously arranged to indulge a cultured and refined aristocratic audience with numerous theatrical performances. However, the landscape of theatrical venues shifted when the Public Theatre Hall emerged within the Consular Palace of San Severino al Monte in the early 18th century. Yet, the demise of the ancient Consular Palace and its subsequent demolition in the same century left the Sanseverino public without a suitable structure for hosting performances. After several decades of anticipation, the inauguration of Teatro de' Condomini in 1747 offered a glimmer of hope. Nonetheless, plagued by inconveniences such as susceptibility to fires and outdated design, the theatre failed to meet the evolving needs of the community.

In response to these challenges, the vision for a new theatrical haven emerged, culminating in the birth of Feronia Theatre in 1828. Entrusted to the skilled hands of architect Ireneo Aleandri, a product of the esteemed Academy of San Luca in Rome, the theatre’s design posed numerous challenges. Aleandri's ingenious solution yielded an elegant and slender structure with a horseshoe plan, adorned with stalls, three tiers of boxes, and a gallery. The embellishment of this architectural gem was entrusted to painters of renown, Filippo Bibiena and Raffaele Fogliardi, alongside the local talent Filippo Bigoli. The theatre’s grand inauguration with Rossini's operas marked the ascent of opera as the reigning monarch of San Severino's stage, promising a program infused with sophistication and novelty. Despite a decline in performances throughout the 20th century, the theatre’s legacy endures, longing for a renaissance that would restore its former glory and position it among the esteemed theatres of major cities, a beacon of elegance and tradition.

La Fenice

Teatro La Fenice, Amandola, Province of Fermo
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Records show that in the 15th century, in common with the rest of the region, plays were performed in a room inside the Ducal Palace. It later became necessary to build a theatre capable of showing larger, more complex productions in the modern style. The present theatre reflects innovations in the grand 19th century theatres, but in miniature, with an elliptical stage and three levels of boxes, and elaborate stucco and paintings on the ceiling. These are by the local artist Vincenzo Pascucci.

The theatre closed in 1958, but the theatre has been lovingly renovated and a grand reopening ceremony was held in August 2002. 


Teatro dell'Aquila, Fermo, Province of Fermo
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The beautiful old theatre in Fermo is well worth a visit both for the quality of the entertainment on offer and to experience the building itself being used for its original purpose. The first theatre, or rather performance room in the town was established in the 1500s in the Palazzo dei Priori, which is Piazza del 

Popolo. This was burnt down in 1774, and the town council decided to build a purpose built theatre nearby. It was designed by architect Cosimo Morelli and work started in 1780.

The hall has five tiers of boxes, 124 in all, with continuous parapets decorated with gilded stucco neoclassical motifs by Vincenzo, Enrico and Riccardo Maranesi. There are also gilded wooden lamps between the boxes. The auditorium Is elliptical, with the tiers of boxes overlapping the stage. The stage itself originally featured three proscenium arches, in the French style. The chandelier with 56 gilded arms was built in Paris in 1830.

The theatre first opened in 1790 for a trial performance of the oratorio The Death of Abel. Then in 1791 the official inauguration of the theatre took place, with the performance of another sacred oratorio, The Destruction of Jerusalem, by the same composer, Giuseppe Giordani (known as Giordaniello) a Neapolitan composer who was the director of the Cappella Musicale Metropolitana in Fermo. The newly designed stage by Lucatelli allowed the addition of an extra box at both ends of each tier. In 1828, the artist Luigi Cochetti painted The Gods of Olympus intent on Apollo singing in the vault, and Harmony gives the zither to the Genius of Fermo on the curtain valance. In 1829 Alessandro Sanquirico, stage designer at the famous La Scala Theatre in Milan, made six new backcloths, four of which still exist.


This historical theatre, still renowned for its great acoustics, seated an audience of 1000 people. After through restoration, completed in 1997, the theatre – which now complies with strict modern safety regulations– can hold an audience of more than 850.


The Teatro dell’Aquila programme includes plays, operas, concerts and special events, such as international conventions. In May each year has hosted an International Violin Competition (Concorso Violinistico Internazionale Andrea Postacchini) for young violin players from all over the world. It is named after a violin maker from Fermo, Andrea Postacchini (1781-1862), who was known as the Stradivarius of Le Marche.

Ventidio Basso

Teatro Ventidio Basso, Ascoli Piceno, Province of Ascoli Piceno
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Ascoli has a long and rich theatrical tradition with the first theatre dating back to 1579. The present theatre was started in 1840, with the architect Ireneo Aleandri from Sanseverino, but he abandoned the task in 1846 due to numerous squabbles with the committee.
A team consisting of Marco Massimi, Gabriele Gabrielli and Giambattista Carducci took over, making numerous modifications and innovations to the original designs. The brick façade is neoclassical and features six ionic columns and niches with statues by Emidio Paci. The foyer is on the first floor and has impressive gilded stucco decorations.

There are many other interesting paintings and frescoes of the muses, including the stage curtain showing the triumph of Ventidio Basso over the Parthians.

Basso was a great Roman general who came from humble origins in Ascoli and became close to Julius Caesar himself. He is also briefly mentioned in the Shakespeare play Anthony and Cleopatra.


The theatre is oval shaped and has four tiers of boxes and seats an audience of 842 with red velvet seats. The elaborate stage mechanisms were created by Gabriele Ferretti from Ancona. 

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